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Baltimore Ravens 2014 Mock Draft: Round-by-Round Best-Case Scenarios

Shehan PeirisCorrespondent IIIJanuary 7, 2014

Baltimore Ravens 2014 Mock Draft: Round-by-Round Best-Case Scenarios

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    Every Baltimore Ravens fan should be eagerly awaiting the 2014 NFL draft for two reasons. Firstly, it’s a chance to address some of the roster’s biggest holes with premium young talent. Secondly, general manager Ozzie Newsome is one of the shrewdest evaluators of talent in the business. Here’s an early look at some of the best-case scenarios that would have Baltimore fans grinning from ear to ear on draft day.

    Before we get to the players, we must first discuss the picks. Newsome traded away the Ravens’ fourth- and fifth-round picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for Eugene Monroe. Similarly, Baltimore doesn’t own its seventh-round pick, which was sent to the Indianapolis Colts for A.Q. Shipley.

    That leaves the Ravens with guaranteed picks in Rounds 1, 2, 3 and 6. That’s a fairly underwhelming selection of picks, but Baltimore is likely to get at least four more draft picks.

    First, the Miami Dolphins traded a late-round pick to Baltimore for the services of Bryant McKinnie.

    Additionally, the Ravens should receive three compensatory draft picks for the unrestricted free agents that they lost last summer (Dannell Ellerbe, Cary Williams and Paul Kruger. Since Ed Reed was cut by the Houston Texans, Baltimore doesn’t get a pick for losing him).

    We’re still not completely sure where those compensatory picks will fall, and for that reason, this mock draft will go through each of the seven rounds to cover all the bases.

    To be clear, this mock draft breaks down the best-case scenarios. Some of these players won’t be on the board by the time the Ravens are on the clock. There are, however, situations where these players would slide down draft boards and fall right into Baltimore’s lap.

    Now, let’s get down to business.

Round 1: Cyrus Kouandjio or Marqise Lee

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    Baltimore’s biggest needs are at wide receiver and tackle. There is enough depth at both positions for the Ravens to snag a starter in Round 2, so their first-round pick will likely come down to which player is higher on their draft board and whether there was a run on tackles or receivers before they’re on the clock.

    Whichever path Newsome chooses, he’ll get a starter in each round.

Round 1, Option 1: Cyrus Kouandjio (OT), Alabama

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    We all know Newsome loves his Alabama prospects, but there would be no homer bias with this pick. Cyrus Kouandjio is an absolute stud with the ability to play either tackle position.

    He excels as a run-blocker, using his athleticism and mobility to get out on the edge and pave the way for running backs. He’s obviously strong, but he’s not really a “mauler” and uses angles and proper leverage to create running lanes.

    His pass-blocking is the weaker part of his game, but “weak” is a relative term. He showed great improvement in his pass protection this year, and that upward trend will continue into the NFL.

    The Alabama product has an elite combination of size (6’6”, 310 pounds), length and athleticism to dominate in the NFL.

    He isn’t just a superb athlete, though. He consistently demonstrates brilliant technique, with quick feet and good hand placement.

    Kouandjio has everything you look for in an elite tackle prospect, but he could slide down draft boards due to a disappointing performance against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. If he falls, the Ravens should snap him up as a Day 1 starter at right tackle with the potential to be one of the best right tackles in the league.

Round 1, Option 2: Marqise Lee (WR), USC

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    There were plenty of problems in every aspect of the Ravens offense this season, but the overall lack of talent in the receiving corps was a glaring issue.

    Marlon Brown and Jacoby Jones are both excellent No. 3 options, but they struggled as secondary receivers. Torrey Smith stepped up in a big way without Anquan Boldin or Dennis Pitta in action, but even he fell off as the year went on.

    Landing a legitimate No. 1 threat would push everybody else back into their best roles and create a dangerous stable of receivers for Joe Flacco to work with.

    Marqise Lee is that No. 1 threat.

    A lot of Ravens fans want Mike Evans to be the pick here, but Lee has a higher ceiling and is a better fit for the offense.

    Lee is dynamic with the ball in his hands and is a fairly polished route-runnerand he will only improve in that department. He has elite speed, natural hands and terrific instincts which will make him a force in the NFL.

    He also has a natural feel for how to gain separation, which will be a welcome addition to the receiving corps.

    Lee had a disappointing 2013 season for the Trojans, but that was due to nagging injuries and underwhelming quarterback play. Those subpar numbers may cause him to fall all the way to the Ravens, and they would be wise to grab him.

    Outside of Sammy Watkins (who wouldn’t realistically fall this far), Lee is the best receiver on the board, and he would instantly give the Ravens a dangerous passing attack.

