Who the Experts Are Predicting to Baltimore Ravens in 1st Round of the NFL Draft

Shehan Peiris@@shehan_peiris_Correspondent IIIApril 8, 2014

Who the Experts Are Predicting to Baltimore Ravens in 1st Round of the NFL Draft

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    Mock drafts come in all shapes and sizes, but they all share one thing in common—for yours truly, at least. The first thing I do when I get to a new mock draft is scroll down to pick No. 17 to see who the Baltimore Ravens would draft on this hypothetical draft day. If you’re still reading, you’re probably the same way, so I’m saving your fingers the trouble by bringing them all to you in this one slideshow.

    This roundup consolidates the opinions of some of the most respected draft experts in the business from a number of different outlets. Here’s the lineup:

    • ESPN: Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay
    • CBS Sports: Rob Rang and Dane Brugler
    • NFL media: Bucky Brooks and Daniel Jeremiah
    • Sports Illustrated: Doug Farrar
    • Bleacher Report: Matt Miller

    Every pick you’re about to see is from each analyst’s most recent mock draft (with links thrown in for good measure for you to see how it all unfolded), but I’ll also go through the “Toughest Player to Pass On” in each scenario and how good the pick would be for the Ravens.

Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

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    Rob Rang, CBS Sports, Apr. 7

    It would be a surprise if Taylor Lewan were on the board at pick No. 17, but the result would have Ozzie Newsome and every Raven fan grinning from ear to ear.

    Off-field concerns are the only negative aspect of Lewan’s resume and are the reason for his slide in this mock draft, as Rob Rang calls him “a top 10 talent, whose propensity for over-aggression on and off the field could result in a bit of a slide.”

    After a phenomenal NFL Scouting Combine, Lewan showed he is arguably the best athlete of the offensive tackles—leading his position in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump and three-cone drill, according to NFL.com.

    The Ravens like to take the best player available, and that would certainly be Lewan in almost any realistic draft configuration considering the fact that he may have been the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft.

    Not only is offensive tackle a glaring need, but Lewan is the best player Baltimore could hope for at No. 17. He would be a dominant starter from Day 1 with the talent and versatility to switch to the left tackle if necessary and the requisite quickness to thrive in offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme.


    Toughest Player to Pass On: Nobody

    Lewan is the perfect marriage of need, talent and potential, and the Ravens would stick true to their belief and not regret a thing if they made this pick on May 8.

C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

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    Todd McShay, ESPN, Mar. 6 (ESPN Insider subscription required)

    Baltimore hasn’t spent a first-round pick on an inside linebacker in 18 years, but it worked out pretty darn well for them when they did in 1996.

    Todd McShay has them doing it again with the selection of C.J. Mosley—the unquestioned No. 1 inside linebacker in this draft. Inside linebacker isn’t the biggest need on the roster, but Ozzie Newsome doesn’t normally let need dictate his draft choices and he certainly isn’t shy about his love for players from his alma mater.

    What's more, depth and talent is certainly a necessity at the position. Despite re-signing Daryl Smith, head coach John Harbaugh told Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com that the Ravens “need to bolster our inside linebacker position—at least one, maybe two guys.”

    There’s a good chance Mosley is still on the board at No. 17, and he would give Baltmore “a very productive playmaker with versatility and range” in the words of McShay. Mosley is excellent in coverage, but is more well-rounded than Arthur Brown—at least so far.

    With tremendous instincts and the ability to succeed as a true three-down linebacker in today’s NFL, Mosley would certainly shore up the linebacking corps.

    Truthfully, it all depends on how good the coaching staff feels about Arthur Brown. With limited depth at the position, ILB could be a bigger need than anybody predicted if Brown isn’t ready to play a big role in 2014.

    The only drawback to this pick would be that it could stunt the growth of Arthur Brown. Other than that, Mosley is a sure thing to be an excellent middle linebacker in the pros.


    Toughest Player to Pass On: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

    With no surefire starter at right tackle, it would be tough to pass on a tackle as smart and solid as Zack Martin—who we will get to in just a second.

Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

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    Bucky Brooks, NFL media, Mar. 25

    Taylor Lewan would be a no-brainer at No. 17, but Zack Martin is a more realistic pick if the Ravens want to address that right tackle position. He may not have the blue-chip measurables of Lewan, but Zack Martin could very well be the better prospect thanks to his unquestioned character, intelligence and solid fundamentals.

    There are some questions about Martin’s ability to play tackle, but his versatility is something the Ravens covet in their offensive linemen and, as Brooks notes, “Martin's athleticism, balance and technical skills are ideal fits for the Ravens' new zone-based blocking scheme.”

    Like Lewan, Martin would walk into rookie minicamp as the starter at right tackle and solidify the O-line.

    That said, with a number of intriguing tackle prospects available in Round 2 (like Jack Mewhort (Ohio State), Joel Bitonio (Nevada) and Billy Turner (North Dakota State)) and plenty of other talented prospects on the board, selecting Martin wouldn’t be a total no-brainer like Lewan would be.


    Toughest Player to Pass On: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville

    After sitting patiently in free agency while free safeties were flying off the shelves, the Ravens were basically revealing that they would wait to see what the 2014 draft could offer them at the position. One such prospect is Calvin Pryor, who isn’t as technically refined as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama) but has arguably more upside thanks to his amazing range and physicality.

    Pryor and Matt Elam could be the backbone of the Ravens defense for years to come, and it would be difficult to pass on that vision of a Seattle Seahawks-like duo of intimidating safeties that can cover anybody in addition to laying the hammer down.

Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

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    Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN, Mar. 27 (ESPN Insider subscription required)

    The date on this mock draft is after the Ravens signed Steve Smith, but this selection would have made more sense before the signing. Considering the depth of the wide receiver position both in the draft and on the Baltimore roster, it wouldn’t make a great deal of sense for Newsome to select a wideout in the first round.

    But if he did, he could do a lot worse than Brandin Cooks.

    Kiper Jr. makes a spot-on comparison between the Oregon State product and last year’s eighth overall pick, saying Cooks is “a more productive, quicker, stronger and slightly bigger Tavon Austin, and could have an early impact given all his experience.”

    Cooks has only improved his standing during the predraft process, showcasing his top-flight athleticism and strong hands.

    Given his size, style of play and versatility, his best pro comparison may just be Steve Smith, which would make Baltimore a perfect landing spot for him to hone his craft.

    Cooks wouldn’t fill an urgent need for the Ravens, but he is a legitimate stud at the position in this draft and he could team with Torrey Smith to form a dynamic receiving duo for the future.


    Toughest Player to Pass On: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

    C.J. Mosley has already been discussed, but the only reason he falls down the draft board is because of how his position is valued. He is by far the best middle linebacker prospect in the class, and he would be able to contribute significantly in his rookie year.

Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville

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    Daniel Jeremiah, NFL media, Mar. 20

    Doug Farrar, Sports Illustrated, Apr. 3

    Dane Brugler, CBS Sports, Apr. 7

    There are a couple of reasons to pay a lot of attention to this slide. The first thing that should jump off the page is sheer numbers. The diversity of other analysts’ projections affirms what we already know about how Ozzie Newsome approaches the draft and takes what the board gives him. Despite that fact, three experts have selected Calvin Pryor as the first-round pick for the Ravens.

    The second reason for you to prick your ears up is because one of these analysts, Daniel Jeremiah, actually used to work for Baltimore—so he actually knows a little about how the Ravens assess prospects and what qualities would stand out to them.

    Baltimore needs a free safety—that much is clear—but the best safety in this draft, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is off the board in every one of these mock drafts.

    Pryor is widely considered the second-best prospect at the position right now, but he also has tremendous upside. He’s versatile and physical, making him a tantalizing prospect to lock up the back end of the defense. Farrar sums him up best:

    Pryor, who I actually like a bit better than Clinton-Dix, is physical in the run game and can handle everything from slot duty to center field. He’s not quite as fast as Earl Thomas, but he plays with a similar disregard for his own body—and the bodies of his opponents.

    It would certainly be very risky to spend back-to-back first-round picks on safeties when the 2014 season rolls around, but the emergence of the tight end and slot receiver as a valuable weapon in passing attacks around the league places more demands on the safety position.

    Pryor may be somewhat raw, but he has the range to step in from Day 1 and form a versatile and intimidating safety tandem with Matt Elam.


    Toughest Player to Pass On: (Jeremiah and Brugler) Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame; (Farrar) Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

    In Farrar’s mock draft, he has Lewan lasting all the way to pick No. 23, so he clearly believes that Lewan’s off-field issues will cause him to tumble down draft boards. Character flaws will be difficult for the Ravens to swallow given their rocky offseason, but Lewan is too talented and physically dominant to not take a chance on if he’s available.

    That isn’t the case in the other two mock drafts, however, and Zack Martin would be the closest player to Pryor in terms of “draftability.” Pryor’s upside may make him the better choice for Baltimore, but Martin’s reliability is equally enticing. Either way, Newsome would get a very talented player to fill in a huge hole on the depth chart.

Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

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    Matt Miller, Bleacher Report, Apr. 4

    This is the most surprising first-round pick of all these mock drafts, but on further reflection it’s not as outlandish as it first appears. Given the depth of the cornerback class, we probably won’t see Newsome spend anything earlier than a Day 2 pick on a cornerback, but there is good reason to add a good, young corner early in the draft.

    For starters, Miller emphasizes the increasing importance of a No. 3 corner in any successful defense:

    But don't think of Fuller as just a depth player. With so many NFL defenses playing nickel and dime packages the majority of the time, Fuller would be on the field as often as most starters while serving as the team's No. 3 cornerback. He could also push Smith, who hasn't yet proven he's ready to stack up as a starter through a full season.

    That last part brings us to the most interesting aspect of this pick, however. Jimmy Smith was fantastic to end the year, but it was still a small sample size and a little competition never hurt anybody. More importantly, if Smith does pick up where he left off in 2013, he’s set to earn a big payday—based on the massive contracts signed by free-agent cornerbacks this offseason.

    Baltimore would obviously love to keep him, but they must start preparing in the event that Smith leaves town—an outcome that would leave the Ravens in terrible shape in the secondary.

    Fuller is an underrated cornerback in this class, but he has the fluidity and ball skills to eventually be the best corner of the bunch. With such a deep group, it would make more sense for Newsome to wait until at least the second round to add a corner, but he’ll take the player that’s highest on his board—and it might just be the former Hokie.


    Toughest Player to Pass On: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

    Like Farrar, Miller also has Lewan sliding down draft boards thanks to his off-field incidents—this time all the way to pick No. 28. The Michigan product has already been discussed in great detail, and his talent outweighs the character concerns.


    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 the latest Ravens news, draft analysis and links to episodes of Ravens Central Radio, follow me on Twitter: