2011 2nd Round Pick Torrey Smith Proved Immediately Effective This Season
On the eve of the Super Bowl, and as Ravens fans are still in mourning, it is time to revisit the NFL draft. With some significant holes to fill and key players entering free agency, Baltimore has a lot of questions to answer if they aspire to return to the AFC Championship Game and make it to the Super Bowl.
On the top of the Ravens' offseason checklist is resigning Ray Rice and Joe Flacco to long term deals. Assuming both of these deals are inked soon, the Ravens would be able to retain Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs by using the franchise tag on him. While that is a tall task, GM Ozzie Newsome has proven to be particularly adept at retaining in-house talent.
Ray Lewis has already stated that he is returning next year, but safety Ed Reed and center Matt Birk still have somewhat unknown intentions.
All of these factors make this offseason critically important for Baltimore as they attempt to stay atop the AFC.
Before some Ravens fans start shouting, I'll point out that I am well aware of Burfict's "character issues." I strongly dislike that term, however, and I think the Ravens were fortunate Jimmy Smith had that label last year. The Ravens have a veteran locker room and one of the best front offices in football. The bottom line about Burfict is that the guy can play. If you watch his film, his immaturity at times is clear. I understand the concerns but his passion, athleticism, and physical skills make him the pick for me if he is available.
Since Ray Lewis is returning for at least one more season, Burfict would not have to contribute in a big way for some time, and could learn to be a pro in a stable environment with a locker room full of leaders. While some people may think offensive line is the greater need in the first round, I do not think you find a better value pick than Burfict with the 29th selection.
A lot of mock drafts have the Ravens taking Wisconsin's Peter Konz or Georgia's Ben Jones in the first round. While I agree that center is a significant need for the Ravens, I think taking Vlachos in the second round would be a better decision.
As I wrote in my previous Ravens mock draft, Vlachos is a team captain, four-year starter and smart player. He has blocked for Trent Richardson, Glen Coffee, and Mark Ingram. This is a low-risk, high-reward pick. Even if Birk does decide to return, Vlachos could provide great depth until he is ready to take over for the veteran.
Remember the loss at Seattle this year, Ravens fans? Remember David Reed's TWO fumbles? Think about how different the AFC Championship could have gone if it had been at M&T Bank Stadium.
Joe Adams would be a major and immediate upgrade over the injury-prone David Reed. Adams have good size and great hands. He is also coming out of the SEC where he faced a lot of NFL quality corners. This is a guy the Ravens would love to pick up in the third round. His versatility would allow him the chance to be an impact rookie.
The Ravens need help on the offensive line. Datko would be a nice backup and could develop into a solution at right tackle if Michael Oher decides to leave in a few years in free agency. After taking Jah Reid in the third round in last year's draft, Datko would allow the Ravens to continue to build a young and deep offensive line.
There are a lot of reasons why Case Keenum won't be selected before the sixth round, but in my opinion he is a player the Ravens should look out for. It is almost universally accepted that Joe Flacco is the Ravens' QB for the next 10 years, but if he were to sustain an injury, Tyrod Taylor is the only other QB on the Ravens roster.
Keenum would provide cheap depth and be in a position to develop and grow and maybe one day fill in if the Ravens need him. Again, a low-risk, high-reward pick in the sixth round.
Have you ever seen Demps run? This guy is a fast, fast player. Another guy with a little bit of baggage, but in the seventh round he could be a steal. As the Ravens will have Ray Rice locked up one way or another, Demps could be another versatile player to plug into Cam Cameron's schemes. He is a great pass-catching running back and also could be a cheaper alternative to Ricky Williams if the Ravens think they can free up some cap space.