Like the NFL draft? So do I, and in my not-so-humble opinion it is never too early to start thinking about who the Ravens could be (and hopefully are) looking at in next year’s crop of draft prospects.
I actually believe that next year could be the year we see Baltimore move around significantly in the draft. They signed guys like Elvis Dumervil, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, and Michael Huff as well as drafting Matt Elam, Arthur Brown, and Brandon Williams. This means that if Art Jones is unable to be re-signed, they’ve got some depth to work with. Additionally, the salary cap numbers for Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs could mean that there may be some contract renegotiating going on…and as we saw with Anquan Boldin, if Suggs or Ngata don’t budge, they may be traded. Hopefully agreements can be reached with both guys because they are stalwarts on the defensive side of the ball and it will be hard enough replacing Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. Continuity is a big deal in the NFL and it is one of the hardest things to maintain within a roster.
The number of draft picks next year combined with projected compensatory picks could give Ozzie & Company a perfect opportunity to jump up the draft board and land some potential marquee players. I know I know…Ozzie doesn’t like to give up draft picks. However, he did move around the board for Michael Oher and Joe Flacco, so I don’t think that it is THAT outlandish. I think that a long term solution at left tackle will be the most glaring hole when they head into the 2014 off-season, but next year’s crop of linemen could be one of the best we’ve seen in quite some time. Additionally, what are they going to do about Michael Oher? Does Oher try to demand LT money? He’s a good player, but I’m not so sure he is worth LT money. The RT position could quickly become an area of need as well assuming Jah Reid or Ricky Wagner doesn’t pan out there. I also think that the receiver position and tight end position (unless there are major improvements from Ed Dickson, Tandon Doss, Tommy Streeter, Deonte Thompson and David Reed) could be areas that need addressed through the draft. Here are five players that I think the Ravens will definitely be considering in next year’s draft:
1. Cyrus Kouandjio, LT, Alabama (6’6” 315lbs).
He is very raw, but he played remarkably well for Alabama last year and I’d expect similar results from him this year. A big “tell” will be how he does without All-American guard Chance Warmack lined up beside him. I think he has nice footwork as a pass-blocker, but he does reach from time to time. His natural strength and balance have allowed him to compensate for reaching and that won’t be enough in the NFL. He is a punishing run blocker. The fact that he will only be 20 years old in next year’s draft and is a local boy (DeMatha High) certainly adds to his desirability.
2. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt (6’3” 210lbs).
Last year Matthews had 94 receptions, over 1300 yards, and eight TD receptions. Considering he plays for Vanderbilt, who doesn’t have a great QB, and in the SEC, that is quite impressive. Against South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia he averaged around six receptions and 128 yards. He has outstanding size, but unlike a lot of bigger receivers, he is very fluid in his routes and he has deceptive speed.
3. CJ Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa (6’7” 265lbs).
He’s huge, but he is also a lot quicker than you’d think for a 260+ pound tight end. He had 45 receptions and over 400 yards receiving last year for Iowa. The thing I like about Fiedorowicz is that he is already an accomplished blocker, having been coached by Kirk Ferentz, and that is something the Ravens haven’t had at TE since Todd Heap was here. Even then, Heap was more of a receiver than a blocker. Both Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson are set to be free agents after this season and while I think that Pitta will be retained, there is a possibility that Dickson may be the odd man out. Either way, the Ravens may want to think about increasing the quality of depth at TE.
4. James Hurst, LT, North Carolina (6’7” 310lbs).
After this season Hurst will have had four years of starting at LT and that is something that should not be taken lightly. He isn’t a popular name right now in the discussion of LT prospects, but he could end up being the best of the bunch. He has excellent size, quickness, footwork, and he even makes a lot of the line calls at UNC. UNC plays South Carolina this season, so Hurst could really boost his stock by playing well against Jadeveon Clowney, whom many think will be the #1 overall pick in next year’s draft.
5. CJ Mosley, LB, Alabama (6’2” 235lbs).
Yes, the Ravens did just draft Arthur Brown, but Daryl Smith is only here on a one-year deal, who knows if Jameel McClain can recover well enough from his neck injury and no one after those three have displayed a lot of promise outside of special teams and situational/package play. I think Mosley would have easily been the top inside linebacker taken in this year’s draft and the thought of him paired with Arthur Brown is REALLY enticing. Mosley blitzes well, he sheds blocks well, he tackles well, and he has the speed and lateral explosiveness to cover receivers.