2012 NFL Draft: First-Round Possibilities for the Baltimore Ravens

Dee LetedCorrespondent IMarch 26, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: First-Round Possibilities for the Baltimore Ravens

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    The Baltimore Ravens finally made some moves in NFL free agency last week, and while none of them are particularly noteworthy, they could affect this year's draft strategy.

    Jameel McClain's return makes the need for an inside linebacker slightly less urgent, and some of the special teams' signing could affect picks in later rounds. Other teams' signings will also shake up the draft a bit for the Ravens, particularly the Packers' signing of center Jeff Saturday.

    Let's take a look at six players who could be available at Pick 29 for the Ravens to fill a need for next season.

6. Mike Adams OT (Ohio State)

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    Mike Adams actually had a disappointing senior bowl and combine, and his draft stock has suffered a bit as a result. He is still one of the top offensive tackles in this class, however, so he probably won't fall out of the first round. He could fall toward the end of the round, though, which is where the Ravens pick.

    Michael Oher has played adequately at right tackle aside from the occasional mental error, and Brandon McKinnie played fine as well at left tackle last year. McKinnie is certainly not the long term answer at the position, and the Ravens will have to find their left tackle of the future eventually.

    This could actually be a perfect situation for Adams to walk into. He's still a bit raw but has a lot of upside, and playing behind McKinnie for a year or two before taking over as the starter could really benefit him.

    Adams will have to get by San Diego, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh before he gets to Baltimore. 

5. Stephen Hill WR (Georgia Tech)

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    Stephen Hill wouldn't draw any first round consideration if it wasn't for his combine. He is certainly raw, but his upside is huge.

    At 6'4"  and 215 pounds, Hill ran a 4.36 second forty and looked great in other drills. He only had 28 catches last season, but the Georgia Tech offense isn't exactly pass heavy.

    The Ravens have found their deep threat in Torrey Smith, but need another receiver on the outside to allow Anquan Boldin to do his thing in the slot. With the right coaching and development, Hill could become a prolific receiver in the NFL and might be the red zone threat that the Ravens need.

    He may not be available at 29, however, as the Bengals, Browns, Broncos and Texans will all be looking for a receiver where Hill will start getting looks. 

4. Andre Branch DE/OLB (Clemson)

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    Jarrett Johnson was an unsung hero in Baltimore for years. He did anything the Ravens asked him to, was very solid against the run, and was a leader both on and off the field. 

    However, Johnson was not the greatest pass rusher, which is why Paul Kruger often came in and replaced him on third down. Kruger isn't as complete of a player as the Ravens need him to be, so they will probably look to add an outside linebacker opposite Suggs early on.

    Andre Branch could very well be the best pass rusher available when the Ravens pick at 29. Branch notched 10.5 sacks this past season, and definitely has the athleticism to drop back in coverage if he's drafted by a 3-4 team.  

3. Whitney Mercilus DE/OLB (Illinois)

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    Like Andre Branch, Mercilus can play either defensive end in a 4-3 scheme or rush linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Most teams will probably look at both prospects as a rush linebacker, however.

    He's a bit of a one year wonder, posting 16 sacks as a senior but only 2 throughout the rest of his career. Mercilus would be a very solid value if he falls to the Ravens, as teams could start eyeing him as early as the New York Jets at pick 16. 

    You can also expect the Bears, Titans, Patriots and Packers to look to snag him before the Ravens can.

2. Dont'a Hightower ILB (Alabama)

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    Signing Jameel McClain to a 3 year deal may allow the Ravens to ignore the inside linebacker position for another year or two, depending on how long Ray Lewis can continue playing at a relatively high level.

    But if Hightower is the best player left on the board at Pick 29, the Ravens should take a long hard look at him. He played inside and on the edge at times in Alabama's 3-4 defense, and has the size and speed to be an every down linebacker in the NFL. He would definitely challenge McClain for a starting role his rookie year, and would add some much needed depth if Ray Lewis can't make it through all 16 games. 

    If Hightower can make it past the Steelers at 24 and Texans at 26, he could make it to the Ravens at 29.

1. Peter Konz C (Wisconsin)

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    After failing to bring back Benn Grubbs or sign Evan Mathis, the Ravens have a huge need at left guard. John Harbaugh has stated that he believes Jah Reid could end up the starter there next season, but currently Reid is a right tackle. He's also 6'7", which isn't really an ideal height on the interior line. 

    While there may be a couple of guys out there in free agency who could be the answer, Ozzie Newsome will probably look to the draft to fill the position.

    Peter Konz is a very intriguing prospect for the Ravens at Pick 29. He could be an immediate starter at left guard next season and take over for Matt Birk at center after he retires. 

    Konz seemed liked a lock to the Packers at 28, but they recently signed Jeff Saturday. Saturday is 37, but may be able to act as a bandaid at center so the Packers can address other needs early on this year. If there's still a pass rusher or defensive end on the board that the Packers like at 28, expect them to do just that.

    Other teams to watch for: Tennessee, Detroit, Green Bay