Going into the 2009 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens are in need of a big play wide receiver, a young tight end, a linebacker, and a kicker. However, the Ravens also need a great defensive end who can succeed Trevor Pryce when he hits free agency after the 2009-10 NFL season.
The Ravens have six picks this year, one in rounds one, two, three, four, five, and six. The Ravens are rumored to have offered tight end Todd Heap and a first round draft pick to the Arizona Cardinals for disgruntled wide receiver Anquan Boldin. If the Ravens are able to pull the trigger on this deal, they'd only have five picks, but would take care of their wide receiver need accordingly.
The Ravens will also likely take care of their offensive line, defensive end, linebacker, and kicker needs sometime later in the draft. In the second round, the Ravens should take Larry English, the defensive end out of Northern Illinois.
English, 6'3", 255, has seen his stock fall. Before the Combine process, he was seen as a guy who would be picked in the late 20s, and the Atlanta Falcons at 24 seemed to be the most likely destination for him. However, his lack of elite speed and size that isn't ideal allowed him to drop all the way to the second round.
In 2008, as a senior for NIU, he had 37 tackles, 16 for loss, and eight sacks. English's statistical production has dipped each year, as he had 12 sacks in 2006, followed by 10.5 in 2007 and eight last season. However, that is due to the double teams linemen have been putting on him.
If the Ravens don't trade for Boldin, I'd very much welcome getting English in the first round.
The team should be excited about the prospect of adding English. He's a high-energy guy with physicality and aggressiveness that make him perfect for the Ravens' defensive scheme.
English may not see time immediately, but he will benefit from the tutelage of Trevor Pryce, the 12-year veteran who has 83.5 career sacks. English may not be big enough to play defensive end in the Ravens' 3-4 scheme, but guys like Ray Lewis, Bart Scott, and Jameel McClain were considered "too small" to play linebacker in the NFL.
While English played defensive end in college, he could be a Terrell Suggs-like "hybrid" guy, a defensive end in college who could make the transition to outside linebacker.
I wouldn't even mind if the Ravens traded up in the second round to get English. If Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome feels English is the best player available in the first round, barring a Boldin trade, I wouldn't mind getting him at 26.
He draws comparisons to Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley. They both played defensive end in college and are a similar size.
Like Woodley, I think English will have to play outside linebacker in the pros. Many are saying Brandon Pettigrew is atop the Ravens' draft board for a first round pick, but English could be a guy waiting in the wings during the second round.
English could also learn from Terrell Suggs, who is one of the premier pass rushers in all of football. Pettigrew would be an ideal selection, but I'm not sure he'll be available at 26, and the Ravens shouldn't draft Darrius Heyward-Bey, Hakeem Nicks, or Kenny Britt if they're available at 26 just because they are receivers.
The Ravens have a habit of always taking the best player available. If Pettigrew is available when the Ravens pick in the first or second round, I'd take him in a heartbeat.
English has an undeniable ability to find the quarterback, sack him, and sometimes force a fumble. The Ravens can already do that incredibly well, and you can't have too much defense.
English possesses rare athleticism, has long arms for a guy his size, has lots of good pass rushing moves, and has extremely good instincts.
Some draft experts call him a tweener who is an "overrated" prospect. I'm not a subscriber to that, because if he gets drafted by the Ravens, great vets like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Trevor Pryce can turn him into an All-Pro.
According to WNST's Drew Forrester, English is on the Ravens' big board, and I'm sure if he falls to the Ravens in the first or second round, the Ravens will not hesitate to grab him.
The Ravens need some youth on the defensive line. Pryce and Justin Bannan can still play, but aren't as durable as you would like.
In addition, Pryce is 34 years old and Bannan is 30. The Ravens are seeking youth on the line, and while Haloti Ngata is one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL at 25, his surroundings are aging.
It'd be perfect to add a guy like English, who would provide some versatility and youth on the line and could even fill Bart Scott's presence next season. English certainly has talent, and he is rated fifth of all the defensive ends in this year's draft, impressive for a class that also features Brian Orakpo, Everette Brown, Aaron Maybin, Tyson Jackson, Robert Ayers, and Michael Johnson.
English may not fit in immediately as a defensive end, but he could fill Bart Scott's role as a pass rushing outside linebacker.
When I look at English's weaknesses, none of them seem like real legitimate football reasons. His main weakness is his height and timed speed, but he showed great speed at Pro Day and has ideal size for a pass rushing outside linebacker. Other weaknesses he possesses include durability, while he has played 39 games the last three games.
Other scouts are nervous about the fact that he didn't play against top-notch competition. However, he completely dominated Iowa in 2007, compiling five sacks. I consider Iowa to be top-notch competition.
English would make us that much stronger.