The 2013 NFL Draft has been lauded as one that has excellent depth. The Baltimore Ravens will very likely be among the teams that get the best opportunity to test that theory since with just under a month to go, they have 12 total draft picks.
Seven of these picks are normal ones. Four more are compensatory picks and the final pick was given to them by the San Francisco 49ers, the only team that has more draft picks than the Ravens do.
Drafts are very difficult to predict and given Ozzie Newsome's tendency to frequently move around by doing trades, it's doubtful that anyone will guess an accurate mock draft. Just looking at the 32nd overall pick alone, there are nearly 10 different players that the Ravens could realistically consider there.
Just because it's difficult, it doesn't make it a fool's task to predict a mock draft. So I will attempt to guess what the Ravens will do with all 12 of their picks in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Given their unpredictability, trades will not be included in this mock draft. They will likely happen but for now, we're just going to look at what the Ravens will do if they end up using all 12 of their picks.
The Ravens have not been afraid to draft players who slide down the draft board so it seems very possible that they could consider Keenan Allen here. Allen was formerly viewed as arguably the best wide receiver prospect in the draft, however an unimpressive combine and a late season knee injury has caused his draft stock to tumble.
Allen would fill a need at wide receiver as a potential replacement for Anquan Boldin. He's a great route runner with the necessary height needed to win jump balls. He can also line up in the slot and use his physical frame to block out smaller corners.
The knee injury could be problematic however Allen has another workout scheduled for April 9 so maybe he will have made more progress by then. Even before the injury, speed was a concern for Allen, although that would not necessarily matter for the Ravens who already have speedy receivers in Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones.
Allen could go before the 32nd pick so this could be a situation where the Ravens consider trading up to get him. They would certainly do well to grab a top wide receiver prospect and fix one of the weaker areas on their depth chart.
Even with Michael Huff arriving in Baltimore a little over a week ago, safety is still a position of need for the Ravens. You've got suitable stop-gate solutions in Huff and James Ihedigbo, both of whom can hold down the starting safety positions for one or two years. Then what?
Hopefully the Ravens will have developed a player who is ready to go by then. D.J. Swearinger could start in 2014, perhaps even sooner. He's originally a strong safety, however he's got the versatility needed to also play free safety.
Like recently released Bernard Pollard, Swearinger is a very hard hitter. He even got banned for a game last season after a helmet-to-helmet hit on a defenseless receiver.
Swearinger also has the benefit of being a four-year starter in the brutality that is SEC football. His over-aggressiveness will need to be reeled in a bit, but once that's under control there's little that can prevent Swearinger from being a successful starting safety.
Back in my earlier mock draft, I had middle linebacker pegged as the Ravens' biggest need and I thought that they would address it with their first pick. I still believe that middle linebacker is a need but the acquisition of Elvis Dumervil has actually changed things a little, since now Courtney Upshaw will likely play as a middle linebacker.
Still a new middle linebacker is needed which is why I have the Ravens selecting Zaviar Gooden in the third round. Gooden has decent speed for the weak side linebacker position and he's also got solid tackling ability.
Unlike a linebacker drafted in the first round, Gooden isn't likely a day one starter. His speed is a positive factor that could get him playing time on special teams. His raw athletic ability should pay off immediate dividends and hopefully make him a starter a few years down the line.
For the 4th round, the Ravens again will look at another safety prospect. Tony Jefferson ranks as one of the shorter safeties in the draft class, however his intangibles could be enough to override his physical disadvantages.
Jefferson started early in college, winning Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2009 thanks to his 65 tackles and two interceptions. By junior year, he was named a second-team AP All-American after recording a career-high 119 tackles.
Jefferson also is good at wrapping up tackles, a skill that could lead to him playing on special teams. He's also been described as a natural leader with an infectious attitude.
With back-to-back picks scheduled in the fourth round, the Ravens can add two more quality players to their secondary. To this point all those acquisitions have been safeties, which has been the area that has a more immediate need.
That doesn't mean that they don't need cornerbacks though. After Lardarius Webb and Corey Graham, the Ravens' depth chart at corner mostly involves second or third year players with little experience. Even Jimmy Smith, the Ravens' top pick from two seasons ago, hasn't shown that he's got what it takes to be counted on as a reliable nickel-package corner.
B.W. Webb obviously doesn't help with the experience factor and he doesn't even have great fundamentals necessarily. With Webb, you're looking at raw talent and a lot of great athleticism.
