As yet, no one from the Ravens’ front office is asking for my prediction on what the team will do in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft on April 25.
I’m actually pretty sure the draft will come and go without my cell phone buzzing with that request.
But if the Ravens do happen to reach out and ask for my best guesstimate of what will go down (perhaps after an accidental butt dial?), I’ll offer this prediction:
They’re going to trade their first-round pick, the No. 22-overall selection, receiving multiple lower picks in return.
I don’t know if those incoming picks will be for later in the first round, the second round or the third round – likely some combination – but I do know the guiding principle behind the move would be, simply, that the Ravens want more high picks.
Right now, they’re in possession of eight selections, a healthy total, but only one is in the first 84 – a situation that surely has team officials feeling antsy, if not downright twitchy, as they pace back and forth in their offices.
Only one of the top 84 players is coming to Baltimore? The Ravens have seldom come away from a draft with so few top-rated players. That’s anathema to a team that loves the draft process as much as the Ravens. They have faith in their ability to uncover gems with lower picks, but let’s be honest: higher picks tend to produce better prospects, those likelier to succeed.
That’s why I’m guessing the Ravens will make a move to grab more of those prime prospects.
I can already hear the heavy sighs that will engulf Baltimore if this scenario goes down. One of the biggest reasons the draft has become such a massive event, almost as eagerly anticipated as the Super Bowl, is it is exciting to see which college stud your team adds, especially in the first round. Trading away your top pick is the opposite, the definition of NOT exciting.
The Ravens have done it before and lived to tell about it. They traded out of the first round in 2010 and 2012, receiving multiple picks in return each time. They won their second Super Bowl in 2012.
It makes sense this year because the draft is widely acknowledged as being deep rather than top-heavy. There are plenty of quality guys who project as instant starters. Theoretically, if you’ve done your homework, you could draft as effectively at, say, No. 42 overall as at No. 22. And of course, the trade-back scenario would give the Ravens at least twice as many swings, which means more new players.
My only issue with the scenario is if a top offensive lineman is still available when the Ravens are on the clock at No. 22. That would create a tough choice. I’m on record as being in favor of the Ravens using their top pick to bolster the interior of their O-line, and instant starters such as centers Garrett Bradbury (North Carolina State) and Erik McCoy (Texas A&M) and guard Cody Ford (Oklahoma) could be difference-makers.
No, the selection wouldn’t be deemed exciting by many; I can already hear more of those heavy sighs.
But with the Ravens converting their offense to a more run-centric operation built around Lamar Jackson, I don’t think you can beat the idea of them using the No. 22 pick to add a lineman who could start immediately. Combined with the news that Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda is officially back, having signed a contract extension, the offensive line would become a potential team strength.
Are there other ways for the Ravens to acquire more picks in the top 84? Sure. One CBS Sports mock draft has them packaging picks in the third and fourth rounds for a second-rounder. Not impossible. But that would mean fewer overall picks, not more. Not the Ravens’ style.
Actually, given the draft’s unpredictable nature, I could present all sorts of possible scenarios. But I think the likeliest, in the end, is a simple trade of that No. 22 pick.