Baltimore Ravens 2014 NFL Draft: Final Big Board
For the last time, let’s prognosticate as Baltimore Ravens fans before we have the chance to see any draft picks. Obviously, the entire draft class is important, but the adrenaline rush associated with that first-round pick is unmatched.
The big board of general manager Ozzie Newsome and Co. has been set for a while now, but here’s my take on the 15 best prospects the Ravens should be targeting with their early-round draft picks. The bottom of this mini-big board are players who will be possibilities in the second round or back end of the first if Baltimore opts to trade back as it has done so many times before.
- This is entirely my own opinion. I’m not claiming to have inside information as to whom the Ravens like.
- These are all players that are in the realm of draftability for the team. Jadeveon Clowney, Greg Robinson and Khalil Mack (as well as a few others) aren’t on this list because it would take some insanity for either of them to last all the way to pick No. 17. The top four players on this list may very well be off the board by the time Newsome is on the clock, but there is at least a small chance that they fall.
- I’m no NFL draft insider. I don’t know what the deal is regarding some of these injury concerns or character issues. Any such negatives will be mentioned for the player, but they do not factor into this big board at all.
- Piggy-backing on that last point, this is all based purely on game film. I haven’t burned the midnight oil watching every game that all of these players have been a part of, but I have watched some film for all of these prospects and that analysis.
With those formalities out of the way, it’s time to find out who made the cut.
15. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
Eric Ebron is attracting the bulk of the attention from the tight end prospects in the draft, but the gap between Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Ebron isn’t as big as the media is making it sound. Ebron is definitely the most athletic prospect at the position and is the only one with the true top-end speed to stretch defenses and make plays down the field.
Nevertheless, Seferian-Jenkins is a more complete tight end—something that elevates his stock for a Baltimore franchise that has always believed in running the ball first and foremost.
NFL Media’s Charles Davis does a great job of explaining the difference between the two prospects (h/t to Bryan Fisher of NFL.com):
He should have always been challenging to be the number one tight end in this draft. I think he's more complete than Eric Ebron when his game is on.
When you talk about last season and his lack of production, Washington went to a different offense, too. He's 6-foot-6, 265 pounds, and he does remind me of Rob Gronkowski. The X-factor for me between Seferian-Jenkins and Ebron is in the red zone.
Seferian-Jenkins in his career has 21 touchdowns. Ebron? Eight.
Ebron will come later on this draft board because he has more upside thanks to his physical tools—and because he did show improvement as a blocker in 2013—but Seferian-Jenkins would be a steal in the second round or at the end of the first.
14. Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
With tackle still a glaring need, there is a chance that the top four tackles in the class are off the board. If that’s the case, Morgan Moses is still a pretty tremendous consolation prize.
Opinions vary on the Virginia Cavalier, but the upside is clear. At 6’6” and 314 pounds, Moses certainly looks the part of an NFL tackle, and he enters the draft with very good movement skills for a man of that size.
He has potential at left tackle down the road, but Moses will be able to start at right tackle right away and fits well into Gary Kubiak’s blocking scheme because he’s light on his feet.
13. Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
With the abundance of terrific receiver prospects in the draft, some great players are bound to slip into the second round. If Allen Robinson is one of those fallers, the Ravens should absolutely scoop him up because he has everything you’re looking for in a wide receiver.
He’s physically imposing at 6’2” and 220 pounds, which compensates for his lack of top-end speed. He won’t be a big-play threat in the NFL, but he uses his body well to box out smaller defensive backs and secure the ball.
Additionally, he’s one of the best route-runners in this class, meaning that he’ll have no difficulties getting open at the next level. He’s a great complement to Torrey Smith as a possession receiver who can be used all over the field.
Since there is such amazing depth at the position, I don’t think Robinson is such a terrific prospect that he is worth the 17th pick in the draft, but he is definitely great value at the end of the first.
12. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The second—and last—tight end on this big board is Eric Ebron. As was discussed previously, there are some limitations to his game.
Drops are a concern, he’s not a great blocker and he hasn’t been very productive in the red zone over his career at North Carolina.
Nevertheless, he has such tremendous athleticism for the position that he could develop into an unguardable “move” tight end if it all goes according to plan.
