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Eisenberg: Blockbuster Trade Raises Tough Questions For Ravens


Before the Tennessee Titans traded the first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to the Los Angeles Rams earlier this week, the Ravens could only hope that one of this class' five elite position players slid to them at No. 6. There was a chance all five would be gone.

The big trade, engineered because the Rams want to take a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick, all but guaranteed the Ravens that they would land either cornerback Jalen Ramsey, linebacker Joey Bosa, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, linebacker Myles Jack or offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil.

In fact, with the Cleveland Browns reportedly also considering taking a quarterback with the second-overall pick, it's becoming increasingly likely that the Ravens will have to choose between several of those elite position-player prospects when they're due to pick on April 28.

It's a development the organization warmly welcomes, no doubt, but it does raise some tough questions.

For instance, what if Buckner and Tunsil are the two guys left when the Ravens are on the clock? Do they take the bruising defensive end or the cornerstone blind-side offensive tackle?

Or what if the choice is between Jack and Ramsey? Do they take the athletic inside linebacker whom they can immediately pair with C.J. Mosley now that Daryl Smith is gone, or do they take the brilliant playmaking cornerback whom some think is the next Charles Woodson?

Whew. Tough calls. And really, a choice between any two of those five players won't be easy. But that's exactly what the Ravens will face, a tough choice of some sort, if two quarterbacks and three position players get selected before them.

How do the Ravens prepare when they won't even know what the choice is until moments before they're "on the clock"? Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta explained their methodology at the team's pre-draft press event earlier this month.

"I feel like if you're picking sixth, you really only have to look at four or five players, and you're just going to have to iron those guys out and you rank those five players," DeCosta said.

In other words, there's going to be a list. The Ravens will rank those five players in order of their desirability (according to the Ravens) and then simply take the top available guy on the list when they're due to pick.

Reading between the lines, it means they won't make the pick based on any current positional needs. They're going to take (all together now, it's a familiar refrain) the best player available.

But ranking the five players isn't nearly as easy as it sounds. Although right now it appears all five will be lasting contributors, if not outright stars, plenty of prospects in their rarefied position have failed to live up to expectations over the years.

While there may not seem to be much difference between any of the five in natural talent and overall quality, some will fare better than others, and it's the Ravens' job to correctly analyze their pros and cons.

"You have to get the list right and pick the right guy," DeCosta said.

For what it's worth, here's my extremely unofficial, amateur-eyeball ranking of the five: 1) Ramsey, 2) Tunsil, 3) Buckner, 4) Bosa, 5) Jack. Again, they're all terrific, but Ramsey is an athletic freak who can play every position in the secondary, so he goes on top. Tunsil and Buckner are rugged interior players with few flaws. Bosa's shortcomings appear minor, and the only issue with Jack is he is coming off a knee injury.

Right now, there's no telling what the teams picking ahead of the Ravens will do; analysts haven't reached a consensus. The San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars, who have the Nos. 3-5 picks, could go in almost any direction, it seems.

But one way or another, now that the Rams are taking a quarterback with the top pick, it's more likely the Ravens will find themselves facing a choice, one they need to nail. What's that famous quote? "And so the plot thickens."

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