Breaking Down the Most Important Pro Days for Baltimore Ravens
As the Baltimore Ravens build their 2014 NFL draft big board, they have one more stage of the evaluation process to complete: pro days. The pro day is a chance for prospects to complete the events from the NFL Scouting Combine on their own turf—literally.
Ultimately, game film will be the biggest component of a prospect’s draft grade, but the pro day will be a chance for the Ravens scouting personnel to evaluate these prospects as they go through drills. Some of the big pro days have already happened (like Alabama and Florida State), but plenty more will come to pass in the coming weeks.
These are the dates that the Ravens scouting staff will have circled on their calendars, as well as a quick breakdown of the prospects they will be focused on.
Note: For a list of the notable pro days, click here.
March 20: Notre Dame
Zack Martin, OT (Projected Round: 1)
Zack Martin is in play for the Ravens' first-round pick, and they will have to consider him regardless of what they do in free agency. As of right now, he’s a candidate to step into Michael Oher’s shoes at right tackle, but Martin is so versatile and good that he can play guard too—and maybe even center.
The biggest questions he has to answer are about his size and arm length, which have caused some scouts to project him to guard at the next level. At every stage of the evaluation process, however, he’s handled edge-rushers with ease.
At his pro day, he’ll have another chance to impress scouts with his footwork and technique and prove that he belongs at tackle.
Louis Nix III, DT (Projected Round: 1-2)
Louis Nix III is behind Aaron Donald and Timmy Jernigan on most scouts’ big boards when it comes to the defensive tackle position, and he’ll probably go off the board in between the Ravens' first- and second-round picks.
With the strength to go with a gigantic 331-pound frame, Nix has the potential to be a disruptive force on the defensive line. He’s probably best suited to be a nose tackle, but he’s scheme-versatile and would be a run-stuffing defensive end to replace Arthur Jones on the roster.
Stephon Tuitt, DE (Projected Round: 2)
The Ravens will be paying more attention to Stephon Tuitt than the other defensive linemen for a couple of reasons. For starters, he’s a better fit at defensive end, but he also could fall down draft boards due to an underwhelming 2013 season.
With long arms and a tall 6’5” frame, he can hold his own at the point of attack and be a dominant defensive lineman in the pros. At his pro day, he’ll have to prove his work ethic and conditioning, but he could be on the board in the second round, where he would be a great value pick.
Troy Niklas, TE (Projected Round: 2-3)
The Ravens need another tight end to back up (or share the field with) Dennis Pitta, and Troy Niklas will be submitting his application for the job on March 20. He’ll need some coaching, but he already has an intriguing combination of size (6'6", 270 lbs), receiving skills and blocking ability to be a fine No. 2 tight end with the potential to grow into so much more.
March 24: Iowa
C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE (Projected Round: 3-4)
There will be other players who are worth watching at the Iowa pro day (like linebacker Christian Kirksey), but most of the Baltimore scouts will be focused on the big tight end, C.J. Fiedorowicz.
The most important criteria of the second tight end that the Ravens employ has to be blocking ability, since Dennis Pitta is exclusively a receiver, and Fiedorowicz is the best blocking tight end in the draft class.
In addition, he has shown his talents as a pass-catcher during this predraft process. Here’s what he said after the Senior Bowl, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun: "I think I proved to some of the coaches that I can be a guy who can block in-line but also stretch the field. I think that might separate me from some of the other tight ends here. A lot of tight ends in the NFL are either blocking tight ends or receiving tight end."
He’ll never be a tremendous receiver, but he’s more than serviceable in the red zone and can dominate as an in-line blocker.
March 25: North Carolina
Eric Ebron, TE (Projected Round: 1)
Eric Ebron has been a trendy pick for the Ravens in countless mock drafts, and while mock drafts aren’t always the most accurate predictors, he could end up in Baltimore. The Ravens already met with him at the combine, and he has scheduled another visit to Baltimore, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun.
Unlike the other tight ends who were already discussed, Ebron will be an explosive tight end in the passing game. His dynamic speed and ability to get up the field would complement Pitta’s intermediate work well, and Gary Kubiak would be thrilled with two immensely talented tight ends to play with.
The knock on Ebron is that he’s not a polished blocker just yet, and that’s what he’ll have to disprove at his pro day. With a renewed focus on fixing the running game, it’s unlikely that the Ravens would spend a first-round pick on Ebron if they’re not sold on his blocking ability.
April 9: LSU
Odell Beckham Jr., WR (Projected Round: 1-2)
Even though the Ravens signed veteran wide receiver Steve Smith, they could still use another playmaker on the outside, and that’s exactly what Odell Beckham Jr. is.
He has top-end speed and is dangerous in open space, making him a nightmare to cover after the catch. In addition, he also has the ability to go up and high-point the ball well—although he can struggle when the coverage is tight.
He’ll help his case to be drafted in the first round by demonstrating advanced route-running technique, but he’s probably a reach at pick No. 17 and will be long gone when the Ravens are picking in the second round.
Jarvis Landry, WR (Projected Round: 2-3)
Jarvis Landry reminds me of Anquan Boldin in his ability to make contested catches look easy. He doesn’t have upper-level athleticism, but he somehow manages to outmuscle defensive backs to come down with 50-50 balls.
He hurt his draft stock at the combine by running a 4.77 40-yard dash, per NFL.com, which may push him all the way into the third round—where the Ravens would set a world record for the fastest pick made by drafting him.
He can lift himself into the second-round conversation with a nice 40-yard time at his pro day, but there will still be concerns about whether he can make the same contested catches against more athletic NFL cornerbacks.
April 19: Virginia Tech
Kyle Fuller, CB/S (Projected Round: 1-3)
The Ravens won’t have to go far for this pro day, and there are two defensive prospects who will catch their eye. The first is Kyle Fuller, who has impressed in the predraft process and is helping his stock a great deal.
He looked more fluid in coverage at the combine than he does on film, so scouts will be eagerly watching to see how he performs at his pro day. Fuller is also a solid tackler and boasts good instincts for the position.
He’s probably going to go off the board too early for the Ravens’ liking, but if he slips, he would win the No. 3 cornerback job with the skill set to become a starter in a couple of years.
Antone Exum, CB/S (Projected Round: 4-6)
Antone Exum is more likely to end up as a Raven because he’ll be a late-round pick. He’s a big, physical corner, but some scouts feel that he’s best suited to play safety in the NFL instead of cornerback. He played both positions for the Hokies, and that versatility might appeal to the Ravens.
Exum has all the physical tools to be a bargain if they get him in the fifth round, but he’ll need to prove that his injury woes are behind him.
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