NFL Draft 2009: Looking ahead to what might be in store for the Ravens

NFL Draft NFL Draft 2009: Looking ahead to what might be in store for the Ravens

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Some have criticized the Ravens 2008 NFL Draft class.  The doubters suggest that Ozzie Newsome and Co. reached for a few players and that they failed to address some glaring needs. Instead the club remained true to their draft board and selected their highest rated players regardless of media projections and draft grades. 
 
Those draft grades…how funny are they?  Aren’t they really the equivalent of  the student grading the professor?
 
That said the Ravens’ faithfulness to their board suggests two things: 1) They simply want to bring in the best players regardless of position and; 2) They view the re-shaping of their roster as more than a one year project.
 
With that in mind, we asked Matt Zenitz to take a look at what the Ravens’ scouts might be looking for in 2009 when they break down the draft eligible talent for next year’s NFL Draft. ~ Tony Lombardi
 
An Early Look at Ravens 2009 Draft Needs
 
Cornerback
 
With Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle banged up for the majority of the season, the Ravens secondary took a serious step back in 2007. The lack of depth was apparent as a unit consisting primarily of Corey Ivy, Derrick Martin, David Pittman, Ronnie Prude and Willie Gaston allowed the third most pass plays of 20+ yards and were tied for worst in the league, allowing 15 pass plays of 40+ yards. The Ravens got great value, giving up only a fourth round pick for a former first rounder in Fabian Washington. Washington will come in and push Rolle for a starting spot but will need to become more physical as his poor tackling contributed to a mid-season benching by the Raiders last season. While Washington provides the Ravens with some much needed young talent in the secondary, McAlister and Rolle are slightly past the primes of their careers. At the start of the season, McAlister will be 31 and Rolle will be 32. Even with the acquisitions of Washington and veteran Frank Walker, it came as somewhat of a surprise that the Ravens did not draft a young corner to push Ivy, Martin or Pittman for a roster spot and eventually serve as an heir apparent for McAlister or Rolle.
 
Defensive End
 
After posting 13 sacks in his first season as a Raven, Trevor Pryce played in only five games last season. Without Pryce, opposing teams were able to focus their attention on Terrell Suggs, subsequently limiting his production. With Pryce out for the majority of the season, the Ravens sack total dropped from 60 in 2006 to just 32 in 2007. The lack of depth in the secondary was evident last season but so was the lack of depth along the defensive line. Role players such as Dwan Edwards and Justin Bannan were solid against the run but were not nearly as disruptive as Pryce. Edwards has been a big underachiever as a former second round pick and with Pryce getting up there in age, the Ravens need to find a young defensive lineman that can provide quality depth and eventually replace Pryce.
 
Wide Receiver
 
Derrick Mason set a team record with 103 catches but injuries to Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams limited the productivity of this group in 2007. The Ravens hope Clayton and Williams return to the form they showed in 2006 while Mason is 34 and nearing the end of his career. The Ravens drafted Marcus Smith in the fourth round and expect him to be a short-to-intermediate target in the offense but he is still raw and will drop some passes. He also lacks the speed to be a vertical threat, likely limiting him to just situational duty in the NFL. Clayton and Williams possess obvious talent and can contribute in a number of ways but lack the size, blazing speed or combination of the two needed to be a true number one receiver.
 
Linebacker
 
Ray Lewis, Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs are all set to become free agents at the end of the season. Aside from Tavares Gooden, who the Ravens drafted to serve as the heir apparent to Lewis, the Ravens do not have other players at the position that would be capable of filling the void left by either Suggs or Scott. Jarrett Johnson was solid but unspectacular in his first season as a starter and the absence of Adalius Thomas was evident. Without Thomas, the pass rush was not nearly as effective and opposing quarterbacks had extra time to scan the field and pick apart the Ravens makeshift secondary. Look for Antwan Barnes to play a bigger role this season as he has the tools to an effective pass rusher.
 
Other Needs: Offensive Tackle, Tight End
 
Photos by Sabina Moran

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Matt Zenitz

About Matt Zenitz

Matt covers the Ravens for the Carroll County Times and Annapolis Capital. He is also a Ravens correspondent for the Associated Press. More from Matt Zenitz

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