Baltimore Ravens Mock Draft: New 7-Round Predictions After Week 1 of Free Agency
The Baltimore Ravens made a flurry of big moves in the first week of free agency, but all eyes are still focused on the draft and how general manager Ozzie Newsome will invariably manage to bring a talented crop of young talent into the organization.
Now that the Ravens have had the chance to sign some veteran players on the market, let’s take a preliminary look at how the draft could shape out for them based on the roster as it is currently constructed.
Mock drafts are the most exciting aspect of the buildup to the draft, as fans eagerly scroll through to figure out which players the analysts and writers have their team selecting. That said, it’s important to keep in mind what the mock draft really represents.
The purpose of a mock draft is to give you an idea of the most pressing needs on the roster, the type of players Baltimore is looking for and the draft projections for a number of players that are sure to be on the Ravens’ big board.
Before we get to the picks, some explanation is required. The Ravens currently only have four assured draft picks in Rounds 1 (No. 17), 2 (No. 48), 3 (No. 79) and 6 (No. 178)—not exactly an ideal situation in a draft that is exceptionally deep.
Fortunately for Ravens fans, they have the Wizard of Oz as their GM, and the team will receive compensatory picks. How many? Jamison Hensley of ESPN believes the team will receive four picks, so those picks will be added to this mock draft.
We have no idea where those picks will fall, so in this mock draft they are projected in the following draft slots: two fourth-rounders for Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe, one fifth-round pick for Cary Williams and a seventh-rounder for Ed Reed.
With the logistics out of the way and the Ravens on the clock, let’s see what their 2014 draft class looks like.
Round 1: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Vitals: 6’4”, 308 lbs, 32 7/8” arms, 29 bench press reps of 225 lbs
The Ravens no longer need to worry about their left tackle position after locking up Eugene Monroe for the next five years, but right tackle is another story. While there are a few cheap right tackle options on the free-agent market, Baltimore would be best served drafting a great, young prospect early in the draft.
With the top three tackles (Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan) likely off of the board at this point, the fourth tackle on everybody’s board is Zack Martin, and he’s the pick here.
There have been questions about arm length and his ability to play tackle in the NFL, but Martin has had no trouble with edge-rushers at any level. The former left tackle dominated opposition for the Fighting Irish, stonewalled pass-rushers at the Senior Bowl and cemented his status as one of the best tackles in the class with his showing in positional drills at the combine.
Director of the IMG Academy, where Martin is preparing for the pre-draft process, Chris Weinke has been around his share of blue-chip prospects, and he gave a glowing review of the young lineman, according to Pat Yasinskas of ESPN:
He’s one of the smarter guys I’ve been around. This kid can process information. He’s probably one of the quicker linemen I’ve been around. When you put him in a box, he’s as quick as they come and he’s powerful. He just has a great combination of quickness and power. He’s going to translate nicely, wherever they use him at the next level.
Questions about arm length are fair, but at what point do you have to let it go after he’s aced every test put in front of him? Furthermore, there is no questioning his elite technique and intelligence as an offensive lineman, so he’s certain to contribute somewhere along the line immediately.
Baltimore loves versatility in its offensive linemen, and Martin has it in spades, but he's good enough to start at right tackle from Day 1. Ozzie Newsome may have a tough time passing on Mike Evans in the unlikely event that he’s on the board, but Martin is a fine pick that will make the offensive line a strength once again.
Round 2: Jimmie Ward, FS, Northern Illinois
Vitals: 5’11”, 193 lbs
This may be the most controversial pick of the entire mock draft. Not because of the talent, but because it would mean that the Ravens opened the 2014 season with two safeties with one year of professional experience between them.
It’s certainly a dicey proposition and there are sure to be some growing pains, but it would also give the Ravens all the makings of a dominant secondary for years to come.
Matt Elam’s natural position is strong safety, and Baltimore currently lacks a starting-caliber free safety that can roam the backfield and make plays in coverage. There’s still time for Newsome to sign a free-agent safety, but for right now the Ravens need a safety in a bad way.
