Assigning Odds to Every Potential Baltimore Ravens 1st-Round Pick
We’ve all seen enough mock drafts to make us sick, so let’s prognosticate from a different perspective. The problem with mock drafts is that one incorrect pick changes the entire thing. For this slideshow, however, we’ll go through eight potential Baltimore Ravens first-round picks and give odds that they end up in M&T Bank Stadium.
The eight players discussed here cover a range of positions and are definitely prospects that should intrigue the Ravens. In all likelihood, Baltimore’s first-round pick is on this list but the odds give you an idea of how likely the pick is.
For those that aren’t familiar with odds, just know that the higher the number, the less likely the pick. At first glance, these odds may seem a little high given that this pool of players has a chance to be on the board and fill the Ravens’ needs, but it’s important to remember the craziness of the NFL draft and that nobody has any idea how it’s going to unfold.
Some of these players have long odds because they don’t fill a glaring hole (like C.J. Mosley), or because it’s unlikely they’ll be on the board (Mike Evans). On the flip side, the shorter odds are guys who are a good mix of need, talent, fit and probable draft slot (with Zack Martin being the poster boy for that group).
Predraft projections are always fun, so let’s get down to business. Here are eight potential first-round picks for Baltimore, ranked from least likely to most likely.
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M (20-1)
Getting Joe Flacco quality targets was the focus of the offseason, and it initially looked certain that an early-round draft pick would be spent on a wide receiver. Consequently, Mike Evans was a trendy pick in the first mock drafts because he’s such a good fit for what Flacco likes to do—let it fly and trust his receivers to make a play.
But after reaching deals with a host of proven pass-catchers, adding a receiver isn’t among the team’s top four needs—meaning that general manager Ozzie Newsome will probably capitalize on the deep receiver class in this draft to select one in the middle rounds.
Evans is the one exception. If he’s on the board, it will be very tough for the Ravens to walk away from him. He’s raw, but that makes sense considering that he’s a converted basketball player. Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated breaks down just how special Evans can be:
Evans still has extensive work to do on his own game, but being 6-foot-5 with incredible hands and exceptional leaping ability buys him some leeway. Few receivers already in the NFL (Calvin Johnson? Alshon Jeffery?) can win in the air the way that Evans can. He’s also extremely effective when plays break down, finding holes in coverage while working back to the ball, hence his success with the ad-libbing [Johnny] Manziel.
The former Aggie makes contested catches look easy, has tremendous hands and is a walking mismatch thanks to his gigantic frame. For too long have the Ravens waited until Day 2 to add a stud receiver, and Evans is a top-10 talent who would be an absolute steal at No. 17—if he lasts that long.
That’s the reason for his long odds. Right after the end of the college season, it looked like Evans would be around in the middle of the first round, but he’s separated himself from the rest of the pack thanks to a fabulous combine and an impressive pro day to join Sammy Watkins at the head of the class.
It would take a fairly crazy draft for 16 teams to pass on a player with his potential, and that makes him the least likely pick on this list.
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina (18-1)
Eric Ebron is far and away the best tight end prospect in the draft, and that’s certainly a position the Ravens could draft given the lack of depth at the position and the fact that Owen Daniels is 31 years old, coming off an injury and on a one-year deal.
Jamison Hensley of ESPN outlines why Ebron has consistently been rising up draft boards since the end of the college season:
Ebron is the best tight end prospect since Vernon Davis in 2006. His size, athleticism and speed makes him a matchup nightmare for defenses. Ebron has the quickness to make plays downfield and can accelerate after the catch. He has a wide catching radius, so you don't always have to put the pass right on his hands. Ebron makes one-handed grabs look routine.
The comparison to Davis has been frequently used throughout the predraft process, but let’s not get carried away. Davis was arguably the biggest athletic freak we’ve ever seen at the combine (right up there with Calvin Johnson) and is a dominant receiver and physically imposing blocker.
While Ebron is not as good an all-around prospect, the thought of bringing him into Gary Kubiak’s tight end friendly system is intriguing.
