NFL Draft: Baltimore Ravens Wish List
While the Baltimore Ravens are gearing up for the Super Bowl by studying film and practicing, another member of the Ravens is preparing for the offseason and NFL Draft.
Ozzie Newsome, the general manager of the Ravens, and his team of scouts are undoubtedly in Mobile, Ala. for the Senior Bowl looking for the next batch of future Ravens.
Linebacker Courtney Upshaw and guard Kelechi Osemele, the top two picks from last year’s draft, will be starting in the Super Bowl. Bernard Pierce, taken in the third-round, proved to be a valuable backup to Ray Rice and looks to have future NFL starter written all over him. Baltimore, which has a rich tradition in the draft, seemed to strike gold with its first three picks last year.
While Upshaw has not reached his full potential as a pass rusher, the rookie has been a serviceable defender against the run, and has done very well over the last few months holding the edge and keeping plays from bouncing outside.
Osemele, has been better than anyone could have expected. The rookie guard played well at right tackle before switching to left guard in the playoffs where he has flourished.
Without a doubt, Baltimore is searching for players who can make an impact just as Upshaw, Osemele and Pierce have done during their rookie campaigns.
Here is an early look at the position’s on Baltimore’s wish list they will look to fill during the NFL Draft.
1. Offensive Line
Despite performing at a high level during the Ravens’ Super Bowl run, Baltimore still needs to address its offense line in the draft. Before inserting Bryant McKinnie at left tackle, the Baltimore offensive line was up and down all year.
With Joe Flacco set to be the focal point in Baltimore, the Ravens should invest in an offensive line that can protect and give the strong-armed signal caller time to fire the ball downfield.
Kelechi Osemele, Michael Oher and Marshall Yanda will be back next year. Matt Birk could possibly retire at the end of the season. Whatever happens to McKinnie is anyone’s guess. The inconsistent veteran could very well be on the team next year based on his postseason performance, but my bet is he won’t be back.
With that being said, Baltimore will need to upgrade the tackle position. Oher is best suited for right tackle and Osemele seems like a better fit at guard.
In addition, Baltimore drafted Gino Gradkowski to replace Birk one day, so don’t expect them to draft a center in the early rounds.
For the time being, offensive tackle will be a position Baltimore will look to upgrade in the draft.
- D.J. Fluker (Offensive Tackle) - Alabama - Redshirt Junior - 6’6” 335 lbs
- Eric Fisher (Offensive Tackle) - Central Michigan - Senior - 6’7” 335 lbs
- Dallas Thomas (Offensive Tackle) - Tennessee - Redshirt Senior - 6’5” 310 lbs
- Barrett Jones (Offensive Guard) - Alabama - Redshirt Senior - 6’4” 305 lbs
2. Middle Linebacker
While they have yet to select a linebacker early in the draft in recent years, the Ravens still have two players in Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain who are worthy replacements.
McClain, who suffered a season ending spinal contusion earlier in the regular season, signed a contract extension this past offseason, meaning he will be back and starting at linebacker next season barring any setbacks.
Ellerbe, who has battled in injuries over the years, has played exceptionally as of late. However, there is a pretty good chance he will not return as he is a free agent this year and Baltimore has a number of high profile players it will look to retain.
Because of the potential loss of Ellerbe, Baltimore must draft a linebacker to fill his spot or at least add depth to the position.
- Manti Te’o - Notre Dame - Senior - 6’2” 255 lbs
- Kevin Minter - LSU - Redshirt Junior - 6’1” 245 lbs
- Nico Johnson - Alabama - Senior - 6’2’ 245 lbs
- Kiko Alonso - Oregon - Senior - 6’3” 242 lbs
Ed Reed is not the player he used to be. The future Hall of Famer doesn’t cover the ground he once did and he often looks hesitant when tackling.
A free agent at the end of the year, it is quite likely he retires at the end of the season. If Reed does not retire, Baltimore could try to resign the veteran, but as of now it doesn’t look like the two sides will agree on the money.
Whatever does happen, Baltimore must address the safety position in the draft. While safety James Ihedigbo has been a valuable backup, he doesn’t have the all around ability needed to be an every down player.
Undrafted rookie Omar Brown saw some playing time this year and flashed potential in the preseason, so he could be an option. There is also rookie Christian Thompson drafted in the fourth-round last year.
While there are in-house options available, look for Baltimore to draft a player who could replace Reed right away or take a few years to develop should Reed resign.
- Kenny Vaccaro – Texas – Senior – 6’1” 218 lbs
- Eric Reid – LSU – Junior – 6’2” 212 lbs
- Bacarri Rambo – Georgia – Redshirt Senior – 6’1” 215 lbs
4. Pass Rusher
For much of the regular season, Baltimore struggled to mount a consistent pass rush. While a fully healthy Terrell Suggs and Haloti Nagta will help next year, Baltimore must find another player who can rush the passer.
There is a chance that Paul Kruger, who notched nine sacks in the regular season, will not return as he is scheduled to be a free agent. I expect the Ravens to retain Kruger as history shows they do normally prevent their top young players from going elsewhere.
Regardless of what happens with Kruger, in a quarterback driven league, a team can never have too many quality pass rushers.
Baltimore could very well go after a player in the middle rounds who can really get after the quarterback.
- Quanterus Smith – WKU – Redshirt Senior – 6’5” 248 lbs
- Trevardo Williams – Conn – Senior – 6’1” 235 lbs
- Travis Long – WSU – Senior – 6’4” 245 lbs
- Chase Thomas – Stanford – Redshirt Senior – 6’3” 241 lbs