The Draft is nearly upon us and this is the time that Baltimore usually shines.
The Ravens seem to need this year's draft more than ever. Last season, Baltimore came within a touchdown or a missed kick of playing in the Super Bowl. Since then, the Ravens have lost several starters and key players.
Jarret Johnson, Cory Redding, Ben Grubbs, Lee Evans, Chris Carr, Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura have all left for "greener pastures". Their departures have left the Ravens with a variety of needs. Baltimore now has needs at guard (perhaps their biggest need), outside linebacker, wide receiver and at safety. They also need a long-term solution at left offensive tackle, depth at running back, kick/punt returner and an heir to middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
Free agency has not been all bleak for Baltimore. They signed cornerback Corey Graham and safety Sean Considine. These were important signings that will provide depth and a much-needed jolt to their special teams. They also re-signed Jameel McClain, Matt Birk, Lardarius Webb and Brendon Ayanbadejo.
Some internal candidates could be used to fill these needs such as Paul Kruger, Pernell McPhee, Art Jones, and Jah Reid are being counted on, at least for now, to step into starter roles or make major contributions next season. The draft could change that, and it will be interesting to see how this year's draft will shape Baltimore's roster.
Is Peter Konz a first-round pick?
Cbssports.com's Rob Rang has the Ravens selecting linebacker Dont'a Hightower while his counterpart, Dane Brugler, has them selecting center Peter Konz.
Hightower would be a nice fit with the Ravens, Clark Judge, Will Brinson and The Baltimore Sun's Matt Venzel also back Rob Rang's prediction . He was primarily a middle linebacker in college but he could compete with Paul Kruger for the outside linebacker spot. Eventually he could replace Ray Lewis, if that is possible. It remains to be seen if Hightower will be available at the 29th slot. His stock has risen after some very solid workouts. If he is around when it is Baltimore's turn, Ozzie Newsome would love to bring in another player from the 'Tide.
Dane Brugler certainly is not alone when he links Peter Konz to Baltimore. Cbssports.com's Pete Prisco, Chad Reuter from NFL.com, si.com's Don Banks, and ESPN and NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper all believe that Konz will be wearing purple and black next season. From a need perspective Konz makes a lot of sense. It is believed by many that Konz could start at left guard before eventually taking over for veteran center Matt Birk.
But is Konz a good value in the first round? Todd McShay seems to disagree with his coworker Mel Kiper when concerning Peter Konz. He has the Ravens drafting safety Harrison Smith, with Konz not being drafted until the second round. It would seem unlikely that the Ravens would draft a safety so high with Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard starting at safety. If Newsome believes Smith is the best player available, he has shown in the past that the best player available is the best player for the Ravens to draft.
McShay also provides other scenarios:
"Scenario 1: The Ravens would likely prefer to trade up or back to get better value. In this class moving back five or six spots and adding an extra pick is the better option because the board is thin at their need positions at this point and the Ravens have not historically been a team that reaches for players.
Scenario 2: Smith has the skill to contribute right away, and he would provide a backup plan in the event Ed Reed's durability issues surface again.
Scenario 3: Guard is a need area, and Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler fits the Ravens' tough attitude. Northwestern State's Amini Silatolu is a more talented player, but there are questions about his ability to absorb an NFL system and play immediately.
Scenario 4: Add help at linebacker. There is no inside linebacker worth this pick, but McClellin is the kind of versatile front-seven defender Baltimore can't get enough of.
Scenario 5: Left tackle is also a need, and Adams has the tools to come off the board in this range, but he might not have the grind-it-out-mentality the Ravens look for."
According to The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec, the Ravens have had plenty of draft prospects in for a visit. Players have included Peter Konz, Ron Brooks, Gino Gradkowski, Stephen Hill, Buddy Jackson, A.J. Jenkins, Cam Johnson, Dre Kirkpatrick, Isaiah Pead, Josh Robinson, Nelson Rosario, and Phillip Thomas.
The Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel seems to think that the Ravens will make a trade come draft day:
"Leading up to the draft, the Ravens contact teams around them in the first round -- teams picking as many as 10 spots before and up to 10 picks after -- to let them know there is a chance they will be interested in trading their top pick depending on how the round unfolds."
The Ravens have a history of moving up and down the draft board. Baltimore has traded their first round pick in four of their last six drafts. Sometimes these trades have worked out well and some not as well. The Ravens moved up and down the board to eventually land starting quarterback Joe Flacco in 2009.
In 2010 the Ravens traded their first round pick to the Denver Broncos (who would use that pick to draft Tim Tebow) and drafted Sergio Kindle, Ed Dickson, and Dennis Pitta. Dickson and Pitta have worked out so far, but Kindle is another story.
The Ravens have several needs and it would make more sense for them to trade back and pick up extra picks. They could trade back and possibly land Kevin Zeitler or Rueben Randle, both excellent values in the early second round. Tackles Mike Adams and Zebrie Sanders would also be great values in the second round.
Stephen Hill would make a great compliment to Torrey Smith.
Stephen Hill has been a fast riser amongst most draft boards. He wowed many teams at the NFL combine with an astounding 4.30 40-yard-dash time. Hill has size and speed and has playmaker written all over him.
The Georgia Tech product is considered raw because of the triple option offense he played in. Last season, Hill completed only 28 catches but gained 820 yards, giving him an unbelievable 29.3 yards per catch.
Will the Ravens take a chance on the "raw" receiver? Hill has visited the Ravens complex and Baltimore has shown interest:
"He's an explosive guy who plays in that triple-option offense and really jumped off the film in terms of vertical speed," Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said. "He's raw, like a lot of guys are who have come out of that offense, Demaryius Thomas. Their route polish isn't quite there, but his athletic traits are really outstanding and exceptional, rare for the position.
"It would be a process of him picking up an NFL-style offense, learning how to read defenses. He doesn't have to do a lot of that there. He has to block or run vertical, a limited route tree."
Hill is raw, or at least it appears he may be. His speed would be a great asset to a team in need of a compliment to Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, especially with Lee Evans moving on to Jacksonville. He could make an immediate impact, much like Smith made last season, and with his speed, he could be a possible answer to the Ravens' kick returning woes.
Peter Konz seems to be the player most commonly linked to the Baltimore Ravens in the draft. Konz did not have a great showing at the NFL combine, much of which was due to injuries. He held an impressive private workout for 15 NFL team representatives, which included an improved his bench press from 18 to 23 reps (225lbs). Strength combined with size usually translates well in the NFL:
“He’s got the size," Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta said. "He’s 6-5, 315 pounds. That’s to me a big indicator if a guy can do it. That’s one of those things where sometimes, there is a wait-and-see. We’ve considered all those different things. It’s a matter of working a guy out sometimes, putting him through the paces at the position.
"I think he’s played a little bit of guard in his past. I don’t know that it’s a really hard transition, center and guard. Other than the fact that you have to snap the ball, some of the same skill sets are there. I don’t think it’s a huge transition.”
It still remains to be seen if Konz is worth a first round pick. Many experts have Konz ranked as a top 30 overall prospect (Mel Kiper), while others such as ESPN's Todd McShay give him a second round grade.
If the Ravens choose to pass on Konz, keep an eye on centers Ben Jones from Georgia, David Molk from Michigan, Ohio State's Mike Brewster and Delaware's Gino Gradkowski who has visited the Ravens.
Should Konz be available, it would certainly make sense for the Ravens to draft the AP All-American Center. Once again, if he is the best player available, he will be wearing purple and black.