The Ravens have been quiet in free agency so far, but not to worry, Ozzie Newsome has a pretty solid track record when it comes to the NFL Draft.
I decided to do my best Mel Kiper impression and slot six players to the Ravens throughout the draft that I thought could be available and make sense for us.
Yes, some of these guys will get picked earlier or later come draft day, but if you'd like to act as the Todd McShay to my Mel Kiper, your more than welcome to leave a comment below.
I did not address the second and/or third-string Quarterback, back up running back or Wide Receiver position, assuming that Ozzie will be able to take care of those issues in free agency.
It's tough to predict who will be available at any position in the draft, but towards the end of round one it becomes just that much harder. Team needs become less obvious as we get to more talented teams with less glaring holes and the second and third tiers of prospects start to get more difficult to distinguish.
The Hightower pick from a needs perspective should be obvious. Ray Lewis is headed into his 17th NFL season and Jameel McClain is an unrestricted free agent. Even if McClain is back, picking Dont'a Hightower is still a strong option. But will he be available?
There's plenty of teams that need a good linebacker, but those teams have other glaring issues. Pittsburgh is a good example of this. Can they ignore offensive line issues to pick a linebacker that won't start right away? Probably not.
You may be thinking, well the Ravens are in the same boat buddy, what's your point? My point is that Pittsburgh picks at 24, where Center Peter Konz (Wisconsin) and Guard/Tackle Cordy Glenn (Georgia) will likely be available. They likely won't be available just five picks later for the Ravens, especially with Green Bay recently not re-signing Center Scott Wells.
That could mean that the best player available that fills a need will be Dont'a Hightower. It's tough to think that any other guards aside from Cordy Glenn and David Decastro (Stanford) would warrant the 29th pick and it's hard to imagine the Packers passing on a future franchise center from Wisconsin. I have my fingers cross that Konz could fall to us at 29, but I'm becoming less and less hopeful.
That being said I wouldn't be surprised to see us take a hybrid outside linebacker like Andre Branch (Clemson) or Nick Perry (USC) in this spot either should one of them still be on the board.
Ignoring the offensive line again? Really?
Yes, really. Marshall Yanda was a third round pick and is now one of the best right guards in the league. In fact a lot of guards and centers can be found in the later rounds of the draft and if Ozzie sees someone he values more at a certain spot, he could very well take him even with glaring needs elsewhere. In my opinion the third round is where the value is for interior lineman with this year's class, and the second round has a lot of value when it comes to pass rushers (again this year's class, not in general).
Ronnell Lewis could be one of those guys. Jarrett Johnson was an unsung hero and did a tremendous amount for our run defense on first and second down. But we didn't ask him to rush the passer much, probably because it wasn't his strong suit.
Paul Kruger has developed some moves and played well on third down last year, but he isn't as complete of a player as we need him to be. Bringing in another linebacker to split time with Kruger opposite Suggs could really improve our pass rush and with just two picks our linebacker core is looking youthful and talented again.
Also, keep in mind: Ozzie has stated time and time again that he never wants to sacrifice offense for defense.
Brandon Washington is a guy that may not be available at this point, but he's my best guess at the highest ranked guard on Ozzie's board that might be here.
If he, Brandon Brooks (Miami OH) or Amini Silatolu (Midwestern State) are all off the board, we could look at a center like Philip Blake (Baylor) or another position group all together.
I still think Ozzie will get a deal done with Andre Gurode before it's all said and done, who played pretty well at left guard last season.
I would have loved to have Grubbs back or to have signed Evan Mathis, but at the end of the day we abide by one motto: In Ozzie We Trust.
We traded our fourth round pick to Buffalo for Lee Evans last year, but Ozzie is usually pretty good about trading back for more picks. That could be a very strong option this year considering how much depth we have lost in free agency.
After losing Zibby and Ruki, it shouldn't shock anyone to see a safety in here at some point. The question is who and when.
I don't think anyone in the draft is a future Ed Reed successor, but if we can find a solid safety to add depth and play well on special teams, it will have been well worth the pick.
Thomas is a bit undersized but in my opinion he could be the best safety available at this point. He's instinctive and athletic with solid ball skills but his 4.74 forty at the combine could kill his stock.
Vlachos may be a bit undersized but he has solid footwork and is pretty nimble for a lineman. He'll take a little time to develop but could eventually become a solid NFL starter behind the coaching of Matt Birk.
Rumor is that he is extremely hard working and being an Alabama product won't hurt his stock with Ozzie either.
At 6'5" nearly 315 pounds, Hamilton has the size and athleticism to play defensive end in the 3-4. His career has been plagued by injury which will hurt his draft stock, but if he can stay healthy he could end up being a solid depth player for us.
Losing Cory Redding isn't that big of a deal, especially with Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee ready to take on larger roles. But it does leave us thin on the defensive line, and Hamilton is a guy that could fit our scheme and be available for us late.