The idea that this is the deepest draft in nearly a decade has become a popular talking point in the past few months. It's been repeated and retweeted without much explanation countless times, by everyone from Mel Kiper to yours truly.
But what exactly makes it so deep compared to previous years? Why are many armchair experts -- like, well, me -- arguing the Ravens should attempt to trade down and pick multiple players in the second or third round instead of one in the first?
Ozzie Newsome was asked that very question by Ravens beat guy Jamison Hensley, and Newsome had an interesting answer: We really won't know if this draft was that deep until three years from now. However, right now, it's the junior class that has increased its stock.
"The best way to look at it is the number of juniors that came out this year," Newsome said. "But it's hard to say that it's better than the year before because it's hard to know until three years from now how good some of the players are going to be. But I think the juniors have impacted this draft more so than any other year. I think that's where the difference is."
Highly-rated juniors have always been the wild card the NFL draft, but this year a record-tying number of underclassmen (53) decided to waive their final year of eligibility. (Or two years if they spent a year in college as a redshirt.) A lot of players considered the top talents in the draft -- Sam Bradford, Jimmy Claussen, Eric Berry, Gerald McCoy, Rolando McClain, Derrick Morgan -- are underclassmen. The is plenty of speculation that a lot of players declared now instead of waiting because of the uncertainty over the NFL's labor situation, and the potential for a lockout in 2011. So the large number of talented juniors pushes seniors down the draft board, into the second round, when in another year they might be first round picks.
That said, everyone understands it's a deep draft, which might make it difficult to move backward and acquire more picks.
"We have to be ready to pick at 25," Newsome said. "The only way you're able to trade back is if you have a trading partner. If the phone doesn't ring, then you have to pick. If it does ring, then you have to weigh the player that could be there versus moving back and taking the additional pick." At the same time, Newsome said the team wasn't adverse to trading up either if the right player slid down the board.
"There are a lot of ways to build your football team," Newsome said. "If we feel like someone starts to come down the board and he can impact our football team, impact it on a way that can afford ourselves to do some things on our roster, yeah we will move up and get that guy. Last year, I said the chances of us moving up were not very good, and what did I do? I moved up. So you just never know. You have to be prepared to go either way."