Warp speed again! Ravens set for another historically busy round of drafting

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens are set to boldly go where no NFL team has gone before. Well, no team other than the Ravens.

If the Ravens use all five selections in the fourth round of this year’s draft (Round 1 is April 28 on ESPN, ABC and ESPN App.), Baltimore will match its NFL record from six years ago with the most picks in the first five rounds in draft history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

When the Ravens had five picks in the fourth round in 2016, coach John Harbaugh compared the experience to "Star Trek," saying then-general manager Ozzie Newsome was Picard and then-assistant GM Eric DeCosta was Spock.

"To me, we were in battle with the Klingons!" Harbaugh said with a smile.

The Ravens’ fourth-round picks that year were far from historic. Baltimore’s five selections -- cornerback Tavon Young, wide receiver Chris Moore, guard Alex Lewis, defensive tackle Willie Henry and running back Kenneth Dixon -- combined for 50 starts for the Ravens and no trips to the Pro Bowl. Only Young and Moore remain in the NFL, and neither is currently with the Ravens.

Baltimore now finds itself in the rare situation again. In the common draft era (since 1967), the only time a team had more than five picks in the same round was 1968, when the Cincinnati Bengals had nine selections in the sixth round.

Coming off last year’s last-place finish, the Ravens are looking for immediate dividends from a very busy fourth round.

"My mindset is every guy that we take in the fourth round this year better be playing for us -- that’s why we’re taking him,” said DeCosta, who is in his fourth season as the Ravens GM. "That’s our expectation from day one; they go out here, they hit the ground running, and they play. So, that’s just the way that we look at it. Now, does the data back that up? Probably not, but that’s what we think.”

Of the 369 players drafted in the fourth round over the last decade, there have been almost as many players who didn’t play a game as a rookie (37) as those who started over half their games in their first seasons (43). Last year, 19 of the 39 players taken in the fourth round were on the field for less than 200 snaps.

Baltimore believes the fourth round will be more loaded than usual. Before last year’s draft, Ravens director of player personnel Joe Hortiz told owner Steve Bisciotti that the 2022 one was going to be “pretty fat” because of the players coming back from COVID-19 after gaining an extra year of eligibility.

"I’m really excited about it because I think we have third-round value in those fourth-rounders,” Bisciotti said. "That, to me, is the way I’m looking at it and I think the grades are reflecting that on the draft charts that Eric has given me so far. You start looking at guys with certain grades and there’s just too many of them for some of them not to be there in the fourth round.”

The Ravens’ fourth round begins with the fifth selection of Day 3 (the 110th overall pick), which came as a result of Baltimore sending its 2022 fifth-round pick, 2023 seventh-round pick and offensive lineman Ben Bredeson to the New York Giants.

The Ravens then have picks Nos. 119 (their own fourth-rounder), 128 (acquired from the Arizona Cardinals), 139 (compensatory pick for losing Matthew Judon) and 141 (comp pick for losing Yannick Ngakoue).

In total, Baltimore is scheduled to pick five times in a span of 31 selections.