The Ravens are one of the best teams in the draft largely because of their ability to look past who they like and see the value picks. Every year one useful exercise is to project where the most value will be in each round based on players available(i.e. depth), the quality of those players and position of the pick in the draft. With that in mind, Here is a preview of where i expect the talent to lie with each draft pick for the Ravens.
1. Wide Receiver – I expect Stephen Hill, Alshon Jeffery and Mohomed Sanu to all be available at 29. WR is a very deep position this year, but none of the players after Sanu have real starting potential(not to say that none of them will ever be starters, they just don’t project to be starters). Because of the wealth of the WR position group, good names like Hill and Jeffery will be passed on early in favor of grabbing players in the second or third round. Peter Konz will likely be available, but I don’t believe he will hold tremendous value as I project him as a second round pick(mostly due to his injury history).
2. Outside Linebacker – If the board falls the right way the OLB group could be very strong at 29. Courtney Upshaw, Nick Perry, Shea McClellin, Zach Brown, Whittney Mercilus and Chandler Jones all have a chance of being available (not of of them of course, but potential 3 or 4 of them). The only reason I don’t favor the OLB group over the WR group is that I project Hill as a better long term player than every OLB listed aside from Upshaw who may or may not be on the board at 29.
3. Inside Linebacker – ILB makes it on the back of just one player. Dont’a Hightower. Hightower has no business lasting until 29, but if he does, he represents tremendous value that late in the first round and has pretty much carried a weak ILB group into being a strong value group late in the first round. The only question is whether or not Hightower will make it past a run of ILB needy teams in front of the Ravens, starting with the Steelers (24) then the Texans (26), Patriots (27) and Packers (28).
Honorary Mention - Offensive Tackle- Mike Adams and Jonathan Martin both might be available at 29, although both are project players (I wouldn’t touch Adams in the first round) which kept the group out of the top 3.
1. Interior Offensive Line – For all the talk of the Ravens taking Peter Konz in the first round, I just don’t see it. The value of OGs and Cs is so much better in the second round. With guards like Amini Silatolu, Kevin Zeitler, Keleche Osemele, Senio Kelemete, Zebrie Sanders (who I think should play LG for at least 1 year) and Brandon Washington and Centers Ben Jones and Phillip Blake and maybe even Peter Konz (If the Ravens and Colts pass on him, he could free fall) all possibly available, it makes a ton of sense for the Ravens to wait to fix their line until the second round.
2. Cornerback- The Ravens don’t really have a pressing need at corner, but it never hurts to add playmakers to your secondary, and besides, this list isnt about needs, its about values. The list of Corners possibly on the board is pretty impressive. Janoris Jenkins, Brandon Boykin, Trumaine Johnson, Jayron Hosley, Chase Minnifield and Dwight Bently are all potentially available at 29(although Alfonso Dennards recent arrest may make him near untouchable).
3. Tight End- Again, it’s another position the Ravens don’t need, but that is how the board looks to me. Coby Fleener will be long gone, but there is a good chance that every other TE will be available. Dwayne Allen, Orson Charles and Lardarius Green all grade out as second rounders making TE a strong group in the late second.
1. Interior Offensive Line – Basically the same as round two. Brandon Washington, Phillip Blake, Brandon Brooks, and James Brown will all be around pick 91. All of those guys have starting potential.
2. Offensive Tackle – Mitchell Schwartz and Jeff Allen are as good of third round players as you will ever find. Either or both of those players could be there and both a potential starting LTs, Mitchell Schwarts is a player that some believe will be the best LT in the draft long term.
3. Defensive Line – Alameda Ta’amu, Cam Johnson, Jared Crick, Tyrone Crawford, Billy Winn, and Josh Chapman are all potential picks and all could be contributors from day one on. Crick and Chapman are probably the only legit starting caliber players in the group which keeps them from being number 1 or 2.
1. Running Back- The Ravens might be in the market for a new runner to add to the rotation being Rice and Anthony Allen this season. the 4th round offers the best value with players such as Cyrus Gray, Robert Turbin, Bernard Pierce, Chris Rainey, Isiah Peade and Vick Ballard all expected to go in the fourth or fifth round.
2. Safety – Markell Martin is the best free safety in this years draft class and there is a decent chance he slides on draft day thanks to the glut of lineman on both sides of the ball that have early round grades. Tayvon Wilson, Antonio Allen, George Iloka and Duke Ihenacho should all be in the area of pick 130 and all have good value and would bring good depth to the Ravens backfield.
3. Center – I’ve mentioned a few of these guys before, but this is where the Raves will either take a center or likely pass on the group as a whole. Gino Gradkowski, David Molk, Ben Jones and Mike Brewster all carry 4th round grades and all could potentially be starters.
Picks 164 and 169
1. Return specialists – Return Specialist isn’t a real position, but that what I’m going to call it. players like Cliff Harris, T.Y. Hilton, Joe Adams, Tim Benford and Keith Tandy all have good return ability and will have strong value in the fifth round.
2. Pass Rushers – Jonathan Massaquoi is my pick for biggest sleeper in the draft. he has immense physical talent and ability but he is extremely raw. If he lands on a good team he could be a double digit sack artist within 3 years. Add him to Travian Washington, Akeem Hicks, Malik Jackson, Demario Davis and Tim Fuger, Frank Alexander and you have a strong group of mid round pass rushers.
3. Inside Linebackers- One name is all i need to mention here. Vontaze Burfict. We all know all about the headache that Burfict brings to the table, but we all also know how much raw ability he has. He could be a complete bust or an all time great (in a perfect scenario) but either way he is worth a fifth round flier. Audie Cole also projects as a fifth rounder.
1. Safety- Once again the safety group has good value in this round. Trenton Robinson, Winston Guy Jr, Eddie Whitley, Tony Dye, Sean Richardson and Aaron Henry all project as 6th rounders and a couple of them (including Winston Guy) have good potential. The Ravens could easily draft two safeties this year for depth.
2. Outside Linebacker- Jerry Franklin is the guy to watch here. Frankiln is undersized but has potential to be a good rotation player in a 3-4 scheme as an OLB
3. Running back – Running back will be featured in this and in the seventh round because late rounds are always popular areas for RBs. Drafting a late round RB is a win win for teams: they get to keep their high round picks and if the RB is good and they don’t have to pay him much so they good good value there as well.
1. Running back – Same as above. Cheap players with a high rate of success in the NFL. RBs are safe picks and at worst they can contribute as camp bodies to ease the wear and tear on you real players.
2. Any player with physical talent – It’s hard to project position value in the seventh round because teams aren’t going to look at that much.Tthey are looking for a guy that is injury prone or has character issues or something like that but has real physical talents.