It’s that time of the year again. The few months where college basketball is the main focus of the sports world, and sports like hockey and baseball are just fillers for the empty spot of the NFL. Now, this isn’t saying that there’s anything wrong with other sports, but it’s just that we miss football, and we need something… anything to keep the spirit of the gridiron alive.
Luckily for us, hundreds of college kids are preparing to take the next step in the NFL, and we get to follow their journey each and every step of the way.
Next up on the schedule, the NFL Scouting Combine. The combine is the one day of the year where every coach — as well as scouts — drops what they are doing and looks for their next potential future stars. This season, talent is flowing more than ever and just like every other team, the Ravens are searching this crop for the perfect fit.
Holding the 32nd pick, general manager Ozzie Newsome and the rest of this staff could have a tougher time pinning down the prospect(s) they want. Anything can happen during the first round and with 31 picks ahead of them, there has to be intricate planning and preparation.
It won’t be until the ten minutes the team has before they know who will be available, so for now we can only take a look at players who have the potential to be on the board. The Scouting Combine can determine who falls down, and who can rise to the top-10.
I’m going to take you straight to the facts, and show you exactly what head coach John Harbaugh and Co. will be looking at in the coming weeks, all the way up until draft day. The following five players are some of the top candidates to become Baltimore Ravens on April 25th:
Matt Elam, strong safety, Florida (5-foot-10, 200-pounds): Elam, last season’s leading tackler at Florida, is one of the most talented safeties in the draft. Coming out as a junior, Elam is looking to take the big step into the NFL. The young defensive back has major upside.
Like Bernard Pollard, he is a huge hitter. He knows how to lay a bone-crushing hit, and can run stop better than anyone in the draft. His only problem: his size. He is only 5-foot-10, and he can’t win the up-top battles like most safeties should. The combine will be everything for Elam. If he can show his 40-yard dash time to be above average and shows the scouts that he can cover the jump ball with his vertical leap, he may be a viable option for the Ravens.
Kevin Minter, inside linebacker, LSU (6-foot-1, 245-pounds): With the linebacker situation being a little bit dicey in Baltimore, I expect there could be a possibility that a linebacker is taken once the Ravens are on the clock. Kevin Minter would be the ideal pick if Newsome wants to keep building his linebacking corps. He was a sneaky, good player for the Tigers last season. Minter is another junior, but his tackling ability doesn’t show that. He registered 111 tackles last season, and he shut down many leading running backs. The problem here is the realistic possibility of Minter falling to the Ravens. It is possible that another team could snag him before the Ravens have a chance to pick. Who knows? It could be a good thing if Minter doesn’t have a great combine outing.
Robert Woods, wide receiver, USC (6-foot-1, 190-pounds): Robert Woods could be a very interesting pickup if the Ravens decide to go offense in the first-round of the draft. Defense is surely the biggest need, but it is very possible that the players being targeted on the defensive side of the ball will already be snatched.
Woods isn’t a huge guy, but his hands are what every scout looks for. He never drops passes, and he is used to playing with an NFL caliber quarterback, as he worked with Matt Barkley at Southern California. With veteran Anquan Boldin being anything but a lock to return for the 2013 season, watch out for Woods at the combine. He will most likely be available when the Ravens pick at No. 32, and his combine outing should be the final indication of his NFL readiness.
John Jenkins, nose tackle, Georgia (6-foot-4 360-pounds): When I think of a run stopper, I usually tend to think of a lean, fast linebacker or a hard-hitting safety. This season, however, I immediately think of John Jenkins, the massive defensive tackle. Jenkins is like a brick wall. His size alone is enough to scare the daylights out of any running back, and it will be tough for any offensive linemen to move him out of the way. His 6-foot-4, 360-pound frame is a commodity that any NFL team looks for, especially a team like the Ravens, who run a base 3-4 scheme.
Here’s the knock on him: He has very little stamina. Jenkins could drop to the Ravens simply because he has a difficult time staying on the field. He must correct that if he wants to be an elite NFL defensive tackle. The Ravens could use another run stuffer up the middle with third-year veteran Terrance Cody having not lived up to expectations.
Manti Te’o, linebacker, Notre Dame (6-foot-2 260-pounds.): As I previously stated in my last article, Manti Te’o could very easily fall to the Ravens. His off-field scandal could turn teams off, and his on the field skills are not the best in this year’s draft class.
Te’o will bring a lot of unwanted media attention. Ultimately, it might be more attention than the Ravens probably want. But, if he does fall, one has to wonder if Newsome will draft him. He has shown that he is very good in many of aspects of the game, and grooming him to be an top-flight middle linebacker shouldn’t be too tough. Defense is definitely a big need for the Ravens, and Te’o might just be the guy at No. 32.