On Saturday at 4:00 PM, the 2009 NFL Draft will take place in New York City. Their are some interesting possibilites for multiple teams, one of which being the Baltimore Ravens. After two months of team officials spending countless hours watching tape and evaluating players, it is beginning to become clear who the Ravens will select. At least, it is becoming clear that the Ravens will choose one of three players.
Right now, the Ravens are in hot pursuit of three guys: USC linebacker Rey Maualuga (pictured), Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew and UNC wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. The Ravens never have drafted by need, always by best player available. Right now, the Ravens are purely just looking for depth. They aren't looking for the franchise quarterback, the explosive running back or the speedy defensive back. They have all that. The Ravens should be targeting, however, a linebacker to replace the departed Bart Scott, and a big play wide receiver/tight end to benefit the quarterback of the future, Joe Flacco.
Brandon Pettigrew, tight end, Oklahoma State: If I had to make a Ravens mock draft right now, I'd say Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew would be the guy the Ravens drafted with the 26th overall pick. The Ravens may even trade up to get Pettigrew, as he fits Baltimore's offense perfectly. He has a mean streak, can block and even make plays down the field, which would be ideal for Flacco. At 6'5", 263, Pettigrew is a big tight end, and a physical specimen. With aging tight ends Todd Heap and L.J. Smith aging, the Ravens need that franchise tight end. Pettigrew describes that, in my mind. Last year, an injury limited him to just ten games, thus only 42 receptions for 472 yards and no touchdowns. However, Pettigrew was in an Oklahoma State offense that rarely passed the ball, and when it did, the ball was bound to end up in wide receiver Dez Bryant's hands, not Pettigrew's.
In those ten games, he averaged four catches for 47 yards, certainly good for an NFL tight end. In an NFL season, he'd catch 67 passes for 755 yards, which is bound to increase knowing the up-and-coming passing attack the Ravens have. Pettigrew is, without a doubt, the best tight end in this draft. He has superior blocking, and is even like a third offensive tackle on running plays. During Senior Bowl practices, he was able to handle California outside linebacker Zack Follett with ease. Pettigrew does have his flaws. He isn't very fast (4.85 40-yard dash), but he showed during the season he can separate, and create a big target for quarterbacks. He has had some brushes with the law, and if he can clean himself up, he could be a key component in the Ravens offense for years to come.
Rey Maualuga, linebacker, USC: You wouldn't think the Ravens would go with a linebacker with their first pick. After all, the Ravens have such a dominant run defense, led by legendary 'backer Ray Lewis. However, former Raven inside linebacker Bart Scott fled the team and signed a six year, $48M contract with the New York Jets. While the team has some options at the position, like Tavares Gooden, Jameel McClain and Brendon Ayanbadejo, it would be nice to add a dominant, hard hitting linebacker like Maualuga. Maualuga, at 6'1", 249, has identical size to Lewis. Not only is Maualuga an attractive option in my eyes, Ravens scouts like him. Just ask Eric DeCosta. "He's a train wreck," DeCosta adds. "Whatever he hits gets blown up. We like him a lot."
Maualuga may not rack up incredible tackle amounts, but that's a good thing. Running backs are scared to run at him. As a senior in 2008, he racked up 79 tackles for a dominant USC run defense. In 2006, 2007 AND 2008, Maualuga was first team All Pac-10 and even won Rose Bowl Defensive MVP in a 38-24 win over Penn State. Rey, like Brandon Pettigrew, has had a run in with the law. He is known for his reckless partying around campus, but that isn't too much to worry about. Not only will Lewis set him straight, he partied, and that's what all college kids do.
Hakeem Nicks, wide receiver, UNC: At 6'1", 212 pounds, Hakeem Nicks has ideal size for an NFL wide receiver. At the very least, he's an ideal college receiver. As a junior in 2008, he caught 68 passes, gaining 1,222 yards and 12 touchdowns. Nicks is high on the Ravens board, higher than any wide receiver, even Darrius Heyward-Bey and Percy Harvin, both guys who most think are better then Nicks. However, during a Pre Draft Luncheon, Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz hinted that Nicks won't be the pick, saying:
"They’re experienced, the older guys, and they’re going to bring in that experience from the college level, the reps, the game action. Specifically with [Darrius] Heyward-Bey and [Hakeem] Nicks – they all bring different things to the table. One guy may be bigger, body-underneath guy, the other may be the vertical presence, and I think everyone’s seen NFL Network and watched Heyward-Bey run his 40 – he’s explosive, vertical. Again, they’re all juniors, so they’re probably going to need some polishing and development more so than some of the senior class.”
Now maybe the Ravens are willing to wait for a guy like Heyward-Bey or Nicks to develop. However, the Ravens want a guy who can come in and make an impact. That would probably suit Maualuga or Pettigrew best, both guys who played all four years in college. Nicks could very well be one of the best prospects in this draft, and maybe he won't need to be polished. However, it appears as if the Ravens are looking at Nicks as a fallback plan.
Kenny Britt, wide receiver, Rutgers: Rutgers receiver Kenny Britt, like Nicks, had a very productive college career. In two of three seasons, he had at least 1,200 yards and ten touchdowns. The 6'3", 218 pound wide receiver could be a solid option at 26. He's tall, pretty fast for his size, can break tackles very well and is a great competitor. However, Britt, like Nicks, is just a junior, and the Ravens appear more willing to draft a guy who is more polished in his game and can make an impact right away as a rookie. It's the reason the Ravens don't typically chase underclassmen.
Britt, obviously, isn't the likely option in the first round. If anything, he's plan C for right now or a guy who the Ravens could trade up to get in the second round. Britt is productive, but it's a bit misleading. He was the only true threat in the Rutgers passing game, so quarterback Mike Teel went to him constantly, so he's bound to put up 87-1,371-7. Britt also has character concerns, as he is a bit cocky, and sometimes drops easy passes. That could improve over time, as he is due to mature a little bit, as he is entering the NFL. Also, he'll get easy passes from Flacco that are near impossible to drop. If anything, at this point, he's a guy that the Ravens will take in the second round if he's there.
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