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Could the Ravens trade up in the first round? Only if they know an ‘elite’ draft prospect will be there.

On a conference call Thursday morning, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta was asked about the possibility of trading up in the first round to take Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray or LSU’s Patrick Queen, two of the draft’s top inside linebacker prospects. DeCosta answered by talking about a pass rusher.

Like the rest of the scouting community, the Ravens rate Ohio State’s Chase Young highly. Most analysts consider him the draft’s top prospect, and he’s not expected to fall past the Washington Redskins at No. 2 overall. But if he did ...

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“If he starts to slip in the draft and we thought we might be able to get him," DeCosta said, “obviously, yes, try to trade up to get him because of our grades on Chase Young.”

The cost in most cases is prohibitive. For the bounty of draft picks it normally takes to move up in the first round, DeCosta said, the prospect had better be “elite.”

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The Ravens got one when they moved up to take quarterback Lamar Jackson at No. 32 overall in 2018. So did the Atlanta Falcons in 2011 (wide receiver Julio Jones), the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016 (quarterback Carson Wentz) and the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017 (Patrick Mahomes).

But the prevailing analytical wisdom is that there’s safety in numbers. A 2010 data analysis by Pro-Football-Reference found that teams with a top-50 pick selected the best player available just 5.7% of the time, suggesting it’s better to have more than one lottery ticket. And while it’s virtually impossible to succeed on offense without a quality quarterback, Pro Football Focus found last month that on defense, the performance of secondary and tertiary players in a team’s coverage and pass rush is “at least as important as performance by the most important player.”

Depth matters. DeCosta said he’d like to have 10 to 14 picks in every draft; the Ravens have nine entering this year’s, but five are in the top 106 overall.

“You’re always better off having more picks than less picks,” he said. “And when you trade up, you give up picks. And so you’d better get a guy that’s going to be a difference-maker if you trade up. I understand people love the idea of trading up to get a guy, but I think in general, just historically, if you look at all those trades up, it’s 50-50. And you’ve got to look at what you give up to get a guy in those picks and how those picks turn out.”

The higher the pick, the steeper the price. According to the often-cited draft pick value chart devised by former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, if the Ravens packaged all nine of their 2020 draft picks, the equivalent trade value would be a selection no higher than No. 6 overall.

And chances are that Young won’t be available then.

“I think, in general, trading up is dangerous. It’s a little bit risky," DeCosta said. “But if there’s an elite player available, we’d be foolish not to consider that.”

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