OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens could draft a quarterback in the first round if the right one is there, just like assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said this week.
Or the Ravens could just want other teams to think they could select Joe Flacco’s successor at the No. 16 overall pick.
Why would Baltimore want to do that? Let’s call it draft poker.
If the Ravens don’t plan to take a quarterback with their first pick, it would be advantageous for them to make other teams believe they might do so. Baltimore would want as many quarterback-needy teams to jump in the top half of the first round because that will push other top prospects down.
Under the assumption that the Ravens don’t have any quarterbacks among their top 10 prospects, it would be beneficial for them if five quarterbacks — Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson — all went in the first 15 picks. That could require a team looking for a quarterback of the future like the Los Angeles Chargers (No. 17), New Orleans Saints (No. 27) or Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 29) to jump in front of Baltimore.
If any of those teams feel the Ravens will grab a quarterback, they might trade up into the top half of the first round, which would cause another non-quarterback prospect to slide. In this scenario, Baltimore would have one of its top 11 prospects fall to No. 16.
The buzz about Baltimore drafting a quarterback in the first round increased when NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah (a former Ravens scout) linked the team with Mayfield in a mock draft. Given that and the fact Baltimore can financially part ways with Flacco in 2019, there has been increasing talk that the Ravens will select a quarterback in the first round for the first time in a decade.
But the prevailing sentiment coming from the Ravens this offseason has been they’re not in the market for the next franchise quarterback in this draft. Last month, owner Steve Bisciotti shot down the notion that the Ravens were beginning to think about life after Flacco, saying, “We’ve got bigger fish to fry.” In January, coach John Harbaugh was the first to indicate the team could draft a quarterback this year but said the Ravens would be “looking for a young backup.”
This makes it sound like Baltimore is more apt to go with a developmental quarterback in the third to fifth rounds. Quarterbacks expected to be taken in the middle rounds include Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta, Washington State’s Luke Falk and Marshall’s Chase Litton.
Even if the Ravens are truly open to drafting a quarterback in the first round if he is the right one, the odds of that happening aren’t great unless Baltimore is going to trade up. Darnold and Rosen are considered locks to go in the first four picks, and Allen and Mayfield are projected to go in the top 15. Barring any surprises, the only quarterback among the top five who could be available when the Ravens are on the clock is Jackson, and some draft analysts believe the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner should go later in the first round.
So, is Baltimore bluffing about taking a quarterback in the first round? No one really knows at this point because Ravens officials are among the best at not tipping their hand.