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Eisenberg: Ravens Are Unlikely to Draft a First-Round Quarterback, But the Idea Has Merit

Posted Mar 10, 2018

The opportunity to draft a top quarterback is rare, so if the opportunity presents itself, you take it. It provides more stability at the most important position in football, and could send a jolt into a team that’s missed the playoffs three consecutive times.

Let me begin with a disclaimer: Although I’m writing about the possibility of the Ravens taking a quarterback in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, I’d be surprised to see it happen.

Make that very surprised.

Yes, the formerly impossible idea has received a dab of theoretical legitimacy recently thanks to a few mock drafts and media prognostications, which, if anything, can be taken as an indication that the Ravens are no longer entirely dismissive of the thought. That in itself is breaking news.

But when asked last month about the possibility of drafting a young signal caller who could succeed Joe Flacco, Owner Steve Bisciotti said the Ravens had “bigger fish to fry,” seemingly pooh-poohing the thought.

If their public comments are any indication, the team’s decision-makers continue to believe Flacco, 33, can take the Ravens where they want to go. The front office has never been anything less than fully supportive, even when Flacco’s performance had dipped at times in recent years.

With the Ravens coming off a season in which they won nine games and had a playoff berth in hand until the final seconds of the final game, I think they’re far likelier to draft one of the difference-making pieces they need instead of going with a big-picture pick that likely won’t pay immediate dividends. Most analysts have them taking a wide receiver or offensive lineman in the first round.

But at the same time, there are reasons why the “first-round quarterback” idea is bubbling up this year. The draft class is super deep in quarterbacks, with as many as six possibly going high. Given the event’s unpredictable nature, a significant talent could be available at No. 16 overall, when the Ravens pick. Those opportunities are rare.

It’s an eye-opening concept, for sure. And there are things about it to like.

For starters, it surely would shake up the local football world, which could use a shake after three straight non-playoff seasons. After a season in which empty seats appeared and the ending disappointed, I’ve heard it suggested that the Ravens can’t do anything to fire up their “bored” fans in the offseason. Oh, yeah? Let’s see what happens if they draft Louisville’s Lamar Jackson or Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield.

That would take care of the yawns. Nothing gets a buzz going like new blood under center.

It also would rock Flacco’s world – nothing affirms your sports mortality more than your replacement’s arrival. Would the Ravens benefit from that? Are they willing to find out?

Thus far, they’ve always backed the guy who won a Super Bowl for them, paying him a huge salary and explaining away the times when he falls short. They also have not always given him a winning supporting cast.

But in any case, it’s a results business, and the drafting of a quarterback would send the message that the Ravens want better results. It would amount to bad-cop treatment after years of good-cop support, and I’m sure the Ravens would hope the change generates better play from Flacco in 2018. It would make for fascinating viewing, at the very least.

The best thing about drafting a quarterback would be the long-range implications. If they’ve really identified a guy in this class as the one capable of leading them for the next decade, and he’s available when they’re on the clock, they’re crazy NOT to grab him. Forget any short-term considerations. Having the right guy under center, stabilizing that position, is the most important thing a team can do to give itself a better chance of consistently winning down the line.

For the Ravens to draft that guy this year, though, some stars need to align. First, they need to positively identify one of this year’s quarterbacks as that guy. Then, he needs to be available.  Finally, they need to be sure the time is right.

I think it’s a longshot scenario. As Bisciotti said last month, the Ravens, deep down, still don’t see Flacco’s age as an issue. Given his big salary, that likely pushes the decision to another year.

Don’t count on the shocking pick, in other words. But then, if it were to happen, it wouldn’t be quite as shocking anymore, would it?

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