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Eisenberg: Grading The Draft A Complicated Exercise


You can't use one color and broad brush strokes to paint a picture of the Ravens' maneuverings and selections in the 2016 NFL Draft.

It takes a bit of nuance, some dappling of light and dark, to sum things up.

Some very good things happened. "I don't know if I've ever felt as good about the collection of talent" in a draft class, General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. That's quite a statement from a guy who has done this for so long.

But the Ravens also experienced a few regrets, starting with their inability to use the No. 6 overall pick to add an elite defensive playmaker.

I thought that was the best-case-scenario use of their highest first-round selection in 15 years, and I think they did, too. When it became evident the draft's top two defensive playmakers, Joey Bosa and Jalen Ramsey, would be gone when they picked at No. 6, the Ravens tried to trade up and get Ramsey – an indication of their desire to add a defensive cornerstone.

The trade didn't happen because Newsome balked at the Dallas Cowboys' asking price for the No. 4 pick. I don't know what that price was, presumably a pretty high draft pick, maybe a third-rounder, but regardless, I wouldn't have minded seeing the Ravens take the plunge. Ramsey was that enticing as a potential difference-maker.

Anyway, once he didn't trade up, Newsome explored trading back from No. 6. We'll never know whether that would have cost them the player they did get, tackle Ronnie Stanley, but they were happy to get Stanley, and why not? Giving Joe Flacco a bigtime bodyguard might not be sexy, but it's the soundest of moves philosophically.

(Oh, and regarding ESPN's report that Newsome would have taken Laremy Tunsil if not for the infamous gas-mask video, that's like saying 1929 would have been a pretty good year if not for the stock market crash. The "if not for" factor is kind of a whopper.)

The second round brought another regret of sorts. The Ravens loved Myles Jack, a talented linebacker coming off a troubling knee injury, and they could have grabbed him at No. 36, but they passed, trading the pick to a team (Jacksonville) that promptly took him.

If Jack becomes a star, the Ravens will kick themselves. But who knows if he will? Either way, I'm not going to fault their risk/reward judgment. Maybe it was cautious, but not overly so. The entire league was dubious enough about Jack that he dropped out of the first round.

The most important quality in any player is he's able to play. After Breshad Perriman's injury hung over the franchise like a dark cloud in 2015, I can't fault the Ravens for taking an assuredly healthier player with a high pick, especially since that player, outside linebacker Kamalei Correa, fills a key need with his history of pressuring quarterbacks.

Actually, the Ravens drafted three pass rushers, Bronson Kaufusi and Matt Judon being the other two. It's what happens when your owner tells the media he is "a pass rush guy," as Steve Bisciotti did in January. It will be interesting to see how much these three can immediately impact a Baltimore pass rush dominated by thirtysomethings.

The Ravens also wanted to add pass defenders, and Newsome confirmed he tried to trade into the late second round Friday night, presumably to get a cornerback who could compete for a starting job. But no deal materialized.

The Ravens have NOT drafted corners with high picks consistently enough that you can't help wondering what's going on. They've taken a defensive lineman in the first three rounds for four straight years now, but they've taken a corner in the first three rounds just once since 2010. Is that philosophy or happenstance?

The Ravens had 11 picks overall, though, kept grinding, and in the end, Newsome and his crew expressed delight with their haul. Every team does, but the Ravens were especially upbeat.

I can see why. Tavon Young could be a plug-and-play nickel corner. Kenneth Dixon was rated by many as the second-best running back in the draft behind a guy who went No. 4 overall. Keenan Reynolds was nothing short of brilliant at Navy. Judon led all of college football in sacks in 2015.

The Ravens' three days may have included some woulda and coulda, but it eventually delivered a class of interesting prospects.

"Right now, the Baltimore Ravens are a much better football team," Newsome said.

He isn't one to gush.

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