On the heels of a three-game losing streak, the Baltimore Ravens and their fans are starting to look towards the future rather than the present. This team just doesn't look like a contender.
The problems for the Ravens start up front on both sides of the ball.
The Ravens' offensive line is one of the worst in the NFL, and that's including All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda. Their tackles are especially bad, as neither Michael Oher nor Kelechi Osemele can handle speed rushers.
Defensively, the story is even worse. The Ravens rank 26th in the NFL against the run, thanks mainly to nose tackles who get blown off the ball on nearly every snap. Haloti Ngata is also having a down season, while Art Jones and Pernell McPhee have been average. This defensive line desperately needs an infusion of talent.
Thankfully for the Ravens, this draft is stacked with talent on both the offensive and defensive lines. They have no excuse to come out of this draft without being bigger, more talented and more passionate along both lines.
That should be their goal, and here is how they will do it in 2013. Here is an early mock draft for the Baltimore Ravens.
The best player that the Ravens have a chance to get is John Jenkins, a massive nose tackle out of Georgia.
The 6'3", 351-pound behemoth plays the way Terrence Cody was supposed to play. He's huge and dominant at the line of scrimmage and surprisingly agile as well.
There are definitely some holes in Jenkins' game that need work, making him a late first-round prospect. Jenkins lacks a quick first step off the snap. Part of this is caused by his tendency to play high and stand up out of his stance, which can be fixed by coaching.
The encouraging thing about Jenkins is that despite this glaring flaw in his game, he is physically dominant and tough enough to handle talented SEC offensive lines already. Jenkins would help shore up one of the league's worst run defenses, and he would make life a lot easier for the Ravens' linebackers.
Taylor Lewan, OT Michigan—This guy is everything a team looks for in a left tackle. He's enormous at 6'8" and 300 pounds, but he plays with good technique and good quickness. When Lewan gets his hands on a defender, it's over. He has some mental lapses at times in pass protection, but Lewan is a star. Getting him late in the first round could be difficult, though.
Manti Te'o, ILB Notre Dame—If I could have any player in the draft sent to Baltimore, I'd want Manti Te'o. He will almost certainly get selected way before the Ravens pick, but he's worthy of a shoutout either way.
Any pass rusher—Paul Kruger was the only Raven to get regular pressure on opposing quarterbacks this year. There are tons of pass rushers available in the first round to take pressure off of Kruger, who might move on in free agency, and Terrell Suggs. Taking one would be a smart move.
Getting a player with left-tackle potential is difficult beyond the top-15 picks, yet Oday Aboushi is a sure-fire left tackle who is projected to go late in the second round.
While he has some holes in his game, such as marginal strength at the point of attack, Aboushi is a top-tier pass protector who has continuously improved throughout his college career. There is a ton of upside here, and if he develops quickly, Aboushi would boost the Ravens' offensive line significantly.
Chase Thomas, OLB Stanford—The Ravens have a decision to make with Paul Kruger in his contract year. Chase Thomas plays similarly with a high motor and good technique, and his upside might actually be higher. Regardless, the Ravens could always use another pass rusher.
Terry Hawthorne has all the tools of an NFL cornerback and plenty of success at the college level to back that up.
Hawthorne is fast, quick and physical. He possesses the physicality and swagger that the Ravens like from their corners, but he has quicker hips than Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams.
Another plus is that Hawthorne is a beast in run defense. In this game against Wisconsin, Hawthorne did a great job of getting in the fray and slowing down Montee Ball.
Finally, one other thing worth noting is that Hawthorne has the size to play safety. Safety is probably a bigger need for the Ravens than cornerback, but Hawthorne is worth a look at either position.
Every year, some linebacker falls down in the draft because of a lack of positional value, yet he becomes an instant impact player and leader in the NFL. In 2013, A.J. Klein has the potential to be that guy.
Klein is a big-time leader in the Iowa State locker room, helping set the tone for a defense that ranks 36th in the nation in points allowed.
While Klein is just an average athlete, his instincts are superb, and his passion is stellar. Watch Klein talk about his multiple interception return touchdowns here to get an idea of what he's about.
The Ravens could use some leadership, and they need a linebacker for the future. Klein can fill both roles admirably while also being a core player on special teams. What's not to like?
One of the least-noted needs for the Ravens is their desperate need for a blocking tight end. They've been using Ed Dickson and Billy Bajema in that role, but both have struggled to block effectively. Neither has excelled as a receiver, either.
Michael Williams comes from an Alabama offense that knows how to run the ball. Williams has blocked for Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson during his career, two first-round picks at running back, and he's also contributed in the passing game as well.
Williams could become an immediate contributor for the Ravens as a blocker on offense and special teams, while eventually becoming a legitimate threat at tight end as well behind Dennis Pitta.
If and when Matt Birk finally retires, the Ravens will have a big gap in the middle of their offensive line. While they drafted Gino Gradkowski to be the de facto center of the future, he disappointed in the preseason.
Sam Schwartzstein could provide some competition for Gradkowski to be the Ravens' future center. He is an excellent run blocker, as any Stanford offensive lineman needs to be.
While he has had an up-and-down season, Schwartzstein has some good performances to his credit. He has been a key component of Stanford's excellent offensive line, and he could provide solid depth for the Ravens with starting potential for the future.
This is pretty much a pure upside pick, which makes sense in the seventh round.
Williams has gotten more pressure than his two sacks would indicate, and he's flashed some serious talent for the Buckeyes.
Sadly, with only seven picks, I was unable to address the Ravens' woeful pass rush until this pick, but that doesn't mean it's not a serious problem. Williams is hardly the solution to that problem, but he's a high-upside talent who provides another body and more competition.