Webb really came on the map with a great showing at the Senior Bowl where he showed that he could cover big-school receivers. He also had a great combine where he had the fastest 20-yard shuttle among cornerbacks (3.84 seconds) and he also ran a 4.51 40-yard dash.
There's definitely potential for Webb to develop into a NFL-starting quality corner if he can build on his success from the Senior Bowl and the combine.
The signings of Chris Canty and Marcus Spears certainly will go a long way in ensuring depth along the defensive line. Nicholas Williams of Samford, not Stanford, could also bring on more depth behind Haloti Ngata at defensive tackle.
A late bloomer who only played one season of high school football, Williams nonetheless saw his stats increase every year in college. His senior year he was able to tally 31 tackles and six sacks.
Playing at a small school and not being recruited heavily are some of the reasons why Williams is likely a middle-round pick at best. His combine results didn't necessarily stick out either, making him more of a developmental draft pick than anything else.
It's been three weeks since rumors spread up that other teams were looking to potentially pry restricted free agent Dennis Pitta away from the Ravens. As bad as losing Anquan Boldin was, losing Pitta would very much cripple the Ravens' offense especially considering the great chemistry that he has with Joe Flacco.
Still it's possible that either Pitta or Ed Dickson could leave Baltimore in a few years. Getting a successor who could develop into a reliable backup seems like a good use for a fifth round pick.
Nick Kasa is more of a blocking tight end, similar to what Billy Bajema did during the few snaps that he was on the field. Kasa does have good speed for a tight end though and he can put together a good vertical route, as shown in the video.
In the 6th round, the Ravens select both their second wide receiver and also their second South Carolina Gamecock with Ace Sanders. Sanders is known primarily for having great hands, so much so that he had zero drops on his 73 targets in 2012.
That kind of production would make any quarterback happy. Sanders also is a great punt returner, last season he put up a South Carolina-record 429 return yards. Even with Jacoby Jones already returning kicks, you can never have too many electrifying returners on your roster.
Also like Keenan Allen, Sanders could provide some value as a slot receiver. He's a dangerous speed guy and an intriguing project that would come at a low risk if he lasts till the sixth round.
As stated earlier, both Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson don't have long term deals with the Ravens. So it makes some sense to look for multiple tight ends, even if it's just to fill out the practice squad at this point.
Jack Doyle has already developed into a well-rounded tight end that is equally good at blocking and catching. His powerful build and his explosiveness also work well when it comes to making the tough catch and finding soft spots in the zone.
Doyle does have some issues with speed though and also with playing too high as a blocker. His intangibles make for a promising upside but he's going to need to improve some fundamentals before even seeing an NFL field.
The offensive line will be undergoing some transition in 2013, although how much still remains to be seen. With each passing day, it seems less likely that Bryant McKinnie will be back and it's unclear if either Jah Reid or Gino Gradkowski are ready to be starters at tackle or center, respectively.
Sam Brenner would be a good signing as he can switch from tackle to guard. He gets good push while run blocking and also helps by displaying patience when waiting for plays to develop.
Brenner is also good at pass blocking, only allowing two sacks in both his junior and senior season combined. He's had pretty good durability as well except for a scary neck injury which he suffered in 2011 but he's made a full recovery from it.
With more depth being needed at the linebacker position, Wes Horton looks to be a good pick here. His height and length instantly give him a shot at NFL success as does his gene pool. His father had a brief stint with the New England Patriots back in the '70s and he also appeared on American Gladiator.
Horton is primarily a pass-rusher and he could line up at either defensive end or outside linebacker. While his pass rush skills are impressive, his run defense skills are slightly lacking as he has some trouble with matchups against tackles or tight ends.
For his senior season, Horton got 43 tackles and five sacks en route to being listed as an All-Pac 12 Honorable Mention. The potential is there for great things from him and he could do very well learning from pass rushers like Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil.
For their final pick of the draft, the Ravens will again look for depth. This time they'll look for a third-string running back, who can serve as an insurance policy if Ray Rice or Bernard Pierce gets hurt.
Ray Graham finished with the second-most rushing yards in Pitt history, however his draft stock has plummeted thanks to multiple knee injuries over the past two seasons.
Graham is a more undersized back with lots of explosiveness. He also has some experience as a returner as well. The potential is all there with him, it really just comes down to whether or not he can get healthy and find a way to stay healthy.