Baltimore Ravens Mock Draft: A Complete 7-Round Wish List
Being that Christmas is right around the corner and the NFL season is coming to a close, it seems fitting that we start thinking about the draft.
Sure it's four months away, but if you're an NFL nut like myself, it's never too early to talk draft.
For this assignment, it's going to be a little different. This time around I get to add a little more fantasy football to the mix, meaning the players in this mock draft are likely to be drafted higher than they appear in this article.
Of course, that doesn't mean I'm going to list the top seven players in the draft all going to the Ravens, either.
In my opinion, the Ravens need to upgrade their offensive and defensive lines, linebackers and secondary.
Even if Ray Lewis and Ed Reed return in 2013, which I expect them to, Baltimore will need to replace them sooner rather than later. Another important part of the Ravens' draft strategy should be to surround Joe Flacco with an offensive line and skill players that can grow together as a unit for the next decade.
First Round: Barrett Jones, Offensive Lineman, Alabama
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Barrett Jones has the best combination of versatility, talent and football IQ of any offensive lineman in this draft.
He's played every position along the line and won the Outland Trophy last season (nation's best interior lineman). He is one of three finalists for this year's award.
Last year, he started at left tackle. This year, he's the starting center.
Matt Birk is 36 and the Ravens offensive line hasn't been the bright spot of the team this season. Even if Birk plays out the remaining two years of his contract, Jones could likely fill in at other positions until Birk retires.
Think of an offensive line quarterback who could develop with Joe Flacco for many years to come. He's a very safe prospect, of which there aren't many.
Second Round: Xavier Rhodes, Cornerback, Florida State
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Drafting Xavier Rhodes would be a smart decision for any team, especially the Ravens.
Rhodes stands 6'2" and weighs 217 pounds. Along with Jimmy Smith (6'2", 210 lbs), Rhodes would make the Ravens defensive backfield more imposing than it already is.
Drafting Rhodes would allow Webb and Corey Graham to play in the slot where they've been very effective.
Rhodes has size, strength, speed and desire. That's what you need when you go up against wide receivers like the Ravens will in 2013: Calvin Johnson (road), Brandon Marshall (road) and A.J. Green (twice).
Third Round: Shayne Skov, Inside Linebacker, Stanford
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Shayne Skov plays like a Raven.
He has really good size (6'3", 251 lbs), strength and fits really well within the 3-4 base scheme, which is what the Ravens use.
The downside is that he may not be available when the Ravens pick in the third round. Even if they had to trade up to get Skov, I'd be fine with that.
Charlie Campbell, senior draft analyst of Walterfootball.com, says this about Stanford's standout linebacker: "Stanford plays a 3-4 defense, and Skov is a perfect fit in that scheme. He attacks the line of scrimmage and is an aggressive defender. Skov is a hard hitter and obviously loves the physical part of the game. He has a tenacious attitude and presence in the middle of the field."
Skov's NFL.com draft profile describes him this way: "Possesses high football and general IQ. Fiery attitude, vocal leader on defense and will also talk to opponents."
Fourth Round: Michael Williams, Tight End, Alabama
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At 6'6", 269 pounds and with underrated athleticism, Williams would be a good pick for the Ravens at this point in the draft. Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta are good NFL players, but at different times this season both have had to fight off big injuries.
What would be the best part about the Ravens picking Williams is that his strength is run blocking, whereas Dickson and Pitta are talented pass-catchers. This trio would create more balance and trouble for opposing defensive coordinators.
It's a double-edged sword when it comes to Williams, because his NFL.com draft profile described him as a "lean offensive tackle." He could come in as an extra blocker quite often (especially with current holes in the offensive line), but when left to block one-on-one against the pass-rushers in the AFC North, he could struggle.
Fifth Round: Zach Boren, Fullback, Ohio State
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This could be a pick that the Ravens trade out of. If they don't and end up selecting Zach Boren, he would fit in well in Baltimore.
The former Ohio defensive player of the year in high school, Boren is a versatile, strong athlete who played both fullback and linebacker (as well as on special teams) for Urban Meyer at Ohio State.
Let me be clear in saying that I have zero concern about Vonta Leach, his health, performance or anything else with regards to his performance.
Leach will be a free agent after the 2013 season, but having a backup might not be the worst idea, considering the brutally physical nature of the position.
Drafting Boren, if nothing else, would help improve an already strong special-teams unit. Ask any NFL head coach and they will likely agree that any chance you get to improve your special teams is one you should take.
Like Jones could be the center Flacco develops with for the duration of his career, the same could be true for Boren with Ray Rice.
Sixth Round: Aaron Tipoti, Defensive Tackle, California
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While Baltimore's defensive line is one of the better units on the team, adding depth is always a good thing. Even if this pick yields a rotational player, it's the sixth round, so the risk/reward is in your favor.
Ma'ake Kemoeatu has been the Ravens' starter at nose tackle for most of the season, but he's 33 and will be a free agent after this season. Terrance Cody has been good at times, but underwhelming at others, and will be a free agent at the end of 2014.
Aaron Tipoti was first-team preseason All-Pac-12 as well as on the Outland Trophy watch list this year. He's big enough (6'2", 311 lbs) for a defensive tackle, but may not be big enough to be a pure nose tackle.
Tipoti shows good quickness and burst. He also uses his hands and feet well and puts himself in position to disrupt blocking schemes.
Seventh Round: Ray Polk, Free Safety, Colorado
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Ed Reed has not been playing well lately—plain and simple. His tackling has been embarrassing at times and he's a free agent after this season. To say the Ravens don't have good depth at that position is appropriate.
In 2010, Ray Polk started all 12 games of his sophomore season alongside cornerback Jimmy Smith, who was selected by the Ravens in the first round of the 2011 draft. Like Smith, Polk has fought through an injury (wrist sprain in the winter of 2011) and has been able to make big plays in coverage and around the line of scrimmage.
Allowing Polk (free) to develop behind Reed and Bernard Pollard seems like a good idea. Assuming Lardarius Webb returns next season fully healed from the ACL injury he sustained in Week 6, the Baltimore secondary figures to be very crowded in the 2013 preseason.
If Polk can show scouts that he has healed well and tightened up his technique (came into Colorado as a running back), it wouldn't be a shock for the Ravens to select him in the late rounds.