ESPN’s Todd McShay has the Ravens drafting Ebron in his most recent mock draft, and he breaks down the risk-reward dynamic perfectly (h/t to Jamison Hensley of ESPN):
There are holes in his game. He drops too many passes for how highly he's going to be drafted. He's a buffet blocker, if you will. He kind of picks and chooses when he wants to get interested. But what he does well, it's just hard to find guys who can do it at the level he does in terms of stretching the field vertically and creating after the catch.
11. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Anthony Barr has seen his stock drop significantly after entering the mock season as a top-five pick. While a slight drop is reasonable, he’s falling too far down draft boards considering his magnificent upside.
He is undoubtedly raw, but he’s new to the defensive side of football after switching to linebacker in 2012. There are questions about his motor and technique, but he is an athletic specimen that could contribute as a situational pass-rusher from the get-go. He’s also quick and fluid enough to be the best coverage outside backer on the roster.
Even though he fell down draft boards because we didn’t see the development we had hoped in 2013, he still finished the season with 10 sacks. The team's outside linebacking corps is deep, but the stars are both over 30 years old and Barr would inject a needed dose of athleticism.
10. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
It’s widely expected that the Ravens will add a receiver, but it would be surprising to see them spend a first-round pick on said receiver.
If they choose to do so, Odell Beckham Jr. is certainly worth the pick. He has tremendous speed and is an unstoppable force in the open field. Beckham is much more than just a burner, however. He has excellent hands and he’s very good at adjusting to the ball in mid-air, contorting his body to make tough catches and high-pointing the ball with some of the best in this class.
Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN gives us a quick synopsis of what Beckham brings to the table:
Beckham has elite top-end speed, but that's only part of what makes him so good in space. He accelerates quickly, frequently makes the first defender miss after the catch and is a very instinctive open-field runner who knows when to cut back against the grain. He uses his fluid hips and quick feet to get defenders off-balance in space, using a variety of shoulder dips, inside-outs and other moves. He has the potential to develop into a dangerous return specialist in the NFL.
The LSU product has all the tools to be a game-changer in the pros, and the prospect of putting Beckham on the same field as Torrey Smith has to grab offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s attention.
9. Aaron Donald, DE, Pittsburgh
Aaron Donald is the best interior defensive lineman in the draft, so the Ravens would have to consider him if he were on the board at No. 17. He’s not a great fit for a 3-4 defense, but he’s so technically sound and so quick that defensive coordinator Dean Pees could definitely find a spot for him in the rotation.
The Pittsburgh product was a dominant force in 2013, but he soared up draft boards after dominating his competition at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine.
He’s so low on this draft board because he is an awkward fit in the Ravens scheme, but his talent is undeniable. He may be able to slide over to play the 5-technique or even as a nose tackle, but his struggles against double-teams mean that he’ll need to put on more bulk.
8. Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
When you turn on Calvin Pryor’s game film, his breakneck speed is what jumps out at you. He’s flying all over the field and making plays. That recklessness too frequently hurt him, however, and caused him to miss tackles and take bad angles to the ball.
Pryor definitely has the athleticism to be a terrific free safety at the next level, but it is his discipline and instincts that concern me.
You can find my in-depth scouting report of Pryor here, but the gist of it is that Pryor isn’t a great fit for the Ravens because he’s very similar to Matt Elam.
Pryor is at his best when he’s playing up in the box, and that’s not a good complement to Elam—who should be moving over to strong safety this season.
The Louisville product definitely has the talent to be worth a Round 1 pick, but there are a number of questions that have to be answered which is why I like a couple of other safeties more.
7. Dominique Easley, DE, Florida
Now, I’m not suggesting that the Ravens should draft Dominique Easley with the 17th pick in the draft. That would be a reach—but only because of his injury history.
Turn on the film and you’ll see one of the best defensive linemen in the draft. While he is a little undersized compared to a prototypical 3-4 DE, he has the upper-body strength to play the position in the NFL.
He is downright explosive off the line of scrimmage, which results in plenty of tackles for loss and quarterback pressures. Furthermore, Easley displays a terrific motor and very good instincts.
The Gator has fallen down draft boards because of two torn ACLs during his career at Florida, but he’s a top-20 talent if fully healthy. Easley would juice up the Ravens defensive line and give them some interior pass rush to offset the loss of Arthur Jones’ production.
6. C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Inside linebacker isn’t a glaring need thanks to the re-signing of Daryl Smith, but C.J. Mosley is one of the best players in the draft and could easily be the best player available when the Ravens are on the clock.
