The three day extravaganza that is the NFL Draft begins tonight with the first round and as always there will be a few surprises, wows and head scratcher moments throughout the night. The Baltimore Ravens may be responsible for one of those moments, but what are the Ravens biggest needs heading into the 2013 NFL Draft?
Baltimore has done a fabulous job thus far this offseason in re-tooling their 17th ranked defense from a year ago and have locked up their Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco, so what are the biggest needs remaining for the draft?
The below list is how we prioritize the Ravens draft needs heading into tonight's 2013 NFL Draft from highest to lowest:
- The departure of Anquan Boldin has left a huge gap in the wide receiving core for the Ravens, especially for a good slot receiver.
- We are not certain that Jacoby Jones or Tandon Doss can be an every down wide receiver for this team.
- Baltimore needs a strong receiver with good route running ability to compliment Torrey Smith.
- Most importantly, the Ravens, and Joe Flacco will need a receiver that can withstand the punishment of going over the middle as we saw this offense really take off once Flacco was able to utilize the middle of the football field in the passing game.
- Baltimore has yet to really solve their left tackle situation, and with the monster contract the team handed Flacco, they will need someone to protect his blind side. The Ravens have already basically made it known that Michael Oher will stay at right tackle as Head Coach John Harbaugh stated this offseason that if the games started tomorrow that Kelechi Osemele would be the starting left tackle.
- The Ravens have some options here, they could go through with Osemele playing left tackle, they could attempt to resign Bryant McKinnie to a one year deal, or they could trade up in the draft to get one of the three marquee left tackles in this draft class.
- Whether the Ravens go with Osemele or resign McKinnie, I have no doubt they will still draft a left tackle over the next three days, but the question will be whether the player will be an immediate starter or a project.
- Let's just choose to ignore the fact that the Ravens signed Rolando McClain to a one year deal, because it seems like McClain has done that anyway. Baltimore still needs a middle linebacker in this draft at some point as currently they do not have a stellar stable of guys at this position with the retirement of Ray Lewis and the departure of free agent Dannell Ellerbe.
- Some have speculated that Baltimore will go middle linebacker in the first round, but we disagree, we believe they will go at wide receiver if they pick in the first round at all, but the Ravens will draft a middle linebacker at some point.
- Unlike left tackle, we do not see any scenario where the Ravens trade up in the first round to get a middle linebacker as they feel there is plenty of depth at the position to wait till the 2nd-4th rounds or even later.
- Ed Reed departed in free agency and the Ravens released Bernard Pollard to leave a big hole at safety, but the signing of Michael Huff was a step in the right direction and resigning James Ihedigbo is a nice insurance policy.
- Baltimore will still need a safety or two in this draft, and with a deep defensive class we expect the Ravens to wait until at least the third round before pulling the trigger on a safety.
- The Matt Birk retirement left a hole at center that will be hard to fill, but Baltimore drafted Gino Gradkowski last season with the idea of him replacing Birk at some point.
- Although the team seems comfortable with Gradkowski snapping the ball, do not be surprised to see the Ravens pull the trigger on a center in the later rounds to provide some competition for Gino.
Those are the four spots where we feel Baltimore has the biggest needs heading into the draft. Again, these are prioritized by draft needs and not necessarily overall needs. Tonight look for the Ravens to pick at some point, if they stay still at 32, we expect a wide receiver to be selected, but if Ozzie Newsome finds the right deal, we may see Baltimore trade up for the left tackle they so covet.
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