RAVENS DRAFT NEEDS: Inside Linebacker

NFL Draft RAVENS DRAFT NEEDS: Inside Linebacker

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The Baltimore Ravens are in a great spot for the 2013 NFL Draft. During the start of the offseason, many were concerned that the Ravens were losing too many essential players on the roster. However, the patience of Ozzie Newsome was on full display as the team was able to seriously bolster the defense by grabbing Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, Elvis Dumervil, Michael Huff and most recently, Rolando McClain.

Even with those key acquisitions, the Ravens still have holes that they’ll look to fill through the draft, specifically ILB, LT, S and WR. Let’s take a look at each position beginning with inside linebacker and identify several players the Ravens could target in the upcoming draft.

Note: Each player name is linked to their profile page on DraftBreakdown.com including video highlights and measurables.

INSIDE LINEBACKER

With the recent addition of Rolando McClain, many believe that the Ravens will avoid drafting an ILB until later rounds of the draft and will head a different direction. However, McClain is only on a one-year deal and given his past, the ILB spot is far from being secure. One general theme that you can expect to see in the draft is speed. The Ravens desperately want to get faster on defense and it’s my belief they’ll target defenders that are quick and versatile. Due to a slant towards speed, the Ravens could look at OLB prospects that are versatile enough to make the transition to ILB in the 3-4 defense. Here are some LB prospects that could be available for the Ravens throughout the draft.

 

1st Round Prospects

Manti Te’o – Notre Dame

There’s a good chance Te’o will be available for the Ravens at pick 32, but frankly, I don’t see the Ravens making this selection. Te’o has solid read and react ability in the box, but struggles to get off blocks. A sure tackler with excellent production/experience, but his limited speed and range are what I believe will take him out of the equation for the Ravens.

Arthur Brown – Kansas State

One of my favorite linebacker prospects, I think the Ravens would certainly have Brown on their radar. Considered by most to be an OLB, I believe Brown shows the skills necessary to play ILB in a 3-4 defense. The Ravens look for certain things in their draft picks and Brown matches much of their requirements; multi-year starter (experience) that produced at a high level, player inside and outside linebacker (versatility), team captain on defense (leadership) and is one of the faster stand-up linebackers in the draft (speed). The big knock against Brown is that he’s considered undersized for the linebacker position, but not by much. Brown is a solid, but not flashy, prospect.

Kevin Minter – LSU

Minter is an instinctive linebacker that seems to enjoy contact. However, that contact can get him in trouble as he has shown trouble shedding blocks against bigger/stronger blockers. Minter tends to rely on his athleticism and read/react skills to get to the ball carrier. He’s not a traditional “thumper” linebacker but is a sound “hit and wrap” tackler. While there’s a first time for everything, Ozzie has never drafted a player from LSU, but this is probably more coincidence than anything else.

 

2nd Round Prospects

Sio Moore – Connecticut

One of the best coverage linebackers in the draft. Shows good range and burst to the ball. Has some trouble taking on blockers at times but stays aggressive. Measurements are outstanding and has a lot of room for development. Would make an immediate impact on special teams and could wind up being one of the better linebackers in the draft with further development.

Kiko Alonso – Oregon

Plays faster on tape than his timed speed shows. Alonso is a high quality coverage linebacker that has very good read and react skills. He has an injury history (torn ACL, wrist) and some previous run-ins with the law. On the field, he looks like the type of player the Ravens would like to grab but off-field concerns may eliminate him from the conversation.

Kevin Reddick – North Carolina

Reddick is a thick-build linebacker that is better against the run than in the passing game. He’s not overly explosive but shows enough lateral speed to chase the ball carrier. If the Ravens are looking for an inside thumper, Reddick is certainly an option.

 

3rd Round Prospects

Jon Bostic – Florida

Physical defender who excels against the run. Aggressive and a sure tackler. Doesn’t have ideal speed but appears comfortable dropping into coverage. He’ll need to further develop coverage abilities but should be able to contribute immediately in the rotation or on special teams.

Nico Johnson – Alabama

I think Johnson is a bit underrated as an ILB prospect. Has ideal height/weight/build for the position and looks very good taking on blockers in the phone booth. Solid against the run but only average in coverage. Nothing about Johnson’s tape will wow you but overall, he looks to be a solid ILB prospect that could be best utilized in a rotational scheme, giving him further time to develop his coverage abilities.

 

Mid-Rounds Prospects

Gerald Hodges – Penn State

Converted safety that has led Penn State in tackles the past two seasons. Shows good quickness in space and obviously understands coverage schemes. Has excellent range and flows to the ball well. Will struggle shedding blocks but still has room for development as a linebacker. Ideal special teams contributor.

AJ Klein – Iowa State

Could be a steal in the mid-rounds of the draft, but wouldn’t be surprised to see him gone in the 3rd round. Nothing flashy about his play but reliability is what comes to mind. Sure tackler, plays with aggression but can be over-aggressive at times. Has above average straight-line speed and could be a potential special teams contributor from the start.

Vince Williams – Florida State

No nonsense type player that knows how to thump. Known for being a team leader and was elected captain as a senior. Aggressive against the run but doesn’t appear to offer much in coverage at this point. Seems uncomfortable in space at times but has room for development.

Late Round/UDFA Prospect

Nick Clancy – Boston College

A real “hustle and effort” player. Took over for Luke Kuechly at ILB this year but previously played outside. Hustle and versatility will land Clancy on an NFL roster either through the late rounds of the draft or as a priority UDFA.

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