Being that ex-Ravens Jim Leonhard, Bart Scott and Jason Brown have found new homes this offseason, a lot of the Ravens success hinges on this year's draft. The team is in need of a wide receiver, cornerback, tight end, fullback, kicker and maybe center.
Here is who the Baltimore Ravens should draft.
1 (26): TE Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State: Not all first round picks have to be pretty. The Ravens will prove that by selecting Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew with the 26th overall pick in this year's draft.
Pettigrew, 6'5", 253 pounds, had 42 receptions for 472 yards this year, but his upside and physicality launched him into the No. 1 spot for all tight ends draft-eligible this year.
Pettigrew reminds NFL Network's Mike Mayock of Jason Witten, a rising star tight end for the Dallas Cowboys who caught 81 passes for 952 yards this year. While the favorable comparison helps Pettigrew, tight end is a need and Pettigrew is not just a want.
With Todd Heap on the way out, Pettigrew would be a great selection. He'd provide a big, reliable target for Joe Flacco. While he is the No. 1 tight-end prospect in the draft, tight ends tend to fall later in the first round. Also, scouts get scared away when he runs an unimpressive 4.83 in the 40-yard dash.
Let's forget the combine.
Pettigrew has incredible upside, size and believe it or not, has speed. In the NFL, the tight end position is getting lost in all the spread formations, but it's just as crucial a position as any and Pettigrew is the closest thing to a complete tight end in this year's draft.
2 (58): WR Brian Robiskie, Ohio State: Sometimes you have to go with smarts over results. In this year's draft, there are many who had gaudy numbers last year, such as Hakeem Nicks, Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Kenny Britt, Ramses Barden and many others.
However, not all of those have a profound knowledge of the game like Ohio State receiver Brian Robiskie does. It runs in the family for him. His father, Terry Robiskie, played in the NFL and is now the wide receivers coach for the Atlanta Falcons and should get credit for the recent breakout of Roddy White, who has gone over 1,000 yards his last two seasons.
Brian Robiskie, 6'3", provides the height and speed the Ravens need.
Robiskie had a surprising combine, running a 4.48 and reaching a 37 1/2 inch vertical. Because his Ohio State Buckeyes had a very bad passing offense, Robiskie couldn't duplicate his 2007 performance, when he had 55 receptions, 935 yards and 11 touchdowns.
However, he did put up competent numbers, with 42 catches, 535 yards and eight touchdowns, leading the Buckeyes in receptions, yards and touchdowns. Robiskie, 6'3", 209 pounds, isn't very elusive or a burner, but is a surprisingly fluent athlete for his size and has a knowledge for the game unmatched by any prospect with 1,000 receiving yards.
The Ravens should draft Robiskie and since Derrick Mason is 35, Robiskie could crack the starting lineup very, very soon.
3 (90): CB Cary Harris, USC: With the signing of 25-year old cornerback Domonique Foxworth out of the way, Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome has made it clear the Ravens will not pursue a cornerback in the first round of the draft.
It will most likely be a wide receiver or tight end. However, two solid young corners in Fabian Washington and Domonique Foxworth will not make the problem disappear. The Ravens future at corner is set, but they need some depth, and that’s why I think they draft Cary Harris out of USC with their pick in the third round.
The only weakness Harris possesses is physicality, but that is attributed to the fact that he underwent shoulder surgery.
However, Harris is a sound tackler, a smart football player who takes care of his assignments and as a tribute to his great coverage, quarterbacks stopped throwing his way as his career progressed. Harris projects as a third-round pick, and I think he’d be an ideal option.
Last year, Fabian Washington struggled mightily with tackling and as all football fans know, missed tackles can result in injuries. Should Washington get hurt, Harris could step in and be a solid starting cornerback.
Scouts compare him to Rams cornerback Fakhir Brown, a 31-year old who had 45 tackles, one forced fumble and one interception for St. Louis last season. I’ll take that.
4 (122): FB Quinn Johnson, LSU: Since All-Pro Le’Ron McClain is converting into a running back who could get 200-250 carries per season, the Ravens need a true blocking fullback. The guy for the job would be Quinn Johnson out of LSU.
At 6’0”, 246 pounds, his size is very similar to McClain’s and he blocked for Jacob Hester (1,103 yards and 12 TD’s in 2007) and Charles Scott (1,174 yards, 18 TD’s in 2008). Johnson’s only true weakness is inexperience running the ball, but that won’t be needed if he is a blocking back at the next level.
His 4.86 40-yard dash impressed me for a guy who only had 16 carries in four seasons for the Tigers.
Despite the weakness of inexperience, he has ideal size for a fullback, he’s a dominant blocker and is a very unselfish guy. Also, scouts fail to realize he did average 10.8 yards per catch, very impressive for a fullback, as most–or all–receptions fullbacks get are screen passes.
Fullback will also be a necessity for the Ravens considering Lorenzo Neal is likely going to retire or play for a different NFL team next season after one full year with Baltimore. The Ravens need a true blocking back that could take Willis McGahee back to 2007 form and Ray Rice to college form. Johnson can do that.
He paved the way for Joseph Addai as a freshman. Why not Quinn?
5 (154): C A.Q. Shipley, Penn State: The Ravens lost last year’s starting center, Jason Brown, to the Rams. The Ravens are now pursuing 32-year old Matt Birk, a six time Pro Bowler.
While Birk would be a great signing and could mentor Chris Chester, who will start at center if Birk isn’t signed, the 32-year old won’t be a mainstay on the Ravens offensive line.
At most, he’ll play three years for the Ravens. That’s why the Ravens should take A.Q. Shipley out of Penn State. Most scouts are scared away by his “small” frame, at 6’1”, 304 pounds.
However, Shipley is the sixth best center in this year’s draft and was “fast” for his position, with a 5.19 40-yard dash.
However, Shipley has the thing scouts forget about: passion. He has a nasty side of him, which is needed for an offensive lineman, has great burst, and for a 304 pound man, has great footwork and balance.
The only glaring weakness about him is the fact that he’s the smallest center in this year’s draft, but he plays with passion and fire, and that’s what NFL fans want to see more of.
Shipley would be a solid pick and could project like Jason Brown, considering Brown was a fourth round pick by Newsome, and I think Shipley would be a relatively good pick considering the Ravens need to pick up some depth at center.
7 (218): K Graham Gano, Florida State: There has never been a Ravens team without Matt Stover. It looks like the Ravens will have to adapt next year as Stover, 41, is set to retire.
The Ravens must move on from this. Steven Hauschka began his career with a 53-yard field goal that was good against the Houston Texans.
He didn’t prove it was what was to come, as he later missed a 41-yarder. The Ravens will likely give him a shot this year, but it doesn’t mean the Ravens should have one kicker. They should draft the 6’0”, 194 pound Florida State Seminole we know as Graham Gano. Gano had an amazing season as a senior, going 24-for-26 and a 53-yarder.
In the college football challenge on ESPN, Gano won the long-distance competition and made 60-yarders with ease. In 2005, 2006 and 2007, Gano did absolutely nothing. He sat on the bench until this year, when he burst onto the scene to become one of college football’s premiere kickers and shoot to the fourth best kicker in this year’s draft.
Since kickers rarely get drafted, Gano could get a job in the NFL as an undrafted free agent, but to play it safe, Newsome and the Ravens should draft him with their last pick of the draft and cap off a successful class.