Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Baltimore Ravens' Top 3 Picks
The NFL draft presents every NFL team with an opportunity to drastically improve their team. It also is a chance for teams to set themselves back in their quest for a championship.
The Baltimore Ravens have routinely been one of the better drafting teams in the NFL since the rebirth of the franchise in 1996.
The first three rounds are where they've consistently found game-changing players who ultimately made them a championship contender.
With that said, here is a look at the best- and worst-case scenarios for the Ravens in the first three rounds of this year's NFL draft.
Round 1 Best Case: WR Mike Evans
Is it possible that the draft's second-best receiver actually falls to the Ravens at pick No. 17?
In most years, a guy as talented as Evans wouldn't make it out of the top 10, but this is one of the deepest WR classes in recent memory.
Teams are going to be willing to let a guy like Evans go by them, knowing there's plenty of talented WRs to be had in the later rounds.
This could lead Evans to falling right into the Ravens' lap, and Ozzie Newsome should sprint to the podium himself to make this pick if Evans is on the board.
At 6'5" and 225 pounds, Evans possesses the size and speed to to stretch the field and keep defenses from double-teaming Torrey Smith like they did last year. Evans caught 151 passes for 2,499 yards and 17 scores in just two seasons of college football.
Pairing Evans alongside Torrey Smith, Steve Smith and Dennis Pitta would make the Ravens one of the NFL's better passing offenses after they finished 29th in total yards and 25th in scoring in 2013.
They need more playmakers on offense, and Evans is one of the best playmakers in this year's draft class.
Round 1 Worst Case: TE Eric Ebron
New Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak loves to feature tight ends in his offense, and they've already signed former Texan Owen Daniels to a one-year deal to go along with Pro Bowler Dennis Pitta.
It would be wise for the Ravens to draft a TE at some point, but not in the first round where more pressing needs have to be addressed.
It just so happens that North Carolina's Eric Ebron—regarded as the draft's top tight end prospect—has been linked to the Ravens. He's already set up a visit with the Ravens prior to the NFL draft, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun.
Ebron was an All-ACC and All-American selection last season after catching 62 passes for 973 yards and three touchdowns.
He also passed current 49ers Pro Bowl TE Vernon Davis for the most receiving yards by a TE in ACC history with 1,727 career receiving yards.
At the end of the day, Ebron could very well end up being the best TE to come from this draft class. Right now, though, the Ravens don't need the best TE.
They already have Pitta, and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh made it clear after Daniels was signed that he was going to be a big part of the offense:
“I’ll let him speak for himself on what he plans, but I guarantee his role will be plenty big,” Harbaugh said, via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. “He’s going to have a lot to do with our success next year. We have a lot of big plans for him, and we’re really excited about it.”
The Ravens need the best or even second-best player at several other positions. Ebron simply isn't going to impact this team enough in the coming seasons to warrant drafting him with the 17th pick.
Round 2 Best Case: DT Louis Nix
One of the best players the Ravens lost in free agency was defensive tackle Arthur Jones. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) gave him a plus-15.7 grade, the third-best of any Ravens player.
Jones left as a free agent. As it stands, Baltimore has Brandon Williams, DeAngelo Tyson and Kapron Lewis-Moore to replace him at DT. Lewis-Moore was just a sixth-round pick, but a knee injury suffered in the last game of his college career sidelined for him all of his rookie season.
Williams and Tyson combined to play just 247 snaps, so this is a position with uncertainty heading into next season. One other player on the roster who also has experience at DT is Haloti Ngata.
In a 3-4 defense like the Ravens run, you need a big nose tackle who can line up over the center and occupy space in the middle of the defensive line. Ngata was asked to do that for the first time in his career in 2013, and he did great at it.
But if the Ravens want to move him back to DT, they'll need a new nose tackle to replace him. That's where Louis Nix comes in. The 6'2", 332-pound mammoth can play both DT and NT, giving the Ravens options on how they'd play him alongside Ngata.
While Nix has been projected as a first-round pick by many draft gurus, ESPN draft insider Mel Kiper (subscription required) believes Nix will go early in Round 2 and that a draft-day slide drop could be coming.
Matt Miller's most recent mock draft actually has the Ravens nabbing Nix at pick No. 48, only adding to the belief Nix could slip into the second round of the draft.
If Nix falls to the Ravens in the second round, they won't waste any time making him their pick.
Round 2 Worst Case: OG Cyril Richardson
The Ravens need to bolster their interior offensive line depth. Baylor offensive guard Cyril Richardson will be likely be mentioned as a candidate for the Ravens in the draft.
That said, they shouldn't draft him this early with the hope he's ready to contribute at the NFL level in 2013. While Richardson is one of the better run-blocking guards in this class, he is horrendous on pass protection.
At Baylor, Richardson played in a system predicated on runs out of the shotgun and a quick passing game. That meant he never needed to be a great pass-blocker for the offense to operate, but his run-blocking helped pave the way for the nation's No. 13 rushing offense.
Watching his tape, it's clear he is overweight and has virtually no knee bend. Offensive linemen who struggle to bend their knees will struggle to play in the NFL.
Richardson isn't ready to start for an NFL team, and any guard taken in the second round needs to be.
Round 3 Best Case: CB Marcus Roberson
While all the attention regarding cornerbacks is on Darqueze Dennard, Justin Gilbert and Kyle Fuller, there's one cornerback not getting a lot of attention who could be an option for the Ravens in the later rounds.
Florida's Marcus Roberson was once viewed as one of the top 2014 CB prospects, but a poor junior campaign hurt his stock.
Roberson suffered a PCL injury that cost him four games, and a late-season suspension caused his stock to fall even further.
This comes after a 2012 campaign in which Roberson finished second in the SEC with 14 passes defensed and was named to the All-SEC Second Team in 2012 by the AP.
Charlie Campbell of Walter Football has a nice scouting report on Roberson, comparing him to former Bengals All-Pro CB Johnathan Joseph.
There are a lot of similarities between Joseph and Roberson. Both are good man corners who have the speed to prevent separation and good size to match up against bigger receivers.
Joseph was the 24th-overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. Roberson was a candidate to go that high at one point, but now is more likely to be a second-day pick.
If Roberson falls to the Ravens in the the third round, he'll be a steal for a team in need of CB depth.
Round 3 Worst Case: RB Terrance West
The Ravens have been linked to Towson running back Terrance West, and it appears they are considering taking him at some point in the NFL draft.
West has a workout set up with the Ravens, and they've already been to his pro day, where one scout compared him to Washington Redskins RB Alfred Morris, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun.
It's safe to say that West is a prospect drawing a lot of interest from the Ravens, and he would be a good fit with them...after Round 3.
Taking him this high simply isn't worth what he'll bring to the team in 2014 and possibly even 2015. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are still two quality backs who figure to account for the majority of RB snaps in the next one to two years.
The RB position simply has become too devalued for a back like West, who spent his entire college career playing in the FCS ranks, to be selected with the No. 79 pick in this draft.
West would be a great target in the fourth round, but the third round is just too high for him. West looks like the worst-case scenario right now for the Ravens in the third round.