Round 1: Dont’a Hightower (ILB) Alabama: Though the Ravens almost pull the trigger on an offensive center or guard in round one, the depth at both of those positions, coupled with the lack of depth at inside linebacker in this draft, steers them to Hightower, an explosive defender with a high football IQ. If Baltimore wants a young Will LB, who can contribute in some way immediately, then they will have to get one early, and Hightower is the best of the bunch.
Round 2: Ben Jones (C) Georgia: Baltimore misses out on center Peter Konz in round one, but Jones, the draft’s #2 rated snapper, is a much better fit for the Ravens’ zone run blocking scheme. He excels on the move and in space, and is the best pulling center available. With Birk returning for likely his final season, Jones provides solid depth and the heir apparent waiting in the wings.
Round #3: Nick Toon (WR) Wisconsin: The Ravens take advantage of a deep wide receiver class, and garner a player who complements Boldin and Smith. Toon is a legitimate red zone threat, and a polished receiver, who is one of the class’ best blocking pass catchers. After playing at run heavy Wisconsin, Toon isn’t a diva who demands the ball on every play, and should fit in nicely with the other offensive personnel.
Round #4: DeQuan Menzie (CB) Alabama: Although Baltimore is solid at corner, with Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith the likely present and future, Menzie is one of this draft’s best slot cornerbacks, and is strong in man coverage and run support. With the proliferation of three and four receiver sets, the slot CB is a position of increasing importance in the NFL, and Menzie is a definite upgrade over other options currently on the roster. In addition, his skill set should allow him to see some snaps at free safety, and, with development, he could evolve into a long term answer, after the eventual retirement of Ed Reed.
Round #5: Senio Kelemete (OG) Washington: With the departure of Ben Grubbs, and the unfortunate failure to sign Evan Mathis, the Ravens mine the deep guard position in the draft, nabbing an athletic blocker with significant upside. Kelemete, one of the most physically gifted guards available, is already a sound run blocker, especially on the move and in space. He’s still raw as a pass protector, but is athletic enough to hold his own till his techniques are refined.
Round #5: Miles Burris (OLB) San Diego State: Burris is an explosive, downhill player, with above average speed and a tenacious attitude. He won’t wow with athletic ability, but he’s just a good football player. As a solid run defender who can set the edge, and an aggressive blitzer off the corner, Burris is a natural fit for outside linebacker in the Ravens’ system. He’s not polished, and probably won’t start in year one, but he’ll be a stand-out special teamer until his game is fully formed.
Round #6: Markus Zusevics (OT) Iowa:
Continuing the rebuilding of the offensive line, Zusevics, from the Hawkeye o-line factory, is a smaller, more agile tackle prospect than his more decorated college line mate, Riley Reiff; however, Zusevics, who is already a pounding run blocker who shows genuine promise in pass protection, could be a real find late. With McKinnie and Oher entrenched at tackle, Zusevics, who can also play offensive guard, will have at least a year to develop.
Round #7: Rodney McLoed (FS) Virginia: Baltimore would have liked to address the need at safety earlier in the draft, but the weak class doesn’t merit early or mid-round consideration; in fact, the 2013 draft looks to have a much deeper class of quality defensive backs, so the Ravens would fare much better in waiting till next year. With Ed Reed returning, don’t look for the club to sign a second tier free agent, like Sean Jones, Dwight Lowry, or Jim Leonhard, as a stop-gap measure. In any case, Rodney McLoed is a young player, with potential, who not only can contribute immediately by playing on every special teams unit, but also should develop quicker, having Reed to watch every day, for at least one year.