My detailed scouting report can be found here, but the CliffNotes version is that Mosley is just a tremendous all-around prospect.
The only hole in his game is his lengthy injury history, but that is literally the only concerning aspect of his play. He’s phenomenal against both the run and the pass, and he has all the intangibles you could possibly want.
His instincts are off the charts, and he was a respected leader in the Crimson Tide program. The last time Baltimore drafted an inside linebacker in the first round, he went on to be a probable Hall of Famer.
It’s far too premature to make that kind of claim about C.J. Mosley, but he has all the tools you could ever need and he’s one of the best players in this draft.
5. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Much like C.J. Mosley, Zack Martin is just a very, very solid prospect. He’s a technician along the O-line with the versatility to potentially play all five positions. Critics call him undersized, but I’ve never seen him look outmatched on the gridiron.
He has a really great kick slide and his footwork is consistently excellent. His athleticism and general movement skill make him a great fit for the Ravens' zone-blocking scheme, and he should bring leadership and reliability to the O-line.
Martin is a player who rarely makes any negative plays, and he has the power to finish off defenders and put them in the dirt.
The Notre Dame product gets the edge on Mosley because right tackle is a position of need, but his versatility in general means that he will definitely be able to contribute from day one.
4. Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
If you’ve read my work before (like this scouting report on Ward), you’ll know that I am very high on Jimmie Ward, but know that it’s all based on the film. His competition in the Mid-American Conference was nothing to write home about, but that doesn’t mean he’s any less of a football player.
Ward is excellent in deep coverage, reads the quarterback really well and is a very sound and solid tackler. He rarely makes mistakes and brings a ball-hawking presence that the defense sorely missed last year.
In many ways, Ward is the perfect complement to Matt Elam because Ward is a true center fielder. He’s also more athletic than people give him credit for, and any knocks on his size are unfounded since he’s the same height as Calvin Pryor (5'11").
Ward won’t be an enforcer over the middle, but he’s also not going to miss tackles and draw penalty flags. Some may consider him a reach at No. 17, but he has all the skills and intelligence you want from a roaming safety and he looks polished enough to start immediately.
3. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Taylor Lewan’s character concerns have been well-documented throughout this process, but his on-field talents are flying under the radar. This is a guy that many believe would have been the No. 1 overall pick last year, and while he didn’t blow you away with his 2013 film, it’s not as if he played poorly.
Unlike Martin, he does have the prototypical size of a professional tackle, and he also brings elite athleticism for the position.
He’s fast, he’s strong, he’s agile and he’s flexible. All of those ingredients make for a blue-chip tackle prospect and would be an absolute steal for the Ravens at No. 17.
As Paul Schwartz of the New York Post writes, "Taylor Lewan, the player, is an easy one. Tall, statuesque, prototype NFL franchise left tackle, a natural pass protector and with a mean streak on the field that can’t be taught."
It's Taylor Lewan the person that is the unknown commodity.
In terms of talent, he’s right up there with Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews. The off-field issues have pushed him down draft boards, but that only makes him a terrific bargain if he can stay out of trouble.
2. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Jimmie Ward is a player I love, but I’m not too biased to not realize that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the best safety in this class. What’s more, he is also a true free safety, which means he’s just what Baltimore is looking for.
Clinton-Dix is excellent in coverage and has the size (6'1", 208 lbs) to match up very well with tight ends (whereas both Ward and Pryor are 5’11”). He’s also just an all-around player with a high football IQ that won’t experience many growing pains in his rookie season.
Stylistically, Clinton-Dix is similar to Ward, but he has better size, is better against the run and benefits from playing in the SEC.
It’s very possible that the Alabama safety isn’t on the board at No. 17, but he’s a no-brainer if he is available.
1. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The No. 1 player on my big board is a guy that I wasn’t too fond of initially. After watching more and more of his tape, however, I have seen the light.
His basketball experience shows up on film because he has such amazing hand-eye coordination and just plucks the ball out of the air with ease.
The monstrous frame, above-average speed and natural hands make him a tantalizing receiver prospect, and he has the highest ceiling of any receiver in this draft.
Evans is definitely raw when it comes to the finer points of route running, but he showed good command of his limited route tree at Texas A&M and has the strength and toughness to make contested catches to bail out his quarterback.
The Ravens have only spent two first-round picks on a wide receiver in franchise history, but Evans is definitely talented enough to be the third.
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:
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