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Eisenberg: Five Thoughts on the Ravens' 2014 Draft


Five thoughts on the Ravens' 2014 draft:

If you're mildly disappointed that they didn't draft an impact offensive player with one of their early picks, there's a rationale for why they went so heavy for defense for a second straight year, and it's so obvious I'm kicking myself for not bringing it up before. Here's the deal: The Ravens depended on their defense for a long time, and that defense relied primarily on four veteran stars. Now Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are gone, Haloti Ngata is 30 and Terrell Suggs is 31. In other words, the page is turning before your eyes. The Ravens aren't looking specifically for replacements for guys who really can't be replaced. Their vision is broader. They're just looking to build a new defense as the page keeps turning. How do you do that? By flooding the unit with the best new blood you can find. I'm sure the Ravens would have gone offense with a high pick if their draft board had dictated it, but big picture, the fact that they added so much to the defense is fine.

Even before the last pick was made Saturday, I saw a pair of NFL Network analysts giving teams grades. Both gave the Ravens an "A." But one gave every AFC North team an "A," so it was a little like field day in third grade when everyone gets a participant ribbon. Personally, I'm not a fan of giving out grades so soon. Talk to me in three years, when we have a better idea of whether these picks worked out. But in any case, I know why the Ravens scored well. They loaded up on high-quality defenders in the first three rounds, then added depth at running back, receiver, quarterback and the offensive line on day three. It wasn't all roses, as they didn't use a high pick to address their biggest need at right offensive tackle. But as Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said, the draft is just one way to address your lineup and "we're not done."

OK, so no grades from me. But I'll take a stab at identifying winners and losers in this draft for the Ravens. One winner is Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees. Four of the Ravens' top five picks will play on his unit, and in the past two years, the Ravens have drafted eight defensive players in the first four rounds. Another winner is tackle Rick Wagner. The Ravens were interested in adding a starting-caliber player at his spot, but they didn't, so the job still belongs to Wagner, although it wouldn't surprise me to see the Ravens bring in a veteran to compete with him. OK, so who lost with how the Ravens' draft unfolded? I'd go with quarterback Joe Flacco. The Ravens didn't come up with that starting right tackle to help protect him after he was sacked 48 times in 2013. They also didn't add a receiver with a high pick in a year when elite pass catchers were all over the board, 12 going in the first 64 picks. Another loser would be Arthur Brown, the second-year linebacker. He was penciled in to start, but the Ravens drafted C.J. Mosley with the idea of him starting right away next to veteran Daryl Smith. That could relegate Brown to a part-time role, at least in the short run.

I give a thumbs-up to not trading back from the No. 17 slot in the first round. Several of the Ravens' War Roomers talked beforehand about how excited they were to be picking higher than usual and possibly bringing in a different caliber of athlete. Trading back in exchange for several lower picks is fine, but this was a rare chance to add a more elite player. If the Ravens did their homework on Mosley, they've added a guy who could anchor their defense for years. That's more important than trading back and adding a pair of second-round and/or third-round guys who might start. Oh, and by the way, can we cool it with the talk about Mosley replacing Ray Lewis? Yes, Mosley is the first inside linebacker since Lewis to go in the first round to the Ravens, but Lewis is one of the greatest linebackers ever, and so revered here a statue of him is going up at M&T Bank Stadium. No one should expect Mosley to be Ray II. Just let him play.

My favorite pick was Florida State safety Terrence Brooks in the third round, and not just because he fills a key need. The Ravens came into the draft needing a free safety, and two tops ones, Louisville's Calvin Pryor and Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, were available when they picked in the first round. But rather than take the safe route in filling the need, they got creative and took Mosley first, gambling that they could still draft their safety down the line. Sure enough, Brooks was there for them at the No. 79 overall slot. If Pryor and Clinton-Dix turn out to be Pro Bowlers, you can second-guess the move. But Brooks was an excellent player on a national championship team, and the Ravens believe he is more than adequate. So they basically got two players instead of one. Nice.

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