The NFL Draft is quickly approaching and, unlike most years, the forecast for this draft continues to get cloudier. In most cases there are a few draft day trades that shake up the first round, but the fallout of the CBA bargaining will surely reduce the chances of round one trades this year.
Two teams from the AFC North have considered moving down in the draft but no doubt will have less opportunity to do so. The NFL rumor mills have been hot this offseason and the AFC North is right in the middle of the commotion.
Contract issues causing concern in Baltimore?
Joe Flacco stated publicly that he isn’t happy playing out his rookie contract and that he is upset the team hasn’t given him an extension. Flacco may be the biggest name on the Ravens’ list of impending free agents but he is just one of too many.
The Ravens are built to win right now and realistically their window for a championship can only be extended through the draft. When a team plays as well as Baltimore has for so many years in a row their older veterans come with a steeper and steeper price tag. The Ravens could stand to lose three cornerbacks in free agency and could be dangerously short at a few more positions.
This all leads to the question, are the Ravens thinking about their future even more so in this year’s draft? Obviously every team is building towards their future with the draft, but would Baltimore consider replacing some key veterans with this year’s rookie class in just a season or two down the line?
The list of impending free agents, aging vets and unhappy campers is fairly long and it will be interesting to see how the Ravens approach this year’s draft.
Brandon Harris just a smoke screen?
There has been much speculation that the Baltimore Ravens’ attendance at the Miami Hurricanes Pro Day and subsequent interviews with cornerback Brandon Harris have all been pointing to the Ravens selecting Harris in the first round. But is all this talk about Harris just a smoke screen?
The Ravens recently met with another Miami cornerback, DeMarcus Van Dyke. Van Dyke has been considered the 20th-ranked cornerback in the draft, and wouldn’t be considered until around the fourth round. The Ravens do need to fill some roster space with new cornerback talent so likely they will select two corners with the opportunity to play solid minutes.
Van Dyke was a track star at Miami and has the intangibles to play, but his production just wan’t there. Still, the Ravens and Van Dyke both left the meetings with good things to say.
So the idea now is that the Ravens could pass on a cornerback in the first round to address their need for a right tackle and possibly go after a cornerback in the second round, which when paired with Van Dyke could give the Ravens some quality additions to their defense.
The Ravens have also met with Curtis Marsh, another standout cornerback who played for Utah State. Marsh is listed as the 16th-best cornerback and likely a third- to fourth-round pick. Are the Ravens thinking back-to-back cornerbacks in the middle of the draft, or are they just deciding between the two?
Either way, the Ravens have to like the level of player available later in the draft and it could change their first round thinking from cornerback all the way to best available.
Who will be the deep threat?
The Ravens need a receiving threat that can stretch the field. Donte Stallworth lacks the speed he possessed while a young buck in New Orleans and Anquan Boldin is a possession receiver. Many think the Ravens could go after a receiver as early as the second round.
Some names tied to the Ravens to this point have been Titus Young of Boise State and Torrey Smith or Maryland. Both possess the speed Baltimore is looking for, but are the Ravens in position to wait on a receiver? The list of third-round receivers is about as long as the second round with some key speed receivers available.
The Ravens have met with Denarius Moore of Tennessee, whose top-end speed has moved him from a likely fifth- or sixth-round pick to as early as the fourth. Moore has gone on to say that he likes the fit with Baltimore and seemed confident in their assessment of him.
Ravens running Rice out of town?
Ray Rice is one of the most versatile running backs in the game of football; no running back has had more receiving targets than Rice over the last two seasons. Last season Rice also went up over 300 carries so there has to be some worry that the Ravens may be running the wheels off of their young running back.
The Ravens have also been linked to a few different running backs in this year’s draft, some as early as Round 3. One name that keeps coming up in conversation with the Ravens would be Ryan Williams of Virginia Tech.
Williams has the ability to start in the NFL, so would the Ravens consider using a back-by-committee approach or are they looking for insurance if Rice ever gets hurt? The most easily replaced position in football is typically running back so it would be somewhat alarming to Rice and his fan base if the Ravens were to invest a higher pick on a back like Williams.