Before we begin, let it be known that is impossible to ever replace what Ray Lewis has done for and meant to the city of Baltimore.
Ray was selected in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft with the 26th overall pick, and once Lewis was draped in the purple, white and black he started his path of destruction while compiling record-breaking stats, multiple awards and bringing home Baltimore's first Lombardi Trophy in 2000.
Ray Lewis has been the identity and the face of this franchise for the past 15 seasons and Ravens fans everywhere are dreading the day Lewis no longer emerges from the smoke-filled tunnel at M&T Bank Stadium to perform his signature pregame dance while Nelly's "Hot In Herre" blasts over the sound system.
As deflating as that day may be, the Ravens must somehow move on and proactively look ahead to find a new general to command the middle of the field. Lewis said himself that he believes this year the Ravens have enough pieces to win a Super Bowl and that he is only playing this game for another ring. Now, with a lingering toe injury, it seems that Ray's days as one of the most feared middle linebackers in the game are coming to an end.
Where do the Ravens turn to fill the shoes of Lewis? Well, the answer is certainly not on the current roster. We all (unfortunately) remember the Kyle Boller experiment in brief combination with an aged Steve McNair, which didn't quite work out for the Ravens.
General Manager Ozzie Newsome, also known as Baltimore's NFL draft guru, had enough of Boller and knew it was time to find a new quarterback. As the 2008 NFL Draft rolled around, Newsome finally found his man and traded up to grab his future franchise QB from University of Delaware, Joe Flacco.
Likewise, all signs point to Newsome beginning the search for Lewis' successor in the 2012 draft. Is this the year Newsome makes another big move and trades up to secure one of the talented MLB prospects in hopes to fill the Ray Lewis void?
No one knows for sure, but in this year's draft there are four solid, first-round talents. The ideal situation would be that Ray himself could groom and mentor one of these prospects for a year or two and eventually hand over the reigns to him.
Let's take a look who could be a suitable successor at MLB for the Baltimore Ravens.