This time of year, we hear the phrase “best player available” over and over again. We know that it’s the Ravens’ draft strategy, but we always seem to forget it. They’re rarely mocked a player who doesn’t fit a positional need. The only player commonly mocked to the Ravens this year who doesn’t fit a glaring need is DeForest Buckner.
Today, Mel Kiper went against the grain. In his latest mock draft (4.0), he has the Ravens selecting Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott with the 6th overall pick. Here is what Kiper had to say (h/t tennisspears/Reddit):
“The Ravens could go in a number of directions here, but this is a spot where Elliott starts to come into play for teams who want to stay strict to a “best player available” strategy. No question he’ll benefit any team he lands with, including the Ravens.”
Right now, the Ravens backfield is crowded, but it doesn’t have a clear starter. Buck Allen performed admirably as the starter to end the season, but he wasn’t exceptional. Justin Forsett had a fantastic 2014 season, but he’s coming off of injury and wasn’t nearly as effective to start the 2015 season.
Lorenzo Taliaferro and Terrance West will compete for the third spot on the depth chart. Taliaferro has struggled with injuries throughout his career, and West is probably facing his last opportunity to make it in the NFL.
Trent Richardson will join that competition, too, once he’s signed, but he’s been a disappointment thus far in his career.
Elliott would easily become the starter if he was the choice. He has everything you’re looking for in a running back.
And he just may be the best player available, even in a league that has devalued the position. Our own Paul Lukoskie made a pitch for Elliott a few weeks ago:
Is Elliott an ideal pick? Nope. Not by a long shot. However, there is no Julio Jones or A.J. Green in this draft class. There is no Von Miller-type of defender who is clearly head and shoulders above everyone else. This is a draft class that will likely yield a lot of decent players and role players, but only a few have the potential to become playmakers. The Ravens need a playmaker on offense and Elliott is the only offensive playmaker worthy of a Top-10 pick. Elliott gives them a home run threat at RB for the next 6-8 years who can make plays out of the backfield and be a true three-down player.
The Ravens will have plenty of options when they’re up with the sixth pick. A talented, three-down running back who can pass block may be the best one.