Heading into tonight’s draft, GM Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore Ravens are in terrific shape. Obviously, they’re coming off a Super Bowl victory, and despite losing key starters such as Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, and Anquan Boldin, many of these vacancies have already been filled via free agency. The reigning champs don’t currently hold any glaring holes, so in essence I believe Baltimore will use the draft to bolster a few positions in prep for the long-term. Here are two areas for which the Ravens could target developmental prospects:
Unquestionably, the Ravens lost a ton of talent at the linebacker position following the Super Bowl. The one and only Ray Lewis retired, and Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe–both homegrown–soon departed with massive free agent deals. Though former college teammates Courtney Upshaw and recently acquired Rolando McClain, as well as All-Pro and former Bronco Elvis Dumervil hope to fill these voids, the Ravens could still look to the draft for depth at the position, especially ILB. ESPN’s Mel Kiper projects Baltimore to select LSU’s Kevin Minter at No. 32, and I like the pick. Minter’s an extremely physical run-defender and was very consistent as a member of the SEC powerhouse in 2012, recording 55 solo tackles, four sacks, and one interception. He could certainly improve the Ravens’ 3-4 scheme, and experience against some of the nation’s best should give him confidence. Other linebackers I like are Georgia’s Jarvis Jones (who will probably go earlier in the first round), and Florida’s Jonathan Bostic.
*NB: NOT Manti Te’o*
By trading 3x Pro Bowler Anquan Boldin on March 11, Joe Flacco will certainly miss his favorite target from last season’s playoffs. Ozzie claiming only a 6th round pick, however, makes it clear that the Ravens don’t believe a massive physical specimen at wideout is in the team’s best interest for the future. Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones should therefore move into the No. 1 and No. 2 positions, respectively, with current depth including former late-round draftees Tandon Doss and David Reed. With that being said, I like the Ravens to select some sort of slot receiver in an early-to-mid round of the draft. According to ESPN’s other NFL Draft expert, Todd McShay, one logical fit is Quinton Patton out of Louisiana Tech. Though he didn’t get to face top corners on a weekly basis last season, Patton shone against SEC newcomer Texas A&M, grabbing 21 catches for a whopping 223 yards on Oct. 13. His 40-time, unlike Torrey Smith, is above-average at best, but his solid route-running abilities could give Ozzie yet another 2nd or 3rd round gem to add to his impeccable resume´. Other logical selections in my opinion include Robert Woods from USC and Cal’s Keenan Allen, both of whom are undersized but quick and athletic like Patton.
Check back both during and after the draft for more Ravens coverage here at All Over the Hill! The Super Bowl champs should be interesting to watch, as there’s even been speculation about a trade that would allow Baltimore to draft top offensive tackle from Oklahoma, Lane Johnson.