Ravens 2016 NFL Draft: The case for trading back, the case for staying at No. 6
The 2016 NFL Draft kicks off later this week, ending a grueling three-month process of over-analysis and rumormongering. Finally, the Baltimore Ravens and, barring a move by the Deflategate-penalized New England Patriots, 30 other teams have their best and most effective chance to make meaningful additions to their rosters.
Though no one knows how the 2016 draft plays out, it seems a mortal lock that a handful of trades shake up the selection order between now and the end of the first round. Given their standing at sixth overall, the Ravens could very well find themselves involved with those trade discussions. If and when that happens, general manager Ozzie Newsome must decide whether to move back and collect extra picks or stick with his current draft choice and bring in a player. Those decisions rarely prove to be easy, as each side offers plenty of compelling value and possibilities.
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The case to trade back
The argument for trading back focuses on taking advantage of overaggressive front offices and the benefit of extra picks. This year seems to have a surplus of teams willing to fork over the full contents of their proverbial war chests in order to acquire a potential franchise quarterback, with the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles pulling off megadeals for the top-2 spots respectively. And the market still has yet to dry up. Reports surfaced Tuesday suggesting the New Orleans Saints remain interested in moving ahead in the draft for Memphis’ Paxton Lynch. In order to do so, they likely need to jump the San Francisco 49ers at No. 7, making the Ravens the most likely trade target.
A package of draft choices from the Saints could prove impossible for Newsome to turn down. Not only does the team hold early selections in the top three rounds of the 2016 draft — Nos. 17, 47 and 78 — but New Orleans’ consistently substandard roster and salary-cap management suggest early picks in next year’s draft as well. In a best-case scenario for the Ravens, they could turn this year’s pick into an even better selection in 2017 on top of the other choices Loomis needs to surrender to make the deal.
Baltimore could still land an instant impact player later in the first round, most likely along the defensive or offensive lines. Meanwhile, Newsome gets more rolls of the dice later in the draft as well as addition chances next year. Given the team’s track record with extra picks, the Ravens could accelerate their turnaround efforts.
The case to stay at No. 6
While the Ravens have plenty of holes that extra picks could help address, they also rarely find themselves in position to acquire a blue-chip prospect in the draft. This year’s class contains only a few such talents, but due to the Rams and Eagles taking quarterbacks at the top of the first round, one looks likely to slip into Newsome’s grasp.
With Cal’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz off the board, the San Diego Chargers appear likely to take either Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil or Florida State’s versatile defensive back Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey could go one pick later to the Dallas Cowboys, or he could continue to wait while Jerry Jones and company add a pass rusher like Ohio State’s Joey Bosa. The Jacksonville Jaguars await at No. 5, most likely giving them options like the aforementioned Ramsey, Bosa, Tunsil and Myles Jack. However, regardless of how the draft plays out, at least one of those four will remain when Baltimore selects.
Of course, the possibility exists that Newsome doesn’t care for the top prospect that lands at his feat. Jack comes with some (perhaps overblown) health concerns surrounding his knee while Bosa may better fit a team running a variant of the 4-3 defense. Still, the opportunity to land an elite prospect doesn’t come around often for the Ravens. After a disappointing 2015 season, they may feel compelled to take capitalize on their draft slot immediately rather than play the waiting game.
Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. He has bylines at SB Nation, Sports on Earth, and other outlets. He also serves as the senior writer and editor for Acme Packing Company, a Green Bay Packers blog.