While the excitement of the Super Bowl XLVII victory hasn’t worn off even slightly, folks in the Ravens front office are already starting preparations for next year’s team and shaping what it could look like early.
Ozzie and Co. are in the midst of prepping for the NFL Draft and running over what their options could be once the Ravens are on the clock. Sure, it’s early but the main focus for the decision makers is getting ready to put the team in the best position to repeat as World Champions in 2013.
Draft day is one of the most looked forward to, yet most stressful, days in each NFL organization. This year is no exception. Mock drafts all around have not even come close to being finished products and at this point in the offseason, and nothing is clear when looking ahead to draft day.
This season will be especially unique for the Ravens, as for the first time since the 2001 Draft, they will be picking last in the first round with pick number 32. (Yes, winning the Super Bowl does come with just one downfall.)
With the enormous amount of success that the Ravens have had in previous drafts, we can always expect solid picks with great upside. Last season, a decision was made to trade back into the second round to add another pick and eventually draft the stud LB out of Alabama, Courtney Upshaw.
Like last season, the front office staff will again have to wait it out until their pick to get a clear grasp on who is available as 31 other players will be taken until they even get to choose.
Most importantly, the team must reach a verdict on what their biggest needs are and what depth is like at each of those positions. Players can very easily be stolen and taken even one pick ahead. Luckily for us, we have the best in the business when it comes to drafts.
Obviously it is very early, and people making up their mock drafts are just starting with a rough outline. One very interesting storyline has come up early and caught the attention of eyes all around Charm City. A particular name has been labeled under the Ravens pick, and it might come as a surprise: Manti Te’o.
Yes, the star LB out of Notre Dame has appeared to slide down the boards and fall right into the Ravens hands. In my early mock, I have Te’o going to the Chicago Bears at pick number 20. I expect Te’o to be grabbed in the middle of the first with his stock rising at the Scouting Combine in a week.
But take this scenario: Manti Te’o has simply an average Combine outing and he doesn’t shine at his Pro Day. Teams are not only skeptical of his poor performance in the BCS Championship game against Alabama, but his off-field issues as well. Te’o is passed up by teams like the Steelers, Bears, and Bengals, and he is available at #32.
Ozzie Newsome has a really tough decision on his hands. Does he draft Te’o and bolster the Ravens linebacking corps – thy could use one more solid LB – or does he look past Te’o because of the risk and downside that comes with the pick?
On the field, I believe Te’o is an above average player that is worthy of a late 1st round-early 2nd round pick. He can be molded into a good LB in the NFL and in the end, he could end up being a solid option for years to come. He has a great nose for the ball and he knows how to make plays, but in my opinion he is NOT worth the risk.
The last thing the defending Super Bowl Champion needs is more media attention. With all of the interviews and press they will be getting being the reigning champs, distraction will already be at a peak. Imagine the kind of media attention Manti Te’o would bring in!
There will not be one media outlet that will not want to get their eyes on Te’o, and this is a major distraction for any team. John Harbaugh has been known for keeping things quiet and staying under the radar. This pick would simply bring unwanted attention and distraction into a Ravens locker room that is going through a lot of change and adversity.
Te’o is a good linebacker and I expect him to be fairly successful at the NFL level. With work, he will be transformed into a real NFL player and he will be able to put his issues off the field in the past and focus on being a star. His skills on field might be a fit with Baltimore, but when looking at the overall picture, drafting him would not be in the team’s best interest.