A fair number of mocks have had the Ravens drafting Melvin Gordon in the first round. And that's understandable, as he would be among the best players available at 26, and it would give the offense a nice boost, and defenses would have to choose between letting Gordon run free or letting Flacco go deep.
But they shouldn't and here's why.
Reason #1: The Ravens expect their first rounders to be in Baltimore for a long time.
The average NFL first rounder has a career of a little over three years. The average Ravens first rounder has a career of a little over eight years. Taking a deeper look, longevity is definitely a thing with the Ravens if you take a look at these first rounders and their career length with the Ravens:
+ denotes that their entire career played out in Baltimore
Jonathan Ogden 1996-2007+
Ray Lewis 1996-2012+
Peter Boulware 1997-2005+
Chris McCalister 1999-2008
Jamal Lewis 2000-2006
Todd Heap 2001-2010
Ed Reed 2002-2012
Terrell Suggs 2003-present
Haloti Ngata 2006-present
Joe Flacco 2008-present
Three of them played out all of their careers as Ravens, with Terrell Suggs likely to join them and possibly Haloti Ngata too if he takes a paycut. Joe Flacco will be entering his eighth season as a Raven and will probably sign an extension keeping him here. McCalister, Heap, and Reed played for at least a decade and gave the Ravens their best years. Jamal Lewis lasted the least amount of time on the list, a mere seven seasons. Other successful first rounders like Duane Starks and Ben Grubbs likely would've had longer stays in Baltimore had they not signed big deals with other teams. The only guys who didn't last long were Kyle Boller, Mark Clayton, and Travis Taylor, all busts, and Michael Oher signed a big contract with the Titans after an underwhelming year.
So noting how the Ravens value giving their first rounders the second and possibly even third contract, why would they draft a guy who most likely will be finished by the end of contract one?
Reason #2: There have been more quality RBs found outside Round 1 than in it.
The last running back who deserved to get drafted in the first was Marshawn Lynch in 2007. Since then, all the other running backs drafted in the first round were mediocre and/or injury prone, and either back-ups, out of the league or close to it.
Want to see where most of the quality RBs in the league were drafted? Here you go: Matt Forte, Round 2; Jamaal Charles, Round 3; Justin Forsett, Round 7; LeSean McCoy, Round 2; Arian Foster, undrafted; DeMarco Murray, Round 3; Alfred Morris, Round 6; Le'Veon Bell, Round 2; Eddie Lacy, Round 2; Jeremy Hill, Round 2.
There are good backs to be found in the middle to lower parts of the draft, unlike other positions where the probability of success goes down the later you get in the draft.
Reason #3: The Ravens now have a system that can make most, if not all, RBs look good.
Teams that are versed in Gary Kubiak's zone blocking scheme, such as Baltimore, Washington, Houston, and now Denver, or just teams like Dallas who invested a ton in their offensive line, can make any back that knows how to hit holes and not fumble into a 1,000+ yard rusher and have one of the league's best rushers. None of those teams have invested a first round pick on an RB, the highest investment being DeMarco Murray in the third round. A good line makes a good back, not the other way around.
Melvin Gordon would be a nice pick at 26 for the Ravens. But guys like Jaelen Strong or Marcus Peters would be of more value to the franchise.