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NFL Mock Draft 8.0: The 'What if?' edition

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NFL Mock Draft 8.0: The 'What if?' edition

Curveballs are not part of football vernacular, but any single draft day selection can throw a finely tuned NFL draft plan into disarray. Some choices are of an "either or" nature, others are seemingly out of left field. With the 2016 Draft less than a month away, here are five "What if" scenarios that could swing plans, not to mention fortunes.

The Titans do not select offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil with the first overall pick

Ask football folks to rank the importance of positions from a building block and winning games perspective. Right after quarterback and elite pass rusher comes left tackle. That Tennessee invested in QB Marcus Mariota last season should the Titans thinking about protecting the asset. However, there are some who believe Florida State's defensive back Jalen Ramsey is the best player in the draft and the Titans need secondary help. There are another couple of tackles likely available in the 5-10 range which could mean a trade-down scenario. The compensation could get interesting for Tennessee if others want to jump ahead of the Browns at two in order to draft either of the two elite QB prospects, Carson Wentz or Jared Goff. If Tunsil doesn't go first, he won't get past the San Diego Chargers at three, which would make Philip Rivers a happy gunslinger.

RELATED: Report: RB West stolen from, suing Miami hotel

 The Cowboys select their quarterback of the future at No. 4

Let's start with the non-draft aspect of this scenario. Dallas' next soap opera doesn't involve J.R. Ewing, but injury-prone Tony Romo trying to fend off a young buck with starting aspirations. Owner Jerry Jones has stated he believes Romo can play several more seasons. If so, then this sets up like Brett Favre and Aaron  Rodgers in Green Bay. There would be some irony if this played out with Dallas tabbing Goff, who like Rodgers played at Cal. Assuming Cleveland takes either Goff or Wentz, then the Cowboys selecting the other would likely take QB off the table in round one for the 49ers, Eagles, Saints and perhaps the Rams. It could mean the next QB prospects -- Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook -- get bumped up into the first round. It also means defensive studs like Joey Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Myles Jack and Ramsey drop. All four of those prospects would help the Cowboys' 2016 prospects more than a QB, but if they don't envision selecting this high in the near future...

The 49ers don't trade Colin Kaepernick

Most projections have whichever QB Cleveland doesn't take landing with San Francisco at No. 7 in part because Kaepernick reportedly wants out of the Bay Area. However, the initial buzz involves Kaepernick having to give up money for a trade to the Super Bowl champion Broncos. If the mobile QB realizes new 49ers coach Chip Kelly's system works with his skill set and he can keep his money while trying it out, then San Francisco won't be thinking QB in the first round. This would put this selection at ground zero for teams wanting to move up whether to select a QB, running back Ezekiel Elliott, left tackle Ronnie Stanley or any of the aforementioned defensive studs that fall. Kaepernick staying put would also spin the QB merry-go-round as Denver, New York Jets and Los Angeles start thinking harder about how much money they will give free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick or whether they can stomach going with Mark Sanchez and Case Keenum.

Ezekiel Elliott falls outside the top 13

Look at most public big boards and the Ohio State running back ranks among the top 10, if not among the five highest rated. However, running backs are devalued in the modern NFL in part to their disposable nature. Elliott's relentless style and playmaking ability make him a potential game-changer. That's why teams picking in the top 10 including the Ravens, Eagles and Giants could easily say "We want Zeke!" Same for the Bears at 11 and the Dolphins at 13. After that, we could be talking a slide seeing as the Lions are probably the only team before the Redskins at 21 needing an RB enough to warrant a first round pick. If Washington passes -- and Scot McCloughan might not --, Seattle at 26 becomes the next obvious team. In other words, there are more likely homes for Elliott within the top 13 picks than the next baker's dozen.

Reggie Ragland isn't available

The Alabama product is a tackling dynamo -- and essentially the only inside linebacker with a first round grade. It's easy seeing Ragland fitting in with the Raiders as a compliment to edge pass rusher Khalil Mack. Of course, the Rams lost some ILB depth. The Lions, Falcons and Redskins need this type of presence. If Ragland isn't there, that presence isn't available in round one and arguably not in the second round either.

MORE FOOTBALL: Improving from within: Redskins should get help from their 2015 injured list

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Baltimore Ravens' 2018 regular season matchups, dates and times

Baltimore Ravens' 2018 regular season matchups, dates and times

We've known the Ravens' 2018 preseason and regular season opponents for some time now, but the NFL finally released their full schedule with exact dates and times.

