Earlier this month, Baltimore Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome made it clear that this week's NFL draft will be one of depth for the team. With a veteran roster that has been to the playoffs the past four years in a row, twice making the AFC Championship, including this past season, the Ravens do not need a major addition to take that final step to the Super Bowl. Instead, they need to find a few more pieces to the puzzle to replace some of the players they lost to free agency and add depth to the roster in other areas.
With the 29th pick in the first round, the Ravens will have a variety of choices as they wait for the draft to play out ahead of them. As it looks to me, there probably will not be any player worthy of being the 29th pick in the draft at that spot, based on the team's needs. Most of the better players in the draft worth selecting will probably be gone before they are on the clock and the only player that I can see them moving up for without mortgaging the rest of the draft is Alabama ILB Dont'a Hightower. Hightower would be a perfect fit with Baltimore, not only now but in the future as the heir apparent to Ray Lewis.
Unfortunately, Dont'a is also a perfect fit with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who pick ahead of the Ravens at #24. Therefore, if the Ravens want to snag the 'bama 'backer, the only way to guarantee he will wear a purple uniform is to trade up ahead of the Steelers. The good news is that would do two thing, which is to give the Ravens a great talent while at the same time, preventing their arch-rivals from getting one.
The double-win for Baltimore makes this worthy of paying the price to move up at least six spots to get it done. Otherwise, I cannot see another player worth the price or the risk. If the Ravens do not trade up, whomever they would have their eyes on would probably still be available in the early part of the second round. Thus, the choice to trade back to accumulate more picks would seem to be an easy decision.
If Baltimore doesn't trade up, they could trade back with a number of teams picking near the top of the second round, get at least one additional pick and still get the guy they would want to fill a variety of needs at one or more positions. This could result in the team getting a guard, such as Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler, a center from the same school in Peter Konz, and still get a linebacker (Utah State's Bobby Wagner) or wide receiver (Illinois' A.J. Jenkins) with their original second round pick.
The decision to either move up or down is a logical one regardless which direction they ultimately choose to go in. Which way they end up heading won't be known to us fans much less the team, until the draft unfolds late on Thursday evening.