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RB Ezekiel Elliott Could Provide Solution To Ravens' Biggest Draft Need

April 15, 2016
We're pretty sure they're not going to take a quarterback. 

That's about all we know about the Baltimore Ravens and how they will handle the sixth overall pick in this year's NFL Draft. There isn't a tight end, kicker or punter that hardly anyone thinks is worthy of first-round consideration, so I guess we can go ahead and rule those out, too. 

But there isn't a single other position on the field that I can comfortably say there's no chance the Ravens wouldn't consider. It would be hard to argue for an interior offensive lineman, but if the team trades back in the first round, there are at least some players who can be considered. Every other position is plausible. 

Many fans and analysts have argued for a corner like Florida's Vernon Hargreaves III or Florida State's Jalen Ramsey, who some consider to be more of a safety. Linebackers like Myles Jack of UCLA or Reggie Ragland of Alabama could be in play, as could edge rushers like Ohio State's Joey Bosa or defensive linemen like Oregon's DeForest Buckner. On the offensive side of the ball, Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell might seem like a stretch but can't be dismissed, and Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley might be the safest pick of the bunch. 

Which brings us to running back. Running back will be playing the role of "the meat" in this column. I'm sorry if you were hoping for capicola. 

There's been some discussion regarding the possibility of the Ravens selecting a running back during the first round of the draft, namely Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott. 

Should the Ravens, a team with an already messy backfield of Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Terrance West, Lorenzo Taliaferro and (we think anyway) Trent Richardson spend a top-10 pick to add another back into the mix? 

Yes. Well … maybe. They definitely shouldn't not spend a top-10 pick on a running back. At least I don't think they shouldn't. The main takeaway here is that if they think they shouldn't take a running back, they shouldn't think that, and they should instead think about the possibility of maybe taking a running back. Perhaps. Pretty straightforward, right? 

I've been banging this drum longer than Todd Rundgren that day he called out of work. The Ravens have one really specific need when it comes to the draft. They need to find difference-makers. They need to find great football players to alter their history. There is no shortage of experts who believe Elliott is that type of player. 

As far as the current backfield is concerned? It's like a giant cup of "meh"tzah ball soup. Forsett has been pretty good when he's been healthy. Allen has looked decent in moments. West is still trying to shed a bad reputation. Taliaferro has appeared serviceable when healthy. And Richardson is such a reach as a reclamation project that if the Ravens weren't interested, his only other hope of a pro gig would have had to have come from Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette. 

Greatness is not to be found from that group, although it might not make a bad cast if VH1 were to toss in Verne Troyer and Flavor Flav and consider a reboot of the show "The Surreal Life." 

There is at least an argument the team may have great players in every level of its defense. Nose tackle Brandon Williams is on the cusp. Linebacker C.J. Mosley appeared to be on the fast track as a rookie before a bit of a derailment. If outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is healthy, he and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil are capable of being a great pass-rush combo. A healthy Jimmy Smith and Eric Weddle may provide the same in the secondary. 

Which isn't to say the Ravens should ignore those positions. If they believe one (or more) of the crop of incoming rookies to be capable of truly changing things for their franchise, they should grab them without a second thought. 

Same goes for Elliott. If he's capable of being a Todd Gurley-like game-changer from day one, how much more dangerous does that make quarterback Joe Flacco capable of being if his talented but oddly constructed group of pass-catchers can play at even a reasonable level? 

The most significant argument against a running back is likely "shelf life." The Washington Post's Neil Greenberg crunched the numbers before last season and came up with an average of 5.2 years. 

Of course, if Elliott is truly capable of playing a game-changing level of football for the entirety of that span, I don't think any of us would look back in five and a half years and consider it a mistake that the Ravens took him sixth overall. Or at least a better pick than, say, when the Browns took Trent Richardson third overall in 2012. 

Issue 220: April 2016