Why Trading Back Could Be Ravens' First-Round Move 

041621-DeCosta
GM Eric DeCosta

After waiting months for the draft, watching your favorite team trade out of the first round can be a buzzkill. It's like waking up your children for Christmas, then telling them not to open presents until the next day.

However, trading back and acquiring more picks on Day 2 or 3 can be a shrewd move that pays dividends in the long run. The Ravens haven't traded out of the first round during Eric DeCosta's two previous drafts as general manager, but with Baltimore holding just seven picks, the fewest during his tenure, DeCosta isn't hiding his desire to have more.

"We feel really good about our chances, we just wish we had more picks," DeCosta said during a March video conference. "We have seven picks right now, and hopefully we have the chance to accumulate a few more."

Here are three reasons why trading down and acquiring an extra pick or two might be the way Baltimore plays it on Day 1:

The Ravens can trade back and still get an impact wide receiver.

Even after acquiring Sammy Watkins, some Ravens fans still have an insatiable thirst to see them draft a wideout early, or add another veteran wideout as a new target to help Lamar Jackson. If that's how you feel, don't panic if the Ravens trade down. According to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, this year's wide receiver class is historically talented.

"We have this incredible group of 40 receivers that have a chance to get drafted," Kiper said during a conference call. "You're talking about 14 or 15 in the first two-plus rounds. It's just a year where it all came together. This wide receiver group is incredibly deep. It's deep not only with outside guys, it's deep with slot guys. I'd take an hour to go through all the receivers."

In his latest mock draft, Kiper has LSU wideout Terrace Marshall Jr. going to the Ravens at No. 27, just as he did in his previous mock drafts. But what happens if Marshall is off the board? Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman is another popular pick, or it might entice the Ravens to trade down if there's a team looking to trade up.

"Teams at the end of Day 1 usually make a move (to get) up in there, maybe for a quarterback like Davis Mills," Kiper said.

There will be a ton of talented wideouts still available if the Ravens wait until Day 2. Kiper's latest mock draft has eight wide receivers going in the second round – Kadarius Toney of Florida (33), Dyami Brown of North Carolina (38), Amari Rogers of Clemson (46), Tutu Atwell of Louisville (49), Anthony Schwartz of Auburn (52), D'Wayne Eskridge of Western Michigan (59), Rondale Moore of Purdue (60) and Simi Fehoko of Stanford (64).

NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah has predicted that Marshall and Bateman will last until Day 2, and Jeremiah would not draft either at No. 27.

"Terrace Marshall is my 37th player," Jeremiah said on "The Lounge" podcast. "Bateman is 48th. So for me, it would be more of a trade down scenario than stick and pick. If you are going to go wide receiver, there's just so many of them. To me, you get somebody else to pay a premium to come up for maybe an offensive lineman, or one of those pass rushers. I would think at that point you trade back and get some extra value, and you'll have plenty of good options there in the second round."

An extra second-round pick would give Baltimore more ammunition to address positions of need.

After losing Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue during free agency, strengthening the pass rush remains a priority. Meanwhile, the offensive line has questions even after the addition of right guard Kevin Zeitler during free agency. Pro Bowl right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. reportedly wants to be traded to a team where he can play left tackle. Who is going to be Baltimore's starting center next season?

The Ravens already hold pick No. 58, and getting an extra second-round pick could allow Baltimore to start Day 2 by addressing two positions of need.

"If they felt like two or three players that they were very comfortable with waiting until Friday night to take, they could drop back into the 35 to 38 range," Kiper said. "That's something that's very possible."

Kiper's mock draft has three players who have been linked to the Ravens going between 35 and 60 – edge rushers Gregory Rousseau of Miami (35) and Joseph Ossai (56) of Texas, and guard/center Landon Dickerson of Alabama (39).

Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell, a Miami product, would welcome a former Hurricane like Rousseau into the fold. Campbell has been a mentor to Rousseau during the draft process.

Jeremiah is also high on Rousseau, who opted out last season, but who had 15.5 sacks in 2019.

"If you want to talk about just the size, the length, the production it's off the charts," Jeremiah said. "(His) Pro Day wasn't great. I know some people are killing him on that because he looked real stiff. But he's got burst, he's got length, he's got production. That's a pretty good trio."

Another edge rusher Jeremiah likes is Joe Tryon of Washington, whose size and playing style compares to former Ravens outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith, now with the Green Bay Packers.

"Maybe it's a scenario where Eric is able to trade back a little bit, get some extra picks and take him (Tryon) at the 30's," Jeremiah said. "To me he has production, he's got the size and the length, that big frame you want at the position and can play with some power. That matches up pretty well with historically what the Ravens have looked at."

The Ravens trust their draft process and believe they have an advantage in later rounds.

Dealing with restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the cancellation of the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, has been made draft preparations more challenging this year. But DeCosta is confident the Ravens will find quality players throughout the process.

"I think our scouts are the best in the league," DeCosta said. "Obviously, I'm biased, but I really feel that way. Our analytics team [has] very skilled people as well. We'll be creative. We'll be strategic. We'll be aggressive and we'll build a great board.

"Because of the Zoom [calls] and all of these different things, we've had the chance to meet with a lot more players. There's an advantage to that – to really getting a chance to spend time with these guys over Zoom. For us, there's no excuse to not know the players, to not know their personalities. Now the workouts and the numbers and all that, that might be a different story, but I think in the end, when it comes time to pick the players, we will be in a great position. I think that our collective intelligence and ability of our scouts and analysts will shine."

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