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Eisenberg: There's Never Been Less Certainty About Ravens' First-Round Draft Direction


I wish I could report that I came away from the Ravens' pre-draft press conference Wednesday with a pretty good idea of what they're going to do with their first-round pick.

It would be great to report that I listened to the questions and answers, factored in the stack of draft data available to the media and experienced a moment of profound clarity in which I realized there's no way the Ravens AREN'T going to use their first pick to select a a) wide receiver, b) pass rusher, c) offensive lineman, d) cornerback, or e) something else.

That's what I'm supposed to do here, announce that I've figured it out. In today's media world, it's considered something of a cop-out if you can't predict your team's draft. I mean, what kind of expert are you?

But of course, the vast majority of such projections are groundless hoo-hah, and I'm sorry, but I can't, in good conscience, throw another on the pile.

Actually, after listening to the Ravens' decision-makers expound on the draft Wednesday, what I CAN state with absolute authority is I've never been less certain about what they're going to do in the first round.

I'm confident they won't take a quarterback, not when they're paying Joe Flacco so much to stand under center.

I'm also pretty sure they won't use the No. 16 overall selection to take a safety, fullback or tight end. They're set at safety after adding Tony Jefferson and Eric Weddle over the past two years. They need a fullback to replace Kyle Juszczyk, but the position doesn't warrant such a high pick. And tight ends, sheesh, they already have like a dozen.

But they could target any other position in the first round and it wouldn't be a surprise.

Wide receiver? The offense needs a jolt, and on Wednesday Ravens Assistant GM Eric DeCosta rattled off the name of some (Clemson's Mike Williams and Washington's John Ross) who are "probably going to go" around when the Ravens are on the clock.

Cornerback? Even though the Ravens appear set with Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr and Tavon Young, you can never have enough quality corners and this draft is swimming in them.

Pass rusher? It's a spot where the Ravens need new blood, and plug-and-play guys will be available at No 16.

Offensive lineman? I can already hear the fans groaning, but the Ravens have openings at center and right tackle, and solidifying your offensive interior is never the wrong thing to do.

Inside linebacker? After Zachary Orr's retirement, the Ravens could twin Alabama's Reuben Foster with another former Crimson Tide linebacker named C.J. Mosley.

I'm obviously not the only one struggling to grasp the Ravens' intentions. The draft media guide the team handed out Wednesday included no less than 11 first-round mock drafts from "experts" at ESPN, Sports Illustrated., Fox Sports, the Sporting News and CBS. The only network guy whose mock draft wasn't included was Tony Romo, it seemed. Anyway, the Ravens are linked to seven different guys in those 11 mocks – three receivers, two cornerbacks, a defensive end and an offensive tackle.

It's oh-so-easy to offer a prediction, but the Ravens admitted Wednesday that they haven't even finished setting their draft board, so not even they know for sure what will happen. And even if they had tipped their hand Wednesday, DeCosta pointed out that the air is full of disinformation this time of year, so anything they say should be weighed carefully.

When the buildup to the draft began months ago, I thought for sure the Ravens would take a cornerback in the first round. The class is deep in them, the team had a need and it just made sense.

But that was before the Ravens signed Carr, and before a cornerback widely linked to them, Washington's Sidney Jones, suffered a torn Achilles at his pro day.

I still think it's possible they'll take a cornerback, but that's no longer the experts' consensus opinion. In fact, many experts now have the Ravens taking a receiver, which sounds good to me, although I'm fully expecting the draft winds to gust in yet another direction in the next few weeks. It's that kind of draft year in Baltimore, as unpredictable as the springtime weather.

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