Even though the NFL Draft is only two weeks away, it's still unclear as to which player the Baltimore Ravens are ideally looking to draft with the 32nd overall pick. They still have needs at middle linebacker, left tackle, wide receiver and both safety positions.
Ravens fans also need to remember that Ozzie Newsome believes in taking the best player available, and also at the right time. Trades are not an uncommon thing to see in Baltimore in the draft; in fact, in two of the last three seasons they traded out of the first round altogether.
Although that could still happen this season, it's not something that looks to be a necessity. The Ravens currently have 12 picks and it's real doubtful that all 12 end up making the roster. Adding more picks at this point just wouldn't seem to make sense.
Assuming the Ravens pick at 32, it's a good time to speculate as who the final first round pick of the 2013 NFL draft will be. There are a lot of contenders right now and even mock draft writers are a little confused as to who the Ravens will pick.
Here's a look at three of the top contenders to become the Ravens' next player and how each of these players would fit in with the team.
Matt Elam, FS, Florida
Out of all the names that have been connected with the Ravens, Matt Elam is probably the one getting the most buzz at this time. Rated as the second-best safety in the draft, Elam would fill a need for the Ravens by likely replacing Bernard Pollard at strong safety.
Elam's game actually is fairly close to Pollard's as well. He's a violent hitter who is known for making big hits and elevating his play in close games.
Although he's undersized, Elam's intensity and ability to do the fundamental stuff well serves in his favor. Unlike Ed Reed, Elam does not often miss tackles and it certainly doesn't hurt his cause that he played well during his two years as a starter in the brutal conference that is the SEC.
Part of the reason Elam has become so popular as a Ravens pick is the recent signing of Rolando McClain, a top-10 pick just three years ago. That makes the need at middle linebacker less pressing and turns the attention back to a depleted secondary that won't have three of its four starters from last season.
The safety class is deep so the Ravens could decide they like someone else better than Elam. Right now James Ihedigbo is the projected starter at strong safety and while he's a solid player, its uncertain if he's good enough to be a full-time starter. Drafting Elam would put Ihedigbo on notice for a training camp battle to determine the starter.
Kevin Minter, MLB, LSU
The Ravens' one-year deal with McClain doesn't necessarily guarantee that he will be starting next season. The Oakland Raiders were in the process of phasing him out of a starting position last season. If he plays this poorly next season, odds are high the Ravens won't want him around any longer.
So despite the McClain acquisition, there's still a decent chance of seeing a middle linebacker come to Baltimore in the first round. Jameel McClain is still recovering from a spinal cord contusion, which could potentially impact his status as a starter if the recovery goes poorly.
Let's not forget the Ravens' tendency to try to draft the best player available. And if that player is deemed to be Kevin Minter, he's definitely someone they could get at No. 32 or even trade up for.
Minter could bolster a Ravens' run defense that had the worst season in franchise history last year, allowing 1,965 total rush yards and 3.99 yards per carry. He's a solid run-stopper who plays with aggressiveness and makes great tackles.
The main concern with Minter is his difficulty with coverage skills and he also has difficulty anticipating the play. This could ultimately delegate him to a role as two-down linebacker, although if the two McClains work out, the Ravens could live with that. Improving the run defense is a crucial task this offseason and since Minter is so good at that, it may be worth looking past his pass coverage defects.
Manti Te'o, MLB, Notre Dame
As the most popular defensive prospect in this year's draft, it's going to be a major point of interest for the general public which team ends up with Manti Te'o. So, how fitting would it be for day one of the draft to end with Te'o holding a Ravens jersey.
Yes, there's all the negativity surrounding Te'o such as his poor coverage skills and his disappointing combine performance. However, he ran a 4.71 40-yard dash at Notre Dame, which was a huge improvement from his 4.81 at the combine.
Drafting Te'o will also guarantee a bit of a circus atmosphere thanks to the fake girlfriend scandal. This makes him a polarizing figure and the Ravens would need to keep a strong locker room in order to not let any Te'o controversy bring the team apart.
Their locker room may be strong enough to still handle someone like Te'o. It also helps that Te'o is a vocal leader with great play recognition. He also is a aware run-stopper that could help with Ravens' run defense problems.
Te'o still does struggle with pass coverage, though not to the extent that Minter does. He will need to develop the speed to stick with tight ends and receivers as well as work on not being faked by play-action plays.
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