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Eisenberg: Grabbing A First-Round Cornerback Is The Best Route For Baltimore, But ...


For a columnist, there's pretty much one basic commandment: Whatever debate you engage in, pick a side. 

Believe what you want and say what you want, but stick to your guns. No waffling allowed.

I'm paid to do that, have an opinion. And on the subject of what the Ravens should do with their first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, I do have an opinion. 

I'd like to see them take a cornerback, an elite pass defender. 

They've lacked that caliber of manpower for too long where so many games are won and lost these days – in the secondary, scene of the NFL's primary turf war, the elbow-and-chirp-fest between receivers and defenders. The Ravens haven't drafted a cornerback in the first three rounds since they made Jimmy Smith their top pick in 2011. 

Now 28, Smith is more than able, but whenever he missed time due to injuries in 2016, the pass defense suffered. Other scenarios for bolstering the corner corps include drafting one in the second or third round, or signing a veteran free agent. But the No. 16 overall pick gives the Ravens a chance to add a bona fide difference-maker, a player who becomes part of their foundation. Think C.J. Mosley, who arrived as the No. 17 overall pick three years ago. 

Although a recent run of non-playoff seasons has disappointed the organization, one positive byproduct has been the chance to add Mosley and last year's top pick, tackle Ronnie Stanley, who went No. 6 overall. Those are players you can build around, and I can't think of a better position than cornerback to add another such player. 

The great, heaving body of draft analysts mostly agrees, it seems, as many early mocks have the Ravens taking a cornerback such as Washington's Sidney Jones, Florida's Quincy Wilson or Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore. 

But … hey, are you hearing a siren? 

Look out, it's a columnist waffle alert! 

Now that I've stated my case for taking a corner, I've got to admit, the Ravens have other needs – quite a few, frankly – and if they end up using that first-round pick to address one of those needs, I can rationalize it. 

If they were to take an edge rusher, for instance, who could possibly say it was a bad idea? Terrell Suggs turns 35 later this year. Elvis Dumervil is 33. The Ravens are trying to develop a cadre of new, young sackers, but UCLA's Takkarist McKinley, Michigan's Taco Charlton or Alabama's Tim Williams would represent a significant upgrade. 

After ranking near the bottom of the league in 2016 in metrics gauging pressure applied to opposing quarterbacks, the Ravens certainly could use a boost in that area. 

I also would have a hard time protesting the selection of an offensive lineman at No. 16 overall. I can already hear the "bor-ring" chant from restless fans who wanted a jazzier selection than Stanley a year ago, much less a second blocker in a row. But the Dallas Cowboys' success in 2016 indicated what can happen when you painstakingly build an elite O-line with high draft picks. 

Honestly, given how offenses dominate now, you could argue that developing a strong, dependable line is the smartest way to go. 

But you also need playmakers to make that offense hum, and the Ravens have stated their desire to add speed and "pop" potential at the skill positions. I think it's likelier that they add a veteran receiver in free agency, but if Clemson's Mike Williams is still available at No. 16, I'm sure Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco would applaud the selection. 

Dalvin Cook, a running back from Florida State, also would be an interesting selection, potentially electrifying an offense that struggled with blackouts throughout 2016. 

So there you have it. While I'm on record supporting cornerback as the best way to go, and I'll stick with that, I see the rationales for addressing several other positions. 

I wish it weren't so. I'm waffling. I apologize. My bad.

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