Baltimore Ravens

If a certain draft scenario unfolds, the Ravens would have a very tough choice

The NFL draft will get underway exactly four weeks from today. That provides plenty of time for countless more mock drafts and speculation about how the first five picks will unfold.

The Ravens, who sit at No. 6 overall, have undoubtedly gone over every scenario. There aren't as many variables when you have only five teams picking in front of you.


Ravens officials do a ton of work not just on the crop of draft-eligible players, but on what other teams are doing with their picks. By the time the first round begins on April 28 – if they don't already - the Ravens will have a pretty good idea about who the teams in front of them will select.

There is one plausible outcome that, at least from the outside, appears to be the Ravens' worst-case scenario. The Ravens would love to come out of the first round with an impact defensive player at one of their primary areas of need: pass rusher, cornerback or inside linebacker.


However, what if Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa, Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey and UCLA linebacker Myles Jack are all gone within the first five picks? What if the Tennessee Titans do the expected and take Mississippi left tackle Laremy Tunsil first overall, the Cleveland Browns follow by taking a quarterback and then Ramsey, Bosa and Jack go to the San Diego Chargers (No. 3), Dallas Cowboys (No. 4) and Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 5) in no particular order?

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti made it pretty clear last week that he doesn't see the Ravens trading up in the first round. The Ravens view their nine picks to be too valuable, especially considering the ones that are most tradeable are early in rounds.

So if they don't trade up, will they trade back and pick up a few more draft picks? Do they stay where they are and target an offensive player or the second best cornerback or pass rusher in the draft?

Below are a few of their options if the aforementioned scenario unfolds:

Stay at No. 6 and draft Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley

Why this makes sense: Stanley is an NFL-ready left tackle, a plug-and-play guy who would provide stability at the position. If they took Stanley, the Ravens could move on from much-maligned starter Eugene Monroe, and be comfortable that they have Joe Flacco's blindside protected. Starting right tackle Rick Wagner is also a free agent following the 2016 season, so the Ravens will need to find future book-end tackles sooner rather than later.

Why this doesn't make sense: Stanley is a good NFL prospect, but many evaluators don't project him to develop into a dominant guy. The Ravens haven't selected this early in the draft since they got running back Jamal Lewis with the fifth overall pick in 2000. It stands to reason that Ozzie Newsome will be looking to hit a home run with this pick by taking either an offensive or defensive playmaker. Stanley isn't that guy.

My take: The belief is that the Ravens like Stanley and would be comfortable taking him if other options dry up. Given the team's need to add playmakers along with offensive line coach Juan Castillo's past success in developing unheralded prospects, I'd be a little surprised if Stanley is the pick at six. That's not to say that they don't trade back and pick him several slots later. He'd be a solid pick, but the Ravens need a difference-maker.


Stay at No. 6 and draft Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner

Why this makes sense: This would be the quintessential "best-player available" pick, and that's a philosophy that the organization says that it won't get away from. Buckner is a versatile defensive lineman who can be dominant against the run, and rushes the passer from a variety of spots. Many evaluators consider him a top-three talent in the draft. Newsome also loves stockpiling defensive linemen, believing in building the team from the inside out. Buckner has the type of football characteristics that the Ravens crave.

Why this doesn't make sense: If you look at the Ravens' roster, they are probably deepest along the defensive line. Even after letting Chris Canty go, the Ravens still have Timmy Jernigan, Brent Urban, Lawrence Guy, Carl Davis and Kapron Lewis-Moore, not to mention Brandon Williams manning the nose tackle spot. The draft is loaded with interior defensive linemen, so the Ravens could easily augment this group with a middle-round pick.

My take: It's been very hard to gauge how interested the Ravens are in Buckner, and there's no certainty that he'll even be available to them. However, if he is, this pick makes a lot of sense. The Ravens have a bigger need for an edge rusher and Buckner is not that guy, but he can line up in a lot of different places. He'd give defensive coordinator Dean Pees some nice flexibility. Plus, how many times have you heard Newsome say that he'll take the best player available? Buckner fits the profile in so many ways.

Stay at six and draft Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves      

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Why this makes sense: The Ravens badly need a cornerback and there are many evaluators that consider Hargreaves the best pure cover corner in the draft. Ramsey is the more dynamic athlete and playmaker, but Hargreaves is considered the better cover guy. He could come in and immediately start opposite Jimmy Smith, providing nice depth to a cornerback group that also includes Shareece Wright, Kyle Arrington and Will Davis. Hargreaves had 10 interceptions in three seasons at Florida, which surely has the Ravens' attention given their desire to force more turnovers.


Why this doesn't make sense: Hargreaves is only 5-foot-10 and he doesn't have the size that the Ravens often covet for in their outside cornerbacks. The track record of cornerbacks taken early in the draft isn't very good, and the Ravens can't afford to miss here. The sense is that the No. 6 pick would be a little early for Hargreaves, who figures to go closer to 10.

My take: Hargreaves is a very intriguing option for a team that has made strides this offseason in fixing its secondary with the hiring of position coach Leslie Frazier, the signing of safety Eric Weddle, the re-signing of Wright and Lardarius Webb's move to safety. Depending on what happens in front of them and who is available, it would be hard to gripe about the Ravens picking Hargreaves. Quality cover corners are hard to find.

Trade back from six and get a couple of more picks 

Why this makes sense: The Ravens love draft picks, for one. They can never have enough and they have plenty of needs to fill. Newsome has a history of trading back, too. If a team like the quarterback-needy St. Louis Rams are willing to give a king's ransom to move up from No. 15, the Ravens would surely be intrigued. Guys like Stanley, Hargreaves, Georgia pass-rusher Leonard Floyd, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott and Alabama middle linebacker Reggie Ragland could still be in play, even if the Ravens drop back several picks from six.

Why this doesn't make sense: As I've said several times in this post, the Ravens badly need to hit on this pick. The earlier they select, the better chance that they have of doing just that. Team officials have acknowledged that picking sixth is a big opportunity that they hope they don't have again, so it would presumably take an awful lot to get them to move back. With perhaps only two top-10 quarterbacks in the draft and not a whole lot of teams looking for signal callers, it might be tough to rally up significant interest in the pick.

My take: It totally depends on who is the top remaining player on the Ravens' board when they are on the clock. It's simple: If they think they can still get that player by moving back a couple of slots and there is definite interest in their pick, then Newsome will trade back. Nobody should be surprised if that's the end result, given the Ravens drafting history. But I can't see them moving back too far, unless they are absolutely blown away by an offer.