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Ravens and the cost of trading up in the NFL draft

By Matt Vensel

4:05 PM EDT, April 11, 2013

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This afternoon I did a chat on our site about the Ravens and the NFL draft. Maybe the most popular question, besides ones about the situation at inside linebacker and the uncertainty along the offensive line, was about what it would take for the Ravens to trade up so they can draft one of the top left tackles or electric wide receiver Tavon Austin or some other highly-touted prospect who will be long gone by the time the Ravens pick.

We get these questions every spring, so I figured I would do a little homework and address trading up here.

First, a brief history lesson as it relates to the Ravens. As I wrote in this story before last year’s draft, the Ravens like to wheel and deal during the weekend of the draft. They have now made at least one trade in each of the past 11 drafts and 15 of 17 overall. They have swapped their first-round pick in five of the past seven drafts (it would have been six of seven if the Chicago Bears hadn’t dropped the ball in the 2011 draft).

So it’s fair to wonder if the Ravens will actually make the final pick in the first round of the draft two weeks from tonight or if another team will submit an envelope with a prospect’s name at No. 32.

Given their history, it would not be surprising to see the Ravens trade out of the first round again. But with 12 picks this year, they also have the ammunition to move up should they choose.

What is the cost of moving up? Let’s take a look.

I’ll start with an anecdotal example involving the Ravens. In 2008, they entered the draft with the eighth overall selection. But the Jacksonville Jaguars, who had the 26th pick in the draft, came calling. To swap first-round picks with the Ravens and move up 18 spots, the Jaguars gave up two third-round picks and a fourth-rounder. It usually takes more than that to jump up into the top 10.

Later in that draft, the Ravens traded up from pick No. 26 to pick No. 18 to draft quarterback Joe Flacco. To do that, they traded a third-round pick and a sixth-rounder to the Houston Texans.

That was five years ago, but it is a general example of the potential cost of trading into the top 10 from late in the first round and also the cost of trading into the late teens from late in the round.

That being said, two years ago, the Atlanta Falcons, who were picking 26th, traded a second-round pick, a fourth-round pick and future first- and fourth-round picks to the Cleveland Browns for the sixth overall pick, which they used on wide receiver Julio Jones.

That may be what it would take today for the Ravens to move up to the point where they could get one of the top three tackles -- Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M, Eric Fisher of Central Michigan and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson. They could all go in the top five of the draft and will most likely be gone by the 12th pick.

What about Austin, the Dunbar product who many draft analysts feel will be drafted by the 16th pick at the latest? According to this handy draft value chart from Ourlads, the Ravens would have to give up their top three picks  this year -- or a comparable package -- just to get up to pick No. 16.

Anything is possible, I guess, but I am reminded of this quote from Eric DeCosta from this time last year.

“There's nobody that covets picks more than the Baltimore Ravens," the team’s director of player personnel said. "And so the notion of giving up a pick is pretty distasteful for us -- unless the player is pretty darn good."

He added, “It's really who the player is and who are the other players around him,” meaning that if a few other prospects with similar grades are still on their draft board, the Ravens will be less inclined to trade up.

The only time that general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens have moved up aggressively for a player was when they traded a second-round pick and a future first-rounder so they could draft Kyle Boller in 2003.

But moving up into the twenties this year is a possibility. The Ravens usually talk with the teams in the 10 spots in front of them and in the 10 spots behind them to gauge their interest in doing a deal on the night of the draft. The cost of doing that kind of deal is not prohibitive, especially because they have 12 picks this year.

For example, going by the draft value chart, the 32nd overall pick is worth 590 points. The 22nd is worth 780. Throwing in the 94th pick (124 points), the 129th (43) and a future fourth-rounder might get that deal done.

The cost of moving up would drop as the picks continued to come off the board at the end of the first round.

It only took a fifth-round pick for the Ravens to move up three spots to draft left tackle Michael Oher in 2009.

Supply and demand can be a factor, especially when there is only one potential trade partner. It also must be noted that some teams are more desperate than others and might value draft picks differently.

The Ravens rarely act out of desperation, and that certainly isn’t an emotion they are feeling two months after winning the Super Bowl. Like I said, you can never rule anything out, but given the draft-pick price tag of moving up into the first half of the first round for a blue-chip prospect like Austin or one of those athletic offensive tackles, you can see why the Ravens will probably just sit back and let the draft come to them. Again.