Critical draft for Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens have come to a fork in the road and the upcoming draft will likely dictate where the future lies. At the Baltimore Ravens' annual draft luncheon with the media on Tuesday, after weaving through the smoke screens and the stories, there was one comment that struck me and stood out above the rest.

The comment came from director of college scouting Eric DeCosta:

"I've said this is probably the most critical draft we've ever had," said DeCosta. "Based on our needs on this team, based on the future, our record last year and where we want to get to."

I agree. This is the most important draft since the team came to Baltimore in 1996. The Ravens are in a state of flux and are at a crossroads. There are aging veterans who have talent, but are clearly approaching the end of the line and there is also a good nucleus of young players drafted in recent years. However, there isn't much of a middle ground and the team is still looking for a franchise quarterback.

Combine that with a new coaching staff and this team could be in a real mess without coming away with anything less than a stellar draft. With the news of Steve McNair retiring, everyone in the world now knows that the Ravens will draft a quarterback and early on. Because of the instability at the position on the team and the desire to compete every year like owner Steve Bisciotti said in the past, General Manager Ozzie Newsome and company have to produce in the draft.

The team has to find its quarterback of the future now.

Otherwise, the team will face another set back, similar to the repercussions of the Kyle Boller era, and there will be no chance to consistently compete in the future and jobs will certainly be lost.

DeCosta said that he has had many tireless nights thinking about the draft and I do not doubt him for a second.

"We've all talked, the three of us [including Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh], about sleepless nights, waking up in the middle of the night," said DeCosta. "John came down and said last week, ‘Are you having trouble sleeping?' And, I said, ‘Yes.' I'm very excited, and I can't wait."

There is an immense amount of pressure to select the right player to lead the franchise for the future. A new coaching staff is in place, but the front office has come up empty in its previous attempts to draft a quarterback (with the exception of Derek Anderson who is not on the team). This has to be the year where the Ravens score that elusive touchdown and bring home a leader.

One thing is for sure, the draft will be here very soon and the Ravens' future is on the clock.

Hank Nathan is a guest columnist for Ravens Insider and a journalism student at Washington & Lee.

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