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Four predictions for the Ravens draft

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In his first draft as general manager, what does Eric DeCosta have up his sleeve?

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens season only ended a little over three months ago but for most fans, it’s felt like an eterinity. The long wait for one of the team’s most-anticipated drafts in recent memory is finally coming to an end. Day one of NFL draft is finally here and we’ll soon find out which rookies will make up the incoming freshman class.

Here are some realistic predictions for what the Ravens will do this weekend. Be sure to comment down below and share your thoughts!

Trading back out of the first round

A lot of fans may not be happy with this one, but we should all prepare ourselves for the very real possibility that the Ravens do not make a selection on day one. Depending on how the board plays out, this could actually end up being the smartest decision. Baltimore can likely trade back and acquire a second-round pick, which they currently don’t have, and an additional third or fourth rounder. In the past, Ozzie Newsome showed a willingness to trade back in the draft and load up on mid-round picks. Look for DeCosta to follow this strategy in his first draft calling the shots. Stocking up more picks gives the Ravens a better chance to further address their roster needs, so don’t be surprised if Baltimore ends up with more than just eight draft selections.

Double dipping at multiple positions

There are two definitive positions where the Ravens need to add pro-ready, starting-caliber talent in the draft: wide receiver and outside linebacker. The Ravens will almost certainly use at least two of their first three selections to draft a player at each of these positions, however, don’t be surprised if they end up picking multiple receivers and edge rushers.

We saw the Ravens do this last year when they took two receivers, Jordan Lasley and Jaleel Scott, back-to-back. They also double dipped at tight end with Hayden Hurst in the first round and Mark Andrews in the third. In 2017, the Ravens selected two edge guys in Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser, both of which are expected to take big leaps this year. However, their performance thus far has inspired little confidence, which is a big reason why the Ravens will likely double dip at pass-rusher again in this year’s draft.

We could also see this development play out with the interior offensive line positions: center and guard. Baltimore is looking to upgrade from and/or add some competition into the mix for these spots, currently fortified by Matt Skura, James Hurst, and Alex Lewis. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Ravens draft either a center or guard early and do so again in the later rounds.

No tight ends, offensive tackles, or cornerbacks

In every draft class since 2010, the Ravens have selected at least one tight end or offensive tackle. However, it’s hard to envision the Ravens using any of their selections on either position this weekend. Baltimore has invested early-round picks on tackles Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. in recent drafts, who appear to be the ideal long-term duo on the left and right side of the offensive line. Stanley is in-line for a contract extension soon but it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the Ravens don’t lock him up. There’s decent depth behind them at the tackle position, too.

The tight end depth chart consists of Mark Andrews, Hayden Hurst, and Nick Boyle, whom the Ravens just signed to a three-year contract extension in free agency. The position figures to be heavily featured in Greg Roman’s offensive scheme, but adding another tight end in the draft seems both redundant and unnecessary. The same applies for cornerback, the deepest position on the roster. With studs at the top in Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, Jimmy Smith, and Tavon Young, the Ravens definitely don’t need a starter on the outside or in the slot. They’re fine on depth, too, with Anthony Averett, Maurice Canady, and Justin Bethel rounding out the depth chart. While the long-term futures of Carr and Smith are murky, the Ravens can afford to wait until next year to address that.

Ravens snag a running back in the middle rounds

On the surface, the Ravens appear pretty set at the running back position with Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, and Kenneth Dixon atop the depth chart. However, there’s definitely a missing element in the backfield, and head coach John Harbaugh alluded to when asked about the possibility of adding another running back at the NFL Winter Meetings. “I like the idea of adding a shifty, third-down, home-run hitter,” Harbaugh said.

The current trio of backs on the roster are more downhill bruisers than the type of player Harbaugh is describing here. Adding a speedster to the depth chart will help diversify the rushing attack and complement the skill sets of Ingram and company. Baltimore surely won’t draft a guy like Josh Jacobs in the first round, but when scanning the draft board, there should be some good options in the third, fourth, and fifth rounds. Darrell Henderson (Memphis) and Justice Hill (Oklahoma St.) come to mind, should they make it out of the first two rounds.