Ravens coach John Harbaugh talked a few times during the draft process about the help he gets from his brother Jim, the head coach at Michigan, in scouting certain players. Input from Jim played a part in Baltimore selecting three players from the Big Ten, its most from that conference in 13 years.
Ask anyone in the Ravens' organization, and they’ll tell you digging up information and developing reliable sources at schools are the most critical factors in evaluating players. John can call Jim to talk about their parents and get an honest appraisal of any player in one of the top football conferences in the country.
"It’s definitely an asset,” Ravens director of player personnel Joe Hortiz said.
Before Jim’s arrival at Michigan in 2015, the Ravens drafted one Wolverine. Baltimore selected linebacker Prescott Burgess in the sixth round in 2007.
Since Jim took over at Ann Arbor, the Ravens have drafted three: defensive lineman Willie Henry (fourth round in 2016), defensive end Chris Wormley (third round in 2017) and offensive lineman Ben Bredeson (fourth round this year).
Here was Jim’s scouting report to John about Bredeson: "Leader by example and vocal, no nonsense, all football all the time, really motivated, very competitive guy.”
The advantage of tapping into Jim’s knowledge goes beyond Michigan. On Day 2 of this year’s draft, Baltimore selected two Ohio State players: running back J.K. Dobbins in the second round and inside linebacker Malik Harrison in the third.
Afterward, John jokingly said he liked everything about those players except the school they played for but added, "Jim helps me out with those guys at Ohio State, because he knows them so well playing against them.”
Many Ravens officials consider the entire staff at Michigan family at this point. Jay Harbaugh, the nephew of John, worked in Baltimore for three seasons as an assistant before becoming Michigan’s running back and special teams coach. Outside of bloodlines, the staffs with the Ravens and Michigan have gained a familiarity over philosophies after holding clinics together.
When you build that type of relationship, a scout can hear “This guy is your type of guy,” before even walking in the door of the school or even putting on film.
“They know what we’re about and it’s great,” Hortiz said.
Even Jack Harbaugh, the father of John and Jim, gets into the act. He spends time with both of his sons’ teams throughout the year and enjoys when one player goes from one Harbaugh coach to another.
When the Ravens drafted Bredeson this year, Jack sent John a text that started with “You’re going to love this guy.”
The previous draft picks who came from Jim’s Michigan program haven’t turned into Pro Bowl players but they’ve been solid role players. Henry recorded 4.5 sacks in his two seasons in Baltimore, and Wormley made 15 starts for the Ravens before getting traded this offseason to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
What they’ve all agreed upon is it’s an easy transition going from Jim to John as their head coach.
"Each of them has their own tweaks to how they run their own program, but you can definitely see a lot of glaring similarities between the two,” Bredeson said. "The way the playbook is set up, the way the program is being run, their mannerisms; a lot of them are the same. It’s comforting for me knowing that I’m still in the Harbaugh family.”