And despite falling to the second round, Jimmie Ward may just be the best free safety in the entire draft. He isn’t a first-round pick, due to the lack of ideal size and concerns about the level of competition he faced in the MAC.
But pop in the game film and you see a natural coverage safety with tremendous instincts and range that might make Ravens fans remember another famous ball-hawking safety.
B/R’s own draft expert Matt Miller focused on Ward in one of his weekly Scouting Notebook columns, and he was impressed with the coverage ability of the former Huskie:
Jimmie Ward stands out as a coverage safety both on film and in person. During his time at the Senior Bowl he showed smooth hips and fluid, controlled movement in space. That makes him a threat to play immediately in the NFL, even if he's used only as a nickel coverage safety or slot cornerback.
What impressed me most with Ward was his efficiency as a mover. There are few false steps and once he's keyed in on the ball, his speed and confidence allow him to showcase exceptional range.
The Seattle Seahawks showed the importance of having two great safeties in today's NFL, and drafting Jimmie Ward would give the Ravens a fearsome duo manning the last line of the Baltimore defense.
Round 3: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa
Vitals: 6’5”, 265 lbs, 25 bench press reps of 225 lbs, 4.76 40-yard dash
With Dennis Pitta and Matt Furstenburg as the tight ends on the depth chart, the position leaves a lot to be desired—especially considering that both of them are better receivers than they are blockers.
If the Ravens are truly going to improve their ground game, they need to add a tight end that takes pride in his blocking.
Meet C.J. Fiedorowicz.
For starters, the man is a giant and will have no trouble adjusting to the physicality of the big leagues. More importantly, the Ravens know exactly what they’re getting from the Iowa Hawkeye—as described by Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun:
Iowa's imposing C.J. Fiedorowicz is playing in the Senior Bowl and has impressed NFL scouts and coaches this week with his blend of size and mobility. He's a throwback to the days when tight ends were mauling blockers who could also provide a downfield threat when called upon.
Fiedorowicz’s presence would allow Pitta to line up in the slot and out wide—where he excels—and give offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak a second tight end to play with.
Moreover, Fiedorowicz has been showing teams during the pre-draft process that he’s a better receiver than was shown at Iowa—where he was mostly used as an in-line blocker—and that he’s a better athlete, as he led all tight ends in the three-cone drill and short shuttle.
He may be somewhat limited in terms of upside, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when he already gives you exactly what you need.
Round 4: Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming
Vitals: 5’9”, 193 lbs, 4.48 40-yard dash
Gasp! There’s no way Baltimore waits all the way until the fourth round to add a receiver, right?! Before you troll the comments section, remember two things.
Firstly, this receiver class is so deep that this is really a third-round pick in most other drafts. Secondly, the Ravens receiving corps isn’t as putrid as you remember from the season.
Sure, it’s hard to know exactly what newly-acquired Steve Smith will give you, but the group of Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown actually looks pretty promising. You can throw Dennis Pitta’s name in there, too, since he’s pretty much exclusively a receiver anyway.
To be clear, it’s likely that the Ravens address one of their more pressing areas of need in free agency, allowing them to confidently splurge on another promising weapon earlier in the draft, but as the roster is currently built, they cannot afford to select a receiver in the early rounds.
Considering where this pick falls, they’re actually getting quite the steal in Robert Herron.
With his short stature, Herron is best suited to be a slot receiver at the next level, but he has elite speed and natural hands which more than compensate for his height.
Herron is also a diverse route-runner with the ability to be used on bubble screens, fades and everything in between.
Joe Flacco has never had a true slot receiver in the mold of Wes Welker, but Herron would give him that kind of weapon that would give the signal-caller a diverse array of targets.
Round 4: Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech
Vitals: 6’0”, 213 lbs, 4.59 40-yard dash
This is a somewhat risky pick for Baltimore because of Antone Exum’s inconsistency and durability concerns. But they should take a chance on the Virginia Tech product because the upside is enticing.
