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Should Ravens Target A First-Round Running Back?


As the Steelers play in Sunday's AFC championship, all eyes will be on running back Le'Veon Bell, who has carried Pittsburgh's dynamic offense of late.

The Ravens want a guy like that, a running back with game-breaking potential, whether that be via speed or force.

The only problem is the best way to get one of those talents, via the draft, may not be possible unless the Ravens are willing to trade up.

The top two running backs in this year's draft are widely regarded to be LSU bruiser Leonard Fournette and Florida State speedster Dalvin Cook.

Both, however, are projected to be drafted before the Ravens are on the clock at No. 16, at least in the first mock drafts released by ESPN's Mel Kiper and the NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah.

Kiper doesn't think it's worthwhile for the Ravens to trade up to get either one of them.

"I don't know about trading up for a running back," Kiper said. "The grade of Fournette, I don't think will be high enough to say he's in the [Ezekiel] Elliott stratosphere. Cook? [I don't think so]."

Cook was explosive this year, and would add a different element to Baltimore's backfield. He led the nation with 52 missed tackles and 1,195 yards after contact, per Pro Football Focus. The Ravens' Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon combined for only six plays of 20 or more yards, though they did show the ability to make defenders miss on occasion.

Teams have traded up to get running backs before. In 2015, the San Diego Chargers went up two spots from No. 17 to No. 15 to get running back Melvin Gordon.

But is it worth it in this year's draft?

"Remember, you have a lot of depth at running back too," Kiper said. "There are a lot of other backs in this draft that I really like. And, of course, the Ravens got Kenneth Dixon in the fourth round last year, which was a heck of a pick for them."

Kiper mentioned other running backs such as Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, Texas' D'Onta Foreman, N.C. State's Matthew Dayes and BYU's Jamaal Williams. Kiper mentioned that McCaffrey and Foreman are deserving of first-round consideration.

That said, Kiper stood by his stance of never taking a running back in the first round.

Since Trent Richardson was picked third overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2012, teams have shied away from taking running backs so high. It wasn't until last year when the Dallas Cowboys selected Elliott at No. 6 that another team took a gamble.

Elliott made it pay off, rushing for a league-high 1,631 yards and helping the Cowboys earn the NFC's No. 1 seed in the playoffs, where they were defeated in the divisional round.

But just because Elliott broke the trend doesn't mean everyone is all-in on first-round running backs now. Kiper certainly isn't.

"I would never take a running back in the first round any year," Kiper said. "Last time I checked, 11 of the 12 teams in the playoffs didn't have a first-round running back and the final four don't have a first-round running back starting right now. I think it proves out over the long haul."

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