The draft is underway at Radio City Music Hall, and the Baltimore Ravens are sitting with the 17th overall pick. Whether they go offense or defense, or even trade down, remains a mystery, but one name that has been linked to Baltimore is UNC tight end Eric Ebron.
Ebron is widely considered the top tight end prospect in the draft and will provide whichever team picks him with a big pass-catching option with great hands. Early in the offseason, his was one of the favorites to land in Baltimore, but as his stock rose in March and April and the Ravens added pass-catching threats like Steve Smith and Owen Daniels, the match started to make less sense.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is known for always taking the best player on the board, and that strategy doesn't figure to change Thursday night, but Baltimore should still consider taking Ebron if he falls to No. 17.
The Ravens' top two options at tight end right now are Dennis Pitta and the aforementioned Daniels, who make up one of the better tight end tandems in the league. However, the duo played a combined nine games in 2013. Both players are receiver types (as opposed to blocking types), but because of the health concerns with both options, Ebron should certainly remain in play.
Daniels should succeed as he rejoins former head coach Gary Kubiak in Baltimore, but at age 31 and on a one-year deal, he's not a long-term option. Pitta, with his new five-year, $32 million contract, is obviously in the Ravens' plans for the next several years, but that shouldn't keep the Ravens away.
With quarterback Joe Flacco signed long-term in his own right, bringing in a young player like Ebron who can be a dominant pass-catcher for years to come will provide the Ravens with another effective option when Daniels is gone and Smith starts to regress in future seasons.
Torrey Smith's contract situation also remains unresolved, so in addition to being Flacco's safety blanket on the field, Ebron would give the Ravens a safety blanket in case they're unable to retain Smith.
Ozzie Newsome is perhaps the smartest general manager in the National Football League, and he knows what he's doing. But if Ebron's on the board at 17, Newsome should strongly consider bringing him to Baltimore.