Exum has nice size and versatility after playing both safety and cornerback for the Hokies, but injuries are the main concern, as detailed by Mike Huguenin of NFL.com:
Exum's draft stock has taken a big hit because of the injuries. At one time, he was seen as a potential first-round pick; now he looks more like a mid-round pick. Still, when healthy in 2012, he was one of the most physical corners in the nation. Exum doesn't have elite speed, but he is fast enough to be effective in press coverage. At times, he was too aggressive in 2012; the flipside is that his aggressiveness was one reason he was so effective.
If Exum is back to his old self, he could be a great value pick in the middle rounds.
With his press coverage ability, above-average athleticism and playmaking ball skills, Exum could be a bargain for the Ravens that could step in as the third corner from Day 1—if he’s healthy.
Baltimore may opt to go for a safer route when they draft a cornerback, but Exum has more upside than any of the mid-round prospects.
Round 5: Will Clarke, DE, West Virginia
Vitals: 6’6”, 271 lbs, 34 5/8” arms, 22 bench press reps of 225 lbs, 32” vertical jump
The Ravens may be content to replace Art Jones with a combination of DeAngelo Tyson, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Brandon Williams and Pernell McPhee, if necessary, but that doesn’t mean they should avoid adding a big body to groom along the defensive line.
And Will Clarke is certainly that.
The Mountaineer needs to bulk up to survive as a 3-4 defensive end, but Clarke is capable of adding another 25-35 pounds of bulk to this long frame.
With long arms and an understanding of leverage, Clarke already has an innate knack for shedding blocks in the run game and making plays in the backfield.
He’s also a fairly good athlete with the burst to bull rush offensive linemen and close quickly on the ball-carrier.
Unfortunately, he may never develop into a consistent pass-rushing threat, but the Ravens will gladly take a gigantic body that can stuff the run consistently. Clarke has the ability to possibly contribute to the D-line rotation in 2014, but he has the potential to mature into a very good starter.
Round 6: Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB, Coastal Carolina
Vitals: 6’0”, 229 lbs, 4.58 40-yard dash, 6.88-second 3-cone drill
With Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce atop the running back depth chart, it’s unlikely that the Ravens spend anything but a Day 3 pick on the position, especially given the many RB gems that have been uncovered in the later rounds.
Lorenzo Taliaferro is one of those gems, and he’ll add another dimension to the Baltimore rushing attack—mostly because of his imposing frame.
At 229 pounds, the Coastal Carolina product is hard to bring down, but he has the ability to be a three-down back in future because of his ability to catch the ball and pass protect. Ron Clements of The Sun News summed up the back’s strengths well:
Taliaferro uses his hands as a puncher in pass protection. He bends well, but admits he could be more flexible. He also thinks he needs to work on developing better lateral speed. But his true strength is as a power runner and he loves “getting the tough yards” after contact.
“Getting the tough yards” was an area where Baltimore struggled last season. That was partially due to offensive line play, but it was also because they lacked a bruising back with the ability to fall forward and convert short-yardage situations.
Taliaferro is that type of back, and he has plenty of upside to develop into a starting-caliber back for when Baltimore eventually moves on from Ray Rice.
Round 7: Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
Vitals: 5’11”, 177 lbs
This late in the draft, you’ve done a great job if you can select a player that will significantly contribute to your team. Aaron Colvin will definitely do that—only a year late.
The Sooner was impressing in Senior Bowl practices before tearing his ACL, which will likely make him a candidate for IR in his first professional season.
Baltimore showed they didn’t mind waiting for high-caliber talent last year when they draft Kapron Lewis-Moore, and Colvin falls into the same category.
Colvin has all the physical tools to be a starting cornerback one day, but he should be a solid No. 3, at the very least, if he can stay healthy.
The Oklahoma product may go off of the board earlier than this, but if he’s around when the Ravens pick, he’s a better value than any of the other players they could select in that range.
Shehan Peiris is B/R's Lead Featured Columnist covering the Baltimore Ravens and a co-host of Ravens Central Radio, a weekly podcast on the Pro Football Central radio network that focuses on all things Ravens-related. For breaking news, roster evaluation, draft analysis and links to the latest episodes of Ravens Central Radio, follow me on Twitter: