The Baltimore Ravens went to the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine with a big board in place; but after conducting interviews and watching the on-field workouts, that board has changed drastically.
The Ravens’ draft needs are clear: They need a playmaking pass-catcher who can move the chains, depth along a bulkier offensive line and an athletic safety.
Head coach John Harbaugh recently stated that the Ravens would also be looking to add another running back and that the team could carry three or four on the roster in 2014.
At the combine, the Ravens did their due diligence and interviewed the top wide receivers, tight ends, offensive linemen and running backs in this years draft class.
Each team is allowed 60 formal interviews that last 15 minutes each. During the interviews, coaches and personnel assistants talk to prospects about anything from work ethic to breaking down plays and personal relationships. Many coaches believe that this is the most important aspect of the combine, giving them a unique opportunity to get to know each prospect at a personal level.
Historically, the Ravens are a team that draft value over need, trusting their research and film study. GM Ozzie Newsome and company have a lot of options with the 17th overall pick, including trading down to stockpile picks in one of the deepest drafts in years. However, with so many needs, I expect the Ravens to make a first-round selection, targeting the offensive line or a pass-catcher.
The Ravens typically assemble a big board that has 150 draftable players on it. However, with such a deep draft class this year, that board could increase to nearly 185 players.
Let’s take a look at the Ravens' top 32 players after the NFL Combine.
|1||Jadeveon Clowney||DE||South Carolina||Jr||6'6"||266|
|5||Jake Matthews||OT||Texas A&M||Sr||6'5"||308|
|8||Mike Evans||WR||Texas A&M||rSo||6'5"||231|
|10||Eric Ebron||TE||North Carolina||Jr||6'5"||250|
|14||Zack Martin||OT||Notre Dame||rSr||6'4"||308|
|15||Johnny Manziel||QB||Texas A&M||rSo||5'11"||207|
|19||Ryan Shazier||OLB||Ohio State||Jr||6'1"||237|
|20||Louis Nix III||DT||Notre Dame||rJr||6'2"||331|
|22||Odell Beckham Jr.||WR||LSU||Jr||5'11"||198|
|24||Darqueeze Dennard||CB||Michigan State||Sr||5'11"||199|
|25||Timmy Jernigan||DT||Florida State||Jr||6'2"||299|
|27||Brandin Cooks||WR||Oregon State||Jr||5'10"||189|
|31||Jace Amaro||TE||Texas Tech||Jr||6'5"||265|
The Ravens' big board is never a finished product. Board adjustments are made right up until the final pick in the draft. What makes the Ravens so successful on draft day is the notion of drafting value over need. However, this is a delicate process. If Teddy Bridgewater is available at pick No. 17, the Ravens will not pick him, even if he is the highest-rated player on their board. If this were to happen, the Ravens brass would explore all options, including either trading the pick or adjusting their board.
Let's take a look at players who provide excellent value for the Ravens if they are available at the 17th pick.
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Evans had one of the best combines of any player invited. He proved he was fast enough, running a 4.5 40-yard dash, and displayed great hands in all drills. Evans is a mismatch nightmare and would be an excellent complement to Torrey Smith.
Evans not only provides great value, but also fills a huge need at wide receiver. if he is available at 17, expect the Ravens to sprint to the podium.
Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
What makes Martin a unique prospect is his versatility. Martin can play multiple positions on the offensive front and can come in and contribute immediately. Depending on the health of Kelechi Osemele, who is coming off season-ending back surgery, Martin can play right tackle or left guard.
Martin gave up only one sack in his final two seasons at Notre Dame, and while he doesn't possess ideal length, he is one of the most NFL-ready linemen in the draft.
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Ebron is the unanimous top tight end in the 2014 draft class. After running a 4.6 40-yard dash, second fastest among tight ends, Ebron solidified himself as a top-20 pick. Grabbing the top TE in the draft would provide tremendous value to the Ravens with the 17th pick.
The Ravens signed tight end Dennis Pitta to a long-term contract this offseason, as reported by Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun, and pairing him with the explosive Ebron would provide QB Joe Flacco with enough weapons to replicate the 2012 season.
The Big Board above is based upon my own film study, research and media reports. For more Ravens draft information, you can follow me on twitter @Josh_Aronson8