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Ravens Trade Back Into First Round To Draft QB Lamar Jackson

April 27, 2018
The Ravens selected South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst and former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson from Louisville in a wild first round of the NFL Draft April 26 that included three trades by general manager Ozzie Newsome. 

By the end of the night, the Ravens had a potential starting tight end and quarterback of the future.

"It was masterful the way it happened in the draft room tonight," said Newsome, who is overseeing his final draft before stepping aside as the Ravens GM. "The trades came to us, and we were able to acquire some picks …  and then have the ability to go back up and get the quarterback at the end of the round. It was unbelievable."

The night began with the Raven scheduled to pick at No. 16, but they ultimately traded back twice, to No. 25, and selected Hurst, considered the most complete tight end in the draft. When all the dealing was done, the Ravens had acquired the first pick of the third round from the Buffalo Bills and an additional fourth-round pick from the Tennessee Titans.

The Ravens quickly flipped that fourth-round pick from the Titans in a package that allowed them to move back into the first round via a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles and get Jackson, whose selection will certainly generate discussion about the future of this offense and quarterback Joe Flacco. 

But Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh quickly tried to dismiss that.

After praising Jackson's dynamic ability, Harbaugh said, "but Joe Flacco's our quarterback and that's the thing that we gotta remember. Lamar's going to have a great chance to develop. I think you get to this stage if a quarterback's career, and we've seen it done in New England, we've seen it done in other places, it's time to start thinking about drafting a quarterback. When the opportunity came to get a really good one, I think you gotta jump and take it."

"This doesn't really change things in the sense that we're gonna go with Joe," Harbaugh continued. 

"We're trying to win this year," Newsome said. "And in order to win this year, we need Joe Flacco. That's we got the receivers, that's why we got the tight end, to give Joe some help."

Newsome said he has not spoken with Flacco since they made the pick, but when he was asked a couple of weeks ago about speculation that the Ravens could draft a quarterback in the first round, Flacco said, "It is what it is. It's a business, and you know eventually at some point that's gonna have to happen. It's not really for me to worry about."

Flacco, who turned 33 in January, is coming off one of the worst full seasons of his career. After missing all of training camp with a back injury, Flacco started all 16 regular-season games and finished the season ranked 25th in passer rating (80.4) and 21st in passing yardage. The Ravens passing game finished No. 29 overall.

But after the season at his State of the Ravens, team owner Steve Bisciotti said the Ravens have "bigger fish to fry" than the long-term question of Flacco's future, adding "we're a long way off to have to worry about Joe." 

This past season, Jackson completed 254 of 430 passes for 3,660 yards and 27 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. He also ran 232 times for a school-record 1,601 yards and 18 scores. He finished his three-year Louisville career with 13,175 total yards -- 9,043 passing and 4,132 rushing. 

He joins Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick as the only players in NCAA FBS history with at least 50 rushing and 50 passing touchdowns.

"He's a quarterback through and through," Harbaugh said. "He's a playmaker. When you look at stats, and you evaluate them, he does all the things any quarterback does. But we do some analytics, and when the ball is in his hands, there hasn't been a better playmaker, really, in the last few years coming out [of college]."

Before the Ravens selected Jackson, they added Hurst. Hurst originally walked on at South Carolina after giving up on a professional baseball career and was a two-year starter for the Gamecocks. This past season, he had 44 catches for 559 yards and two touchdowns. Hurst, who spent two years in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization before enrolling at South Carolina, will be 25 in August, but he and the Ravens both dismissed any concerns about him being older than most rookies. 

Hurst also added that "the SEC prepares you" for life in the NFL, frequently matching up against future  NFL talent scattered throughout the league. 

Speaking of his pre-draft visit to the Ravens, Hurst said, "They said they needed a guy to come in as far as the tight end and stretch the field vertically. I think that suits me perfectly."

In making the deal for Jackson, the Ravens gave up their second-round pick this year as well as a second-round pick next year. So barring any other trades, the Ravens have no pick in the second round when the draft resumes April 27.

They will have a pair of picks in the third round, at No. 65 -- the very first pick of the third round, acquired from the Buffalo Bills in the Ravens first deal of the night -- and their original third-round pick at No. 83. 

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka    

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Louisville Athletics