Ultimately, his drops, lack of elite blocking skills and the fact that it’s unlikely he gets past the Buffalo Bills (No. 9), Detroit Lions (No. 10), New York Giants (No. 12) and Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 15) make him a long shot to wind up in Baltimore.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama (14-1)
If the Ravens had their pick of the eight players on this list, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would be their choice. He’s widely considered to be the best safety prospect in the draft, and Sports Illustrated’s Doug Farrar tells us why:
The thing that makes him a special prospect is that he does so much exceptionally well, and he does everything at a plus level. His range will make him a starter from Day One, and as he develops his ball skills and tackling abilities, he has the potential to be among the best safeties in the league—and he can do so from the deep middle to the box to the slot. He’s the prototype for a very valuable position, and he’ll see the results of that with a very high pick in the first round.
It’s a matchup league, and offenses gained an advantage with the recent emergence of tight ends as focal points of the passing attacks. Defenses are catching up by acquiring athletic, physical safeties that can defend the pass, and that’s what Clinton-Dix does so well. He’s a true center fielder who complements Matt Elam perfectly.
Unfortunately, while Farrar points out why he would be the Ravens’ dream pick, he also touches on why his odds are so high: He probably won’t be around at pick No. 17.
He has lower odds than the previous two prospects because there are more scenarios that would see him fall to 17, and because he fills such a pressing need. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely that he gets by the crowd of safety-needy teams that pick just before Baltimore, such as the Lions (No. 10), Giants (No. 12), Rams (No. 13), Bears (No. 14), Steelers (No. 15) and Cowboys (No. 16).
Ra'Shede Hageman, DT/DE, Minnesota (13-1)
A position that has flown under the radar as a need this offseason is along the defensive line. Adding a free safety (like the aforementioned Clinton-Dix) is a must, but football is still a sport that is won in the trenches and the Ravens have more than a few question marks on the first line of defense.
Their two best linemen (Haloti Ngata and Chris Canty) are also their oldest and Ngata may even be a cap casualty next offseason if he won’t accept an extension.
There are a number of young players (Brandon Williams, DeAngelo Tyson and Kapron Lewis-Moore), but only Williams has high upside, and even he doesn’t compare to Ra’Shede Hageman.
Let’s be clear, this would be a pretty big gamble. But I think it’s more likely that the Ravens make this pick than Mike Evans being available in the middle of the first round. And it wouldn’t be that shocking to see Baltimore add a prospect with All-Pro potential to shore up the defensive line.
Hageman is an imposing physical force at 6’6” and 310 pounds, but he’s also a gifted athlete who had offers to play college basketball and began his football career as a tight end.
Former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano explained how versatile Hageman is and why depth along the line is so critical (h/t to Clifton Brown of CSNBaltimore.com):
He’s played the nose, he’s played the three, and he can play wide. He can do a lot of things. He can give you inside push, he can beat guys one-on-one.
You can never have enough defensive linemen. We roll those guys all the time and try to keep them fresh. If you can play with six, seven guys in the defensive front by the time the fourth quarter comes around and everybody is still fresh, it’s going to play to your advantage.
The Baltimore front seven has quietly been underwhelming for the past two seasons, and with the best players on the wrong side of 30, it’s vital to get a head start on rebuilding the defensive front with immensely talented young players.
That’s why Hageman has to be a consideration here. That said, however, the combination of risk associated with Hageman and that this might be a reach makes it the most unlikely pick of players that should be on the board.
C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama (8-1)
As the odds above suggest, this pick isn't as unlikely as you might think. It certainly would be a little surprising given that Newsome traded up to draft Arthur Brown in the middle of the second round last year and signed Daryl Smith to a four-year deal this offseason. Regardless, there are a few reasons that make this a scenario that might just play out on May 8.
For starters, we haven’t seen much of Arthur Brown and it may take him longer to develop than initially expected. Secondly, having an excess of talented inside linebackers with terrific coverage abilities is a good problem to have.
Additionally, the Smith deal is not that lucrative and it would not be problematic (financially speaking) to release Smith if both Mosley and Brown mature into dynamic middle linebackers.
But the most significant reason that makes this pick somewhat realistic is that Newsome takes the best player on the board. Mosley will probably be on the board at 17 because of how inside linebackers are valued in the grand scheme of things, but he is one of the best players in this draft—a point that Rob Rang of CBSSports agrees with:
While a bit undersized, Mosley might be the best pound-for-pound player in the country. Athletic and instinctive, he is a true three-down linebacker capable of making plays against the run and pass. Mosley lacks the bulk scouts want in a pass rusher but his awareness in coverage is special.
