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.