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The Baltimore Ravens should consider trading up in first round of the 2016 NFL draft

GM Ozzie Newsome has a reputation for trading back to acquire more draft picks. He traded out of the first round in the 2010 and 2012 drafts, both of these trades produced mediocre results. Ozzie has also shown a willingness to trade up when the right prospect is available...

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In the 2006 NFL draft, the Baltimore Ravens traded up one place to select stud defensive tackle Haloti Ngata with the #12 pick.  The Cleveland Browns received the Ravens first round draft pick, #13, and the Ravens sixth round draft pick, #181 overall, to move back a single spot.  The Browns used these picks to select outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley and defensive tackle Babatunde Oshinowo.

It is fair to say the Ravens won this trade by a wide margin, as Ngata became one of the best Ravens in the franchise's history with two first team All-Pro selections and five Pro-Bowl selections.  Wimbley made a big impact for the Browns during his rookie year, but regressed during his other three seasons with the Browns before being traded to the Oakland Raiders for a third round pick that turned into journeyman quarterback Colt McCoy.  Oshinowo played in a total of three games for the Browns before bouncing around the league's practice squads for a few years.

The draft day trade for Ngata shows that quality can outweigh quantity in terms of draft picks.  Haloti was considered the best player available by most draft pundits when the twelfth pick came on the clock.  Ngata can also be considered a need pick since Ray Lewis was clamoring for big bodies on the defensive line to keep blockers off him before to the draft.  Haloti was an immediate difference maker, he helped the 2006 Ravens defense achieve the #1 total defense in the league and #2 rush defense.  The 2006 Ravens defense also lead the league and sacks and interceptions, they have an honest claim as one of the best defenses in the history of the NFL.

It will certainly cost the Ravens more than a sixth round pick to trade up into the top five of the 2016 draft.  DRAFTEK values the Ravens #6 pick at 1600 points on their draft pick value chart.  In order to trade up with Tennessee for the #1 pick, the Ravens would likely have to offer their first round picks in 2016 and 2017 at a minimum.  Trading up to #2 with Cleveland would cost the Ravens their entire arsenal of tradeable 2016 draft picks.  San Diego holds the #3 pick and would probably demand the Ravens first, second and fourth round picks to move back three spots.

The draft pick trade value proposition improves when considering the #4 and #5 picks.  In order for the Ravens to trade up to the #4 spot with Dallas, the Ravens would probably have to sacrifice their third round pick in addition to the #6 pick and might be able to pry a Day 3 pick from Dallas to balance out the trade.  Depending on how Jacksonville has set up their draft board, the Ravens could hypothetically trade up one spot, to #5 in exchange for #6 and their first 4th round pick.

Sacrificing a third or fourth round pick for a better player in the first round may prove beneficial for the Ravens.  Over the past five drafts, the Ravens have selected some valuable players in the third and fourth rounds, including DT Brandon Williams, TE Crockett Gillmore and OLB Za'Darius Smith.  The Ravens have also missed on quite a few drafted prospects in these rounds, namely OT Jah Reid, WR Tandon Doss, RB Bernard Pierce, C Gino Gradkowski and OLB John Simon.

As the draft evaluation process has unfolded, the consensus has produced five clear cut top prospects. OT Laremy Tunsil, DB Jalen Ramsey, DE DeForest Buckner, DE Joey Bosa and ILB Myles Jack.  Most expect the Browns to select a quarterback at #2, which would make one of the top five available at the Ravens #6 pick.  However, not all of the top five prospects are created equal.

Jalen Ramsey and DeForest Buckner appear to be the best possible prospects for the Ravens to draft.  They are both ideal scheme fits, would directly improve the inadequate pass defense phase and have a history of durability. Tunsil is projected to be taken #1 and the Ravens hope to find an in-house solution at left tackle.  Bosa has questions about his personality and ability to stand up at outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment.  Jack does not play a premium position, would represent a heavy investment at inside linebacker next to recent first round draft pick C.J. Mosley, and is coming off a season ending knee injury.

Serving as an argument against trading up at the expense of mid round draft picks, the Ravens absolutely do have multiple positional needs to address this offseason.  However, the Ravens roster is deep overall after having many drafts with extra compensatory draft picks.  Many young players gained valuable experience last season as injuries and under-performance opened up playing time.  There are many unproven but highly regarded players on the Ravens roster who could be given an opportunity to prove their worth in 2016.

The decision to trade up will hinge on how the top of the draft unfolds.  If Ramsey and Buckner are picked earlier than expected, it would not make much sense to trade up unless Cleveland forgoes a quarterback and the Ravens want to guarantee themselves one of the top five prospects.  The Ravens scouts also may not be as enamored with the prospects Ravens fans covet most and have other prospects graded higher on their draft board.  The trade demands of Dallas and Jacksonville could also be greater than the draft pick value chart suggest.

Nevertheless, sacrificing a third or fourth round pick to select a top prospect who provides inherent positional value, ideal scheme fit and dynamic improvement in pass defense personnel may be the best option for the Ravens. Trading up one or two spots in the 2016 draft should be a legitimate consideration.