Round 2: Allen Robinson, Jordan Matthews or Antonio Richardson

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    In Round 2, Newsome will probably be aiming for the opposite of what he did in Round 1. If he went tackle first, he’ll be looking at the wideouts and vice versa.

    Luckily, there are plenty of attractive prospects here at both positions.

Round 2, Option 1: Allen Robinson (WR), Penn State

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    With plenty of starting-caliber wide receivers in the 2014 draft, Allen Robinson is the hardest player to get a read on. Some, like B/R’s own Matt Miller, think he is the second-best receiver in the class. Others see Robinson falling into the second round.

    One thing is clear.

    If the Ravens choose to draft a tackle in the first round and Robinson is still available in the second round, they should set a record for fastest draft pick ever made and gleefully take the former Nittany Lion.

    There is plenty to love about Robinson. He has the size (6’3”, 210 pounds) to win one-on-one battles with NFL cornerbacks, but his best assets are the two most important skills for wide receivers: hands and route running.

    Robinson thrived in head coach Bill O’Brien’s pro-style offense (which was so professional that he’ll be taking it with him to the Houston Texans) and has developed into a natural hands catcher with the ability to run crisp routes and gain separation.

    He may fall due to a lack of an elite 40-yard time, but he has all the tools to become one of the best receivers in the game and be a go-to weapon for Flacco.

Round 2, Option 2: Jordan Matthews (WR), Vanderbilt

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    Jordan Matthews is probably the more likely option to be on the board for the Ravens in the second round, and they shouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.

    Like Robinson, Matthews is a fairly big receiver at 6’3” and 205 pounds, but he doesn’t use that frame as well as Robinson does.

    Nevertheless, Matthews leaves Vanderbilt as the SEC’s all-time leading receiver despite dealing with uninspiring quarterback play.

    He’s a very good route-runner with dependable hands. Questions concerning a lack of upper-echelon measurables will probably cause him to fall into the second round, but he plays fast and has the ability to beat defenders deep or make plays in the open field and pick up yards after the catch.

    Matthews might not have the ceiling of being a dominant No. 1 receiver, but at worst, he’ll be an extremely reliable No. 2 option. A possession receiver like him would be a nice complement to a downfield threat like Torrey Smith.

Round 2, Option 3: Antonio Richardson (OT), Tennessee

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    Antonio Richardson is a little less polished than the other tackles in this draft, and for that reason he should be available in the middle of Round 2.

    He may have some growing pains in the NFL, but the size, talent and strength outweigh the risk of him not reaching his full potential.

    For starters, he’s a gigantic human being. The man nicknamed “Tiny” is anything but, standing tall at 6’6” and weighing 332 pounds. With that enormous frame, Richardson could be an absolutely dominant right tackle who would handily win his one-on-one battles with undersized defenders.

    His technique needs to be refined, but he’s shown flashes of outstanding tackle play. He has a quick first step, which allows him to drive defenders back and open up huge running lanes. The Volunteer is also more athletic than many give him credit for, especially considering his size.

    Richardson has all the physical tools to be a stud, but he needs to really hone his craft. He has a tendency to play too tall at times and needs to focus on maintaining proper pad level and advantageous leverage. Additionally, he needs to learn proper hand placement if he is to stonewall the NFL’s elite speed-rushers.

    He needs a little seasoning, but Richardson has an incredibly high ceiling and is worth the risk.

Round 3: C.J. Fiedorowicz or Dominique Easley

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    After wide receiver and tackle, the Ravens are now looking to fill out their depth chart. There are definitely opportunities for these players to start in 2014, but Baltimore has the luxury of being able to draft players with long-term development in mind.

Round 3, Option 1: C.J. Fiedorowicz (TE), Iowa

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    All three Ravens tight ends are unrestricted free agents this summer, so adding a tight end at some point in the draft will be a necessity. If Dennis Pitta isn’t re-signed, Baltimore may choose to spend one of its first two picks on an elite receiving tight end, but we’ll move forward with the assumption that Pitta sticks around.

    In that case, the Ravens could really use a blocking tight end, and C.J. Fiedorowicz is the best blocker in this class.

    He has size (6’7”, 265 pounds) that not many tight ends can match and he uses his strength to be a ferocious blocker. He’s also shown improvement as a receiver, but his blocking will immediately translate to the NFL and significantly help the Ravens.

    At worst, he’ll be an elite in-line blocker to help the running game. Baltimore can live with that.

Round 3, Option 2: Dominique Easley (DE), Florida

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    Under normal circumstances, Dominique Easley wouldn’t even be a consideration this late into the draft. He was projected to be a first-round pick, but he missed all season with a torn ACLthe second ACL tear of his college career.

    Even with the injury, he’s so talented that he will probably be on a roster by this point of the draft. There is, however, a possibility that he doesn’t perform well at the combine, which could cause teams to shy away from selecting him.

