Eisenberg: Ravens Find Value After Other Teams Make Mistakes


A team can accomplish a lot with a draft class, and it appears the Ravens, with their nine picks, certainly did.

They invigorated their receiving corps with four new targets for quarterback Joe Flacco. They found pound-for-pound replacements for departed puzzle pieces such as Torrey Smith, Bernard Pierce and Pernell McPhee. They added depth where they need it most on defense, at tackle, cornerback and rush end, and where they always need it on offense, along the line.

As Head Coach John Harbaugh said Saturday, "we scratched a lot of itches."

Hey, they even satisfied the segment of Ravenstown that always roots for them to make flashy picks but usually ends up accepting linebackers, linemen, etc. While it's too soon to know whether this will be one of the Ravens' best drafts, there's no doubt it will rank among their most popular.

My guess is the only box the Ravens didn't check on their wish list was a cornerback in the early rounds, i.e., one who could come in and compete for a starting job. GM Ozzie Newsome conceded the team "probably could have" taken one in the first or second round, but the player wouldn't have been the best available on their board, so they went elsewhere.

But even though they filled a lot of needs, what satisfied Newsome and his crew the most, no doubt, was the fact that the Ravens repeatedly found value.

They were bargain shoppers in the draft's unique currency.

Consider what they did in Thursday night's first round. They had the 26th pick, but on their big board, only 14 or 15 players were judged worthy of a first-round pick. Statistically, the odds were against them obtaining a player.

For them to get one of those 14 or 15 players, they needed 10 or 11 teams ahead of them to select players NOT worthy of a first-round pick in the Ravens' estimation. Basically, they needed a bunch of teams to litter the first round with possible busts-in-the making, enabling one of the Ravens' precious 14 or 15 to fall to them.

That sounds like a long-odds proposition, and indeed, wide receiver Breshod Perriman was the last of their precious 14 or 15 still available when the time came for them to make the 26th pick.

But he was there and the Ravens grabbed him – a top 15 player with the 26th pick.

They did it again in the second round Friday night, using the 55th pick to grab Maxx Williams, widely regarded as the best tight end prospect in the draft.

"We thought he'd be gone, conceivably in the first round, but definitely (as) a top 40 pick," Ravens Assistant GM Eric Decosta said.

The Ravens then made yet another high-value pick late in the third round when they grabbed defensive tackle Carl Davis, who was widely projected to go in the second round

They kept going in Saturday's late stages, grabbing a productive USC tailback in the fourth round and a couple of undervalued small-school projects, a commodity for which they're known.

"If we had imagined this draft beforehand, we'd be very, very excited. So, we got it, and it looks great on paper. But hopefully, it looks good in person as well," DeCosta said.

The Ravens don't like to admit it, but a value draft is based on other teams making mistakes, and they pretty much count on it. Why not? The draft is a science, but it's an imperfect science, to say the least. While many teams address their scout-and-draft operations with much more sophistication than they did years ago, as many as half of the first-round picks in any year don't pan out, and tons of picks in all rounds end up wasted.

The Ravens certainly aren't immune; they whiff on their share of picks as well. But their hit percentage is well above the norm, and they're confident enough in the soundness of their opinions to base their entire draft strategy on the mistakes of others. Basically, they sit back and wait for teams to take gambles and make reach picks based on need, then swoop in and grab the quality players who have fallen.

They certainly followed that plan this year, especially in the early rounds, and while it's far too soon to know how their picks will fare on the field, it's no wonder the Ravens, like all bargain shoppers, left the store beaming.

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