Unless you’ve been inside an NFL franchise’s “war room,” more strategy is involved in the draft that you can ever imagine. Knowing the system of how players are graded, evaluated and assessed value is practically another language – a language the Ravens have proven year after year of speaking better than most other teams.
As if enough strategy wasn’t already involved, the NFL added a new element back in 2010 as they moved the first round to Thursday night primetime television. Not only did this extend the draft process another day, but the downtime between the first and second rounds now offers more time for over-analysis and second-guessing. Many teams try to trade up into the first round with later picks so they can sleep better Thursday night by getting another pick out of the way.
The 32nd pick that the Ravens find themselves holding is the least desired position this particular weekend, but it’s what teams battle for every weekend from September through early February. With a lack of true quarterback depth in this draft, many fans believe the Ravens could be targets to trade out of the first round and capitalize on a needy team desperate to solidify their quarterback of the future as early as possible. Knowing the track record of Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, trading out of the first round doesn’t seem too far fetched – except that the Ravens already have 12 picks lined up for this weekend.
Newsome has only made one selection on Thursday in the three total drafts since the format changed. In 2011, he selected Colorado safety Jimmy Smith with the 27th overall pick. A year prior, he traded the 25th overall pick to the Denver Broncos so they could draft Tim Tebow and last year they moved out of the 29th spot and traded their pick to the Minnesota Vikings who selected Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith.
In the last three drafts, the most recent Super Bowl Champion has made their first-round selection – regardless of other trade activity towards the end of the round.
When looking at the final ten picks of the first round (picks 23 and beyond), the highest amount of trades happened in the inagural year of the primetime draft, where five trades were made in the final ten picks. The next year (2011) only two trades were made but that number increased to four in 2012. The tail end of the first round is an attractive area to trade into given that the price tag drops to a reasonable level. Given the current landscape of the draft with so many teams looking to move back, the Ravens have most certainly done their due dilligence to find the lowest asking price if they intend on moving up in the first round.
The biggest nugget for the Ravens and Newsome comes down to pride. Popular opinion is that Newsome never wants to draft a player that doesn’t make the 53-man roster (though they’ve “cheated” at times with players like 2012 6th round pick Tommy Streeter randomly being placed on injured reserve and being given another shot at this year’s training camp). It isn’t impossible, but it’s highly unlikely that the Ravens make room for all 12 picks to make their 53-man roster.
Considering the history of Super Bowl Champions in the first round since it moved to primetime, and the fact the Ravens are entering this draft as buyers rather than sellers, I strongly believe someone will be wearing a Ravens draft hat and holding up a purple “#1″ jersey this evening.