As they do every year, the Ravens will be seeing the Bengals, Steelers and Browns twice. 

For the ninth consecutive year, Week 16 and 17 will be divisional games with playoff implications.

The Ravens will also be playing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame preseason game against the Chicago Bears in Canton, Ohio, bringing an extra preseason game to their schedule.

In the regular season, the birds will be flocking south to take on the Panthers, Falcons and Titans. They haven't seen the Panthers or Falcons since 2014 - both ending in wins - and came up just short against the Titans in their 23-20 loss last season.

The Ravens will only have to travel to the west coast once when they take on the Los Angeles Chargers, who they last saw in 2015 and earned a 29-26 win.

Not including AFC North rivals, the last time the Ravens saw their remaining five home opponents they came away with wins. Hopefully history will repeat itself.

Prime-time games, which the Ravens have two of, will kick off at earlier times than in the past. Monday Night Football will now start at 8:15 p.m. while Thursday and Sunday Night Football will start at 8:20 p.m.

Ravens 2018 Regular-Season Schedule:

Week 1: Sunday, 9/9 vs. Bills, 1:00 p.m.

Week 2: Thursday, 9/13 @ Bengals, 8:20 p.m.

Week 3: Sunday, 9/23 vs. Broncos. 1:00 p.m.

Week 4: Sunday, 9/30 @ Steelers, 8:20 p.m.

Week 5: Sunday, 10/7 @ Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Week 6: Sunday 10/14 @ Titans, 4:25 p.m.

Week 7: Sunday, 10/21 vs. Saints, 4:05 p.m.

Week 8: Sunday 10/28 @ Panthers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 9: Sunday 11/4 vs. Steelers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 10:  BYE week

Week 11: Sunday 11/18 vs. Bengals, 1:00 p.m.

Week 12: Sunday 11/25 vs. Raiders, 1:00 p.m.

Week 13: Sunday 12/2 @ Falcons, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14: Sunday 12/9 @ Chiefs, 1:00 p.m.

Week 15: Sunday 12/16 vs. Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 16: Saturday 12/22 or Sunday 12/23 @ Chargers, TBD

Week 17: Sunday 12/30 vs. Browns, 1:00 p.m.


PRESEASON 

Hall of Fame Game: Thurs., 8/2, vs. Chicago Bears (Canton, OH), 8:00pm (NBC).

Week 1: Thurs., 8/9, vs. Los Angeles Rams

Week 2: Mon. 8/20,  at Indianapolis Colts (Monday Night Football, ESPN).

Week 3: at Miami Dolphins*

Week 4: Thurs., 8/30 at Washington Redskins

* - Game date and time not yet determined

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As 2018 NFL Draft approaches, Ravens to host QB Lamar Jackson per report

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USA TODAY Sports

As 2018 NFL Draft approaches, Ravens to host QB Lamar Jackson per report

With 10 days until the 2018 NFL Draft, quarterback Lamar Jackson is set to visit the Ravens this week, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. 

The former Heisman Trophy winner is a projected first-round pick as he has proven to have success in the air and on the ground. 

While at Louisville, Jackson had 9,043 passing yards and 69 touchdowns. He also rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns. His NFL draft profile compares him to Michael Vick. 

RELATED: BEST QUOTES FROM RAVENS PRE-DRAFT PRESS CONFERENCE

The Ravens are in search of Joe Flacco's successor, but spending a first-round pick on a quarterback when there are other glaring needs is up in the air. However, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta isn't ruling out the possibility

"I feel like if there is a guy there that we think is really too good to pass up, we're going to take him," DeCosta told the team's website on the chance of drafting a quarterback in the first-round.

At their pre-draft press conference, GM Ozzie Newsome and DeCosta kept reiterating we could be surprised by who they pick at No. 16, if they do at all. 

While Jackson's numbers are impressive, he continues to be considered a late first-round pick as his build isn't up to typical NFL QB standards and scouts are concerned with his accuracy. What he does have in his favor is speed.

While fans are hoping for an offensive weapon, having Jackson learn under Flacco for a year (and maybe RGIII?) could rev up some excitement. 

RELATED: RGIII READY TO MOVE FORWARD AS NEW, GROWN PLAYER