5 Directions the Ravens Could Go in the 1st Round of the 2013 NFL Draft
This past week, the Baltimore Ravens signed the recently released linebacker Rolando McClain to a one-year deal. For most of the offseason, it was expected that the Ravens would draft a middle linebacker to replace Ray Lewis, but those ideas could soon be changing.
Here are the five most likely directions the Ravens could go in next week's draft.
1. Wide Receiver
There seems to be no doubt that the Ravens need to go after a wideout somewhere in this draft. Following the trade of Anquan Boldin to the 49ers, the Ravens' depth chart looks somewhat thin at wide receiver.
They should consider somebody who is similar to Boldin's size and ability to get the jump ball. Boldin wasn't the fastest wide receiver on the Ravens last season, but his big size and strength made him one of Flacco's favorite targets in 2012.
The Ravens will likely have an opportunity to see a wide receiver with similar traits fall to them at pick No. 32. Receiver prospects like Robert Woods, Keenan Allen and DeAndre Hopkins all possess height and size similar to Boldin, and are projected to possibly fall within the Ravens' draft range.
Baltimore has 12 picks this year, making the idea of them trading up in the draft a possibility. They likely won't be able to move up to a top 10 or 15 pick, but they might be able to put together a package to select a descent wideout if they see it necessary to do so.
2. Free Safety
Yes, the Ravens signed free safety Michael Huff to a three-year deal just a few weeks ago. The problem for the Ravens in the first round is that some of their bigger needs may not be available early enough for them.
Because of this, the Ravens could elect to pick a free safety with their No. 1 selection.
Kenny Vaccaro is widely considered to be the best free safety in the draft, and is one of two free safeties projected to possibly be a first-round pick.
Drafting Vaccaro would give the Ravens a young talent to put behind Michael Huff, with the possibility of him even becoming a starter in the near future.
3. Strong Safety
The Ravens currently only have one strong safety on their roster in veteran James Ihedigbo. Because of the lack of depth the Ravens have at the position, it is not improbable to think they could reach on one, or trade up to select one.
I think it's highly unlikely that Baltimore does this. The Ravens liked Ihedigbo enough after last season to bring him back in 2013. If they decide to draft a strong safety, it will probably be in the later rounds as it is not one of their most pressing needs.
As the draft stands right now, it looks as though safety Matt Elam is the only strong safety expected to go in the first round. Other teams in the draft will most likely use their first-round pick on Elam before he falls to the Ravens. While I could see Baltimore drafting Elam if he does become available, don't expect it to happen.
4. Middle Linebacker
In a draft class that is deep at the linebacker position, the Ravens could still select a middle linebacker. Baltimore has a lesser need at linebacker with the signing of Rolando McClain and the expected return of Jameel McClain, but they could still attempt to draft a middle linebacker should one fall to them.
Drafting a middle linebacker would be added insurance in case McClain doesn't work out as the team hopes. Guys like Manti Te'o and Kevin Minter have both been linked as possible picks for Baltimore through mock drafts.
Minter and Te'o are both highly prized players in the draft, so there is the likelihood that both these players could be off the board long before the Ravens hear their name called. If one of these players is available at pick No. 32, don't be surprised to see the Birds pull the trigger.
5. Left Tackle
At the moment, the Ravens have a glaring need at left tackle. Bryant McKinnie played a key role for the Ravens in their Super Bowl run, protecting Flacco's blind side throughout the postseason, but now he's a free agent. Following the signing of Flacco's six-year, $120.6 milion deal, the Ravens could look to the draft to protect their high-price quarterback.
No, the Ravens will not get a chance at highly touted prospects like Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher or Lane Johnson. The only projected left tackle who appears likely to be available by the final pick is Terron Armstead from Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Armstead has not garnered much, if any talk of being a first-round pick. Because of this, it appears highly unlikely that the Ravens would select a left tackle in the first round.
But if there is one thing we have learned in past drafts, it's that anything is possible.