The bottom line is that Mosley is a downright special player who is one of the most pro-ready prospects in the draft. He’s worthy of being the second inside linebacker drafted in Round 1 in franchise history.
Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville (8-1)
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the free safety of choice, but Calvin Pryor is a pretty exciting consolation prize. A tremendous athlete with the range to wreak havoc on the back line of a defense, Pryor and Matt Elam would form an intriguing young safety duo for the Ravens to groom over the next few years.
He will likely be available when Baltimore picks, and his ceiling might be too high to pass on. In fact, he has so much upside that Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated ranks Pryor as the No. 1 safety in the class:
It’s a tough pick, but I’ll give Pryor the edge over Ha Ha Clinton-Dix because I believe that he’s just a bit more responsive and explosive in coverage. Both defenders do everything at a plus level, but Pryor is fast enough in any direction to make an enormous impact in any NFL defense as a center fielder.
Given the fact that Pryor should be around, is very talented and fills a big need, why aren’t his odds lower?
Frankly, it’s because this writer isn’t quite sold on his ability to be a true free safety. Physically, he’s the most impressive safety in the class but there are questions about his instincts and tackling (in that he too often goes for the big hit as opposed to wrapping up).
The potential is there in spades, but it might take a year before Pryor’s good plays outweigh his bad ones.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan (7-1)
Right after the combine, it seemed unfathomable to consider Taylor Lewan dropping out of the top 10. The landscape has changed after he was charged with assault.
Many mock drafts have him falling into the teens and some even have him as low as the end of Round 1.
If he’s there, he would be close to a lock (depending on the other players available) for the Ravens given the value and his immense talent. After all, Gil Brandt of NFL.com named Lewan as one of the nine players worthy of the No. 1 pick. To get that kind of player in the middle of the first round would be an absolute steal.
It would also be vintage Newsome, since the GM has a habit of pouncing on falling stars and making other teams regret passing on that player.
There is definitely a chance that the off-field issues scare teams and allow him to fall into Baltimore’s laps (where they would happily pull the trigger on selecting him).
At the end of the day, his talent as a versatile offensive tackle who could easily play left tackle if necessary is too great to pass up, and some other team before Baltimore is probably going to realize that. If they don’t, be prepared to see a No. 77 Lewan jersey hit the shelves at M&T Bank Stadium.
The odds aren’t lower because there’s a good chance another team grabs the blue-chip tackle, but he’s one of the safest picks of the players discussed here which is why he comes in at No. 2 on this list—it would be almost irresponsible for the Ravens to walk away from Lewan with a gigantic hole on the right side of their O-line.
Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame (4-1)
Zack Martin has been a common sight at the Ravens’ draft slot in many mocks, and that’s because he is the perfect marriage of need, value, talent and character that fits what Baltimore wants in its draft picks.
Let’s start with need since it’s fairly obvious. The offensive line was hideous last year, and the makeover is almost complete except for that right tackle spot. Martin would come in and be the starter there from day one.
In terms of value, the middle of the first round is the right place for Martin to come off the board. There may be some steals on the board, but it would not be a reach for Newsome to take the Notre Dame product at No. 17.
The talent is undeniable and illustrated well by Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN in his draft big board (Insider required), where Martin is his 13th-ranked prospect:
Martin has easy feet, is versatile and can both mirror good pass-rushers and push them around in the run game. Range is a plus for Martin, as he can handle left tackle or right tackle (or guard in a pinch). Martin is a great competitor who absorbs power well for a tackle with shorter arms, but he also handles speed pretty effectively because of his quick feet.
Lastly, the character. Martin is only the 18th two-time captain in Notre Dame history, and has drawn rave reviews from everybody who's been around him, including his positional coach for the Fighting Irish, Harry Hiestand (via Matt Fortuna of ESPN):
‘The best leader I've ever been around is Olin Kreutz from the Bears, and Zack's in that category,’ said offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, formerly of the NFL, referencing the six-time Pro Bowler. ‘Zack's in that conversation. Zack brings it every day.’
His versatility along the O-line is something the Ravens covet in their linemen, and he’s a terrific prospect in every respect.
Zack Martin is the most likely first-round draft pick for the Baltimore Ravens in 2014.
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: @shehan_peiris