    If that’s the case, Newsome will absolutely pull the trigger.

    Easley is an explosive athlete at the line of scrimmage, and he utilizes a combination of bull rushes and speed moves to get to the quarterback. He may be at a slight size disadvantage in the NFL, but he was an excellent run-stuffer at Florida and shows great discipline while maintaining gap control and not overpursuing plays.

    It’s unlikely that Arthur Jones will be re-signed this offseason, and Easley could be a plug-and-play replacement.

Round 4: Arthur Lynch, Taylor Hart or Tre Boston

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    Arthur Lynch (TE), Georgia

    Arthur Lynch would be the next best tight end option after Fiedorowicz, and he would be a solid No. 2 tight end. He won’t be a dynamic receiver at the next level, but he showed a knack for making big catches at Georgia (for example, late in games against LSU and South Carolina).

    He isn’t as dominant a blocker as Fiedorowicz, however, so he isn’t a can’t-miss prospect.

     

    Taylor Hart (DE), Oregon

    Taylor Hart is such an impressive athlete that he very well could turn heads at the combine and be off the board already.

    If he isn’t, the Ravens should definitely consider him in the fourth round. Hart has all the physical abilities to be an absolute steal this late in the draft, but his poor technique has limited his effectiveness. Too often, his leverage is poor and he can’t consistently dominate like he should be able to.

    Hart might not be ready to step in as a contributor in 2014, but his development could really pan out for Baltimore sometime in the near future.

     

    Tre Boston (FS), UNC

    Tre Boston started his UNC career as a cornerback but thrived after making the transition to safety. The fact that he’s an inconsistent tackler may push him down draft boards, but he’s shown marked improvement in his tackling form last season.

    In addition, he displays many of the qualities you want in a free safety. He’s a rangy athlete with the speed and instincts to cover a lot of ground on the back lines of the defense. Moreover, he shows tremendous discipline in not letting receivers get behind him for big plays and reads quarterbacks’ eyes well.

    Boston may need some grooming to solidify his tackling, but he has the skills to start at free safety alongside Matt Elam in the future.

Round 5: Terrence Brooks or Ben Gardner

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    Terrence Brooks (FS), FSU

    It’s unlikely that Terrence Brooks could be a starter in 2014, but he is an exceptional athlete with the coverage skills to be a Ravens free safety eventually.

    Initially, he’ll be an effective special teams player, but his speed and instincts make him an enticing option this late in the draft.

     

    Ben Gardner (DE), Stanford

    Ben Gardner is just a very good football player. He doesn’t possess otherworldly athleticism, and he’s a little bit undersized as a 3-4 defensive end, but he understands how to use leverage and is gifted at taking on blocks and shedding them to make plays on the ball.

    He was a valuable member of a very talented Stanford defense this year, and he’ll be a rotational piece from the get-go.

Round 6: Prince Shembo or Chris Davis

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    Prince Shembo (OLB), Notre Dame

    Prince Shembo was very solid for the Fighting Irish this year, but he needs to improve significantly before becoming a starting-caliber player.

    He has the strength to push the pocket and generate some pressure on quarterbacks, but he won’t be able to overpower NFL tackles and will need to learn how to use his hands to beat linemen with speed and finesse.

    Shembo is a much more consistent run defender, but even then he can struggle to shed blocks at times. He’s an intriguing piece, but he will probably serve as a special teams player for most of his early career.

     

    Chris Davis (CB), Auburn

    Chris Davis will forever be remembered for his game-winning field-goal return to end Alabama’s hopes of a three-peat, and special teams will be his way onto an NFL roster at first.

    Davis has shown flashes in coverage and is a solid tackler with the discipline to wrap up, but he’s a long way from becoming a reliable NFL cornerback.

    His first crack at a roster spot will come on special teams, and the Ravens may consider drafting him if they have to let Jacoby Jones walk in free agency.

Round 7: Bennett Jackson or Devon Kennard

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    Devon Kennard (OLB), USC

    Devon Kennard may slide down draft boards due to his small stature and a lack of burst off the line, but he’s a solid linebacker against the run and the pass.

    At USC he showed the strength to hold his ground against bigger offensive linemen, and has an array of moves to get to the quarterback. There’s very little downside to adding Kennard to the roster, and he could develop into quite the gem.

     

    Bennett Jackson (CB), Notre Dame

    Bennett Jackson is raw, but he has a combination of size and speed that could pose problems for wide receivers if he’s able to tie it all together.

    At 6’0” and 195 pounds, Jackson has the athleticism and loose hips to be an excellent cover man, but his technique and instincts still need coaching. In the seventh round, his upside makes him worth the pick, and you can never have enough defensive backs with the ability to contribute on special teams.

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