For front office executives in the NFL, scouting and preparing for the NFL draft every year is an endless task, so it’s no surprise that Ozzie Newsome & Co. have already met with over a dozen prospects in this year’s draft. Visits can be driven by the need to learn more about the person inside the uniform or to address medical concerns.
Let’s take a look at the defensive prospects who seem to have hit the Ravens radar screen leading up to the upcoming scouting combines.
MLB Chris Borland-Wisconsin-(Proj. Round: 3rd round)- Don’t let the lack of height fool you (5-11, 246 pounds), this 22-year-old Middle Linebacker (23 in April) from Kettering, Ohio can flat out play. A three-time All-Big ten selection (2011-2013), Borland capped off his Badgers career with a big Senior season in 2013, recording 112 tackles (8.5 TFL) with 4 sacks and 2 FF en route to being named the Big Ten Defensive player of the year and the Big Ten Linebacker of the year while earning a 2nd Team All-American selection. In his four years in Madison, Borland totaled an amazing 420 tackles with 50 TFL, 17 sacks, 3 interceptions and 15 forced fumbles. A smart, instinctive player that always plays with a high motor, he is great at diagnosing plays and displays top notch tackling ability. Borland should be one of the first ILB’s to be off the board in the upcoming draft.
LB Jonathan Brown-Illinois-(Proj. Round: 6th-7th round)- The two-time 2nd Team All-Big Ten selection (2011 and 2013) had a huge Senior season in 2013, posting a career-high 119 tackles with 5 sacks, 15 TFL and 1 interception. The Memphis, Tennessee native ended his collegiate career at Illinois with 317 tackles, 14 sacks, 45.5 TFL (3rd most in Illinois history) and 3 interceptions. The 21-year-old (22 in June) is a tough, physical player who was the heart of the D in Champaign during his time there. At 6-1 and 230 pounds, Brown can cover sideline-to-sideline and is a very versatile defender as he is good in run support, he can provide pass rush and he can drop into coverage. Oh, and he hits HARD. Look for Brown’s stock to rise if he impresses this off-season.
OLB Telvin Smith- Florida State-(Proj. Round: 2nd round)- Smith, a 6-3, 218 pound OLB from Valdosta, Georgia ended his career at FSU with a big Senior season in 2013, totaling 90 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 2 sacks, and 3 interceptions while earning a 2nd Team All-ACC selection and winning a National Championship. The 22-year-old (23 in April) recorded 214 career tackles with 29 TFL, 7 sacks, and 4 interceptions for the ‘Noles during his collegiate career. Smith is an athletic freak that has phenomenal speed and agility and can cover sideline-to-sideline while having lightning fast closing speed on ball carriers. He is definitely a top LB prospect in the class of ’14, and he also has one of the highest upsides in the entire draft class.
LB/DE Michael Sam-Missouri-(Proj. Round: 3rd-4th round)- The 6-2, 255 pound native of Hitchcock, Texas had a monster Senior season in 2013, recording 48 tackles with 19 TFL and 11.5 sacks en route to being the 2013 SEC co-defensive player of the year while earning a 1st Team All-SEC selection, and was also named to the 2013 All-American squad. The 24-year-old finished his career at Missouri with 123 tackles, 36 TFL, and 21 sacks. During his career at Mizzou, Sam displayed great pass rushing ability while also being a sideline-to-sideline defender who is also good against the run and should be a safe bet to go on day two of the NFL Draft.
FS Kenny Ladler-Vanderbilt-(Proj. Round: 4th-5th round)- The 21-year-old (22 in June) native of Stone Mountain, Georgia had a incredible senior season in 2013, recording career highs in tackles (91) and interceptions (5) while earning a 2nd Team All-SEC selection. In his four years at Vandy, the 6-1, 205 pound playmaker totaled 291 tackles to go with 7 forced fumbles and 9 interceptions in 50 games. Ladler is a great athlete who is also great at reading and reacting to the play as it unfolds and he is ALWAYS around the ball. Ladler is also good in coverage and in run support and he really showed his leadership skills in his last two years in college. Ladler could be not just a steal in the mid-rounds, he could be THE steal of the draft. His upside is through the roof.
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Click HERE for a list of offensive players who are drawing interest from the Ravens scouting staff