Eisenberg: Can 'Five Guys' Meet High Goals?


They're a unique subset among the gangly sprawl of Ravens rookies who have gathered at the Under Armor Performance Center this weekend for a minicamp, their first taste of pro football. 

For that matter, they're a unique subset in the annals of Ravens history -- five players selected within an hour in the same round of last weekend's draft. 

Then, they were just names on a board; now, they're minicamp veterans, destined for the depth chart. There's the cornerback, Tavon Young; the wide receiver, Chris Moore; the offensive tackle, Alex Lewis; the defensive tackle, Willie Henry; and the running back, Kenneth Dixon – complete strangers until last weekend, now suddenly joined at the hip. 

What's a good nickname for them? That's easy. They're the Five Guys. (Seriously, could be it more obvious?) 

But of course, the nickname will stick only if they can live up to the lofty expectations Ravens Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta set for them last month, several weeks before the draft, when he said the fourth round picks would "make or break" the team's 2016 draft. 

"We've got to nail those picks," DeCosta said. "Our challenge will be to get four starters with those picks."

Four? That's how many fourth-round picks the Ravens had when DeCosta made that comment, and they added another in a trade Friday night. 

Can they really turn FIVE fourth-round picks into starters? 

It sounds like a long-odds proposition to me. That's asking a lot from players who certainly have talent and loads of potential but, let's face it, slipped to the third day of the draft. I'm not sure any of the five will start as rookies. 

But DeCosta meant starters in the long run, not immediately, and, well, let's see what happens. A handful of the Ravens' recent fourth-round picks have distinguished themselves quite nicely. Kyle Juszczyk, Brent Urban, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Za'Darius Smith and Buck Allen are either already starting or moving up the depth chart. 

Other well-known Ravens such as Jarret Johnson, Ed Hartwell, Dennis Pitta, Brandon Stokley and Jason Brown also began their careers as fourth-round picks.

Despite that track record, I get the feeling a fair number of fans weren't even paying attention when the fourth round began last Saturday; the third day of the draft only "moves the needle" for real aficionados. But I can't remember seeing the Ravens' draft crew more excited about anything. "It's going to be fun!" Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome exclaimed the night before. 

Why the exclamation point? Well, no team in the history of the draft, which originated in 1936, had ever accumulated so many picks in one of the first five rounds. Assuming all five will make the 53-man roster this year (a good assumption seeing as Baltimore has never parted ways with a fourth round pick without first putting him on the team), the Ravens were about to determine almost 10 percent of their 2016 roster in an hour. That's kind of a big deal. 

They strategized for months about how to make so many picks so quickly, and once they started, the names came in a hurry, Young, Moore, Lewis, Henry, Dixon, incredibly, five guys all with five letters in their last names, surely a million-to-one shot. 

You knew the quantity was going to be impressive, but so was the quality according to ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay who called it the best fourth-round haul he's ever seen. 

"I've never seen anything like it," McShay said. 

The first to get taken, Young, probably is the likeliest to make an immediate impact beyond special teams. "We feel like he can come in and help our football team this year" as a nickel corner, Newsome said. There's also keen interest in Dixon, who scored 87 touchdowns in college. Yes, the Ravens' running back competition is crowded, but carries are available and Dixon is likely to get some. 

That's not meant to disparage the prospects of the two linemen (Henry and Lewis) from the Big 10, a conference that spews out quality interior players, or the wide receiver (Moore) who torched Ohio State and is known as a deep threat. 

The Five Guys, all of them, merit watching.

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