Ray Lewis and the Ravens will need some help from their rookie class if they want to compete for an AFC North crown.
When the Baltimore Ravens acquired Anquan Boldin in free agency last year, everyone was quick to jump on the bandwagon.
The Ravens struggled to find an offensive identity in 2010 however, and had to settle for a second place finish in the AFC North. This year there are some questions concerning the offensive line and the Ravens will be forced to address their issues on the line either via free agency or through the draft.
The fallout of the labor negotiations has clouded the free agent landscape however, making this draft one of the most interesting in some time.
On the defensive side of the ball the Ravens continued to dominate. Despite ending the year as a top-five defense, there are some holes that need to be filled and some depth with future upside the team will have to focus on.
Ed Reed is still one of the best safeties in the NFL, if not the best, but all good things must come to an end eventually. Reed has had retirement rumors surrounding him for over a year.
The Ravens need to find an upgrade at cornerback immediately while keeping in mind the looming need for an heir to Reed. Sergio Kindle was supposed to be both an immediate impact player and insurance for whenever Ray Lewis decides to hang up his cleats, but the Kindle experiment hasn’t quite worked out so far.
The Ravens have a total of nine picks, four coming between round five and six. Late round picks are no guarantee, but there is certainly more than enough evidence that you can find a future pro-bowler later on in the draft. The Ravens will hope to secure those play-makers in their first three rounds and furthermore hope those picks will be the edge they need. Look for the back end of the draft to be spent adding depth to aging areas.
The Ravens will need immediate production from Harris.
Round 1, Pick 26: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami Hurricanes
The Ravens need help at the cornerback position and will need whatever rookie they select to make an immediate impact.
The Ravens certainly won’t have a chance to take Patrick Peterson or Prince Amukamara as they should be gone within the first ten picks. There is a chance the Ravens could take Jimmy Smith of Colorado as well.
Smith’s off-field issues have scared off some teams even though he is an incredible athlete. All signs point to Harris, however, since the Ravens have had much success with defensive players coming from The U.
The Ravens need help on the line, and need to figure out where Oher is best.
Round 2, Pick 26 (58 overall): Benjamin Ijalana, OT, Villanova
I know everyone thinks the Ravens are going to take a wide receiver here. The Ravens have greater needs than a wide receiver with this pick though. There is a big drop off from the first round receivers to the guys in the second round, but not much between the third and fourth round.
The Ravens would love to be able to move Marshall Yanda back to his correct position at guard, and in order to do that they need to find a new tackle. I think Ijalana is the best lineman available at this point, stealing a possible pick from their AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers.
Round 3, Pick 26 (90th overall): Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky
Cobb has the speed the Ravens need and this pick will save the Ravens a lot of money when they sign him. Cobb can certainly stretch the field but will take some time to learn how to play receiver in the NFL. The Ravens have that luxury considering Anquan Boldin and Ray Rice do the majority of the playmaking on this offense.
Round 4, Pick 26 (123rd overall): Quinton Carter, FS, Oklahoma
The Ravens will add some depth and speed to their secondary while adding a guy with high upside that could someday replace Ed Reed. There is a good chance Carter is gone by this pick, but I think he falls to the Ravens in round 4.
Ozzie Newsome is a smart GM, and he won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on a guy with Carter’s abilities. Carter was an average safety in college but has the athletic ability that, if paired with good coaching, can translate to the NFL.
Round 5, Pick 33 (164th overall): Zach Hurd, OG, Connecticut
The Ravens want to add depth to their offensive line while adding size simultaneously. Hurd Stands at a massive 6’7” and could shuffle on the line. Hurd isn’t as strong in run blocking so if he stays a guard it will take some time, but he fits the bill to be a Raven.
Round 5, Pick 34 (165th overall): Zane Parr, DE, Virginia
Parr is a massive defensive end but lacks speed. He will be a good addition to their defensive line as he will help to beat up opposing linemen and eat up blockers for the linebackers behind him.
Round 6, Pick 15 (180th) Overall: Brandon Saine, RB, Ohio St.
Saine drops this far because of his history with injuries.
The Ravens will have to address the running back position eventually and Saine’s size is a nice compliment to the shifty Ray Rice.
Round 6, Pick 26 (191st Overall): Elijah Joseph, ILB, Temple
Joseph was a beast for the Owls but lacks the physical ability to be considered a high draft choice. Extremely strong work ethic and mentality will pair well with Ray Lewis’ training regimen and work ethic.
Round 7, Pick 22 (225th Overall): Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, WR, Iowa
Solid receiver that will get a chance to make the practice squad.
Nick Sero is a contributor for TheSportsCannon.com, a fantasy sports website specializing in football and baseball. Quit sitting at the bottom of your league’s leaderboard and load up with information from the Sports Cannon.