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Ravens' Strategy for 2012 Draft?

The Baltimore Ravens have proven over the years to be one of the best drafting teams in the entire NFL, seemingly finding great players in each round, even finding several un-drafted free agents that are able to contribute immediately in some capacity.

As the Ravens have proven in the past, they aren’t afraid to move around during the draft, trading picks to move up, back, and all around in an effort to get just the right player for just the right price.

The Ravens, in the upcoming draft, find themselves once again picking in the bottom portion of the first round and each round following. As is the case many times, the talent level between the lower portion of the 1st round and the early part of the 2nd can be nearly identical.

In this year’s draft it seems as though from about the early-mid 20s, there could be a similar talent drop-off as has been seen in years past. The Ravens could very well decide to trade out of their 29th spot in an effort to move back into the second and gain additional picks.

(After the "Jump", see a quick breakdown of the Ravens’ options and how the draft could play out for them in just a few short weeks)

The Ravens have always been known for their Best Player Available (BPA) approach to the draft, regardless of whether or not any given prospect fills an immediate roster need. Whether or not the Ravens take this particular approach this year won’t be known until draft day.

If the pundits and analysts are correct about how the draft is shaping up, then the Ravens should have several options at the tail-end of the 1st round. But, as mentioned before, over the past several months leading up to the draft next month, it has become somewhat apparent that the talent level between the end 1st-early 2nd round seems to have a noticeable gap and the Ravens could consider trading back into the 2nd where there will be more value and through a trade the Ravens should be able to gain additional picks from whoever would become their trade partner.

As it stands now, the Ravens should be in line to select one of several prospects at the end of the 1st round that will fill an immediate need, such as: Peter Konz (Center, Wisconsin), Stephen Hill (Wide Receiver, Georgia Tech), Kendall Wright (Wide Receiver, Baylor), Cordy Glenn (Guard, Georgia), and Kelechi Osemele (Guard, Iowa State), just to name a few.

Arguably, the Ravens’ biggest off-season need is along the interior offensive line, but with such a deep class, the Ravens could possibly still afford to trade out of the 1st round and be able to fill that major need in the later rounds.

Unable to land free agent guard Evan Mathis, the Ravens may decide to stick around in the 1st solely because the free agent market has been drying up quite fast. Though the Ravens won’t take a chance on a player and overvalue their draft stock, it’s probably a safe bet that the Ravens will consciously target offensive linemen early in the draft in an effort to get the best prospects and bolster their line for years to come.

While trading back seems like a viable option for the Ravens, don’t rule out the possibility of them trading up either. While there will surely be several surprises next month during the first few hours of the draft, the Ravens will be able to wait patiently and watch how their draft board is shaping up. Let’s say a big-time offensive skill player such as Michael Floyd (Wide Receiver, Notre Dame) or Alshon Jeffery (Wide Receiver, South Carolina) should fall into the mid-later portions of the 1st round. The Ravens, if they covet that player enough, could make a big power play in an effort to snag up a top wide-out to bolster their receiving unit, one of the team’s top priorities this off-season.

Regardless of what does occur in this year’s draft, the Ravens will surely make the most of it like they always seem to do. With few true "needs", the Ravens will have the luxury of moving around in the draft as well as building even more depth along the way.