2012 NFL Mock Draft: Predicting the Baltimore Ravens' First 7 Rounds
While it could be a little early to start thinking about the Baltimore Ravens' needs in April's 2012 draft, here is a seven-round mock of players Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta should be thinking about when they're on the clock.
Keep in mind that Ray Lewis is 36, Matt Birk is 35 and Bryant McKinnie is 32.
The Ravens seem to always draft well and have already gotten a lot of production out of last year's draft class (Jimmy Smith: two INT, Pernell McPhee: six sacks, and Torrey Smith: five TDs). There is clearly a reason why Ravens fans repeat the "In Ozzie We Trust" mantra around draft day.
Round 1: Manti Te'o LB Notre Dame
Although the above video is slightly hyperbolic, Manti Te'o is my choice for the Ravens' first selection of the 2012 draft.
He has a high motor and football IQ and could play right away in Chuck Pagano's aggressive system.
As I stated in the introduction, as miraculous as Ray Lewis is, he is getting older.
Having missed significant time this season with a toe injury, Lewis is less durable and has been inconsistent in coverage.
He has also said that if Baltimore won the Super Bowl this year, he would retire.
Filling Ray's shoes is impossible. His leadership, motivation skills and on-field knowledge are some of the best of all time.
Manti Te'o would give the Ravens a chance to replace him. Although the Ravens have depth at the position and Jameel McClain has played extremely well this season, Te'o should be the Ravens' first-round selection if he is available.
Round 2: William Vlachos C Alabama
While Te'o would provide a youth injection to the Ravens' linebacker corps, Vlachos would be an excellent choice to ease Matt Birk into retirement.
Birk hasn't hinted that he wants to retire, but the Pro Bowl veteran has battled injuries and has fatigued since he joined the Ravens three years ago. He is also in the last year of his contract. Vlachos could be an extremely important selection if the Ravens cannot resign OG Ben Grubbs, who is a free agent at the end of the season as well.
Vlachos is strong, smart and coach-able. Even if Birk stays for one more season, Vlachos would be a competent understudy waiting to take over in 2013.
Round 3: Winston Guy Jr. SS Kentucky
Guy Jr. would fill a need for the Ravens.
Bernard Pollard has played well next to Ed Reed, but Guy Jr. would be a valuable addition in Chuck Pagano's scheme.
With elite speed and playmaking ability in the backfield, Guy Jr. could be what the Ravens hoped Tom Zbikowski would amount to.
Guy Jr. would walk into a young secondary with Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams. Guy Jr.'s versatility and instincts make him a steal for Baltimore in the third round.
Round 4: Tydreke Powell DT North Carolina
Despite playing behind Marvin Austin and Cam Thomas, Powell proved himself during his junior season and has excelled this season in a starting role.
Ozzie Newsome loves defensive linemen, and Powell would be a great value pick in the fourth round.
Newsome also always seems to find hidden gems in the draft. Powell fits that mold.
Round 5 : Case Keenum QB Houston
Joe Flacco has been very durable in his first four years for the Ravens, but Tyrod Taylor is his only backup.
Keenum is more of a traditional pocket-passer with great arm strength and gunslinger ability.
While the Ravens are certainly high on Taylor, Newsome could look to add depth at the QB position, and Keenum would be a great fit.
Round 6: JB Shugarts OT Ohio State
Shugarts is absolutely enormous.
At 6'7", 300 pounds, he has reportedly been timed running the 40-yard dash at 5.1 seconds.
If he had not suffered injuries in his freshman and senior years, he would be rated much higher.
In the sixth round, he is a low risk/high reward pick for the Ravens.
At worst, he would offer athletic depth on the offensive line, and, if he can stay healthy, could be a solid pro for Baltimore.
Round 7: Nelson Rosario WR UCLA
Speaking of size, Nelson Rosario is a 6'5" WR having a breakout senior season on an underachieving Bruins team.
I know the Ravens really like the two young WR's they drafted last year, but Rosario could be a nice pick at the end of the draft.
Lacking break-away speed, Rosario could still be an end-zone threat that Joe Flacco looks to once Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss have gotten the Ravens inside the 20-yard line.