Now that the first stages of free agency have come and gone along with former Ravens Linebacker Adalius Thomas and Fullback Ovie Mughelli definite voids opened in the Ravens roster that werenâ€™t entirely filled by the re-signing of Jarrett Johnson and a trade for the versatile and non-fullback dependent Willis McGahee.
With less and less time remaining until the bell rings and the Raiders do what the Raiders will do, what about those fullbacks and linebackers of the 2007 draft? Letâ€™s start today with the fullbacks and tomorrow we will tackle the linebackers.
It seems quite likely the Ravens will draft one of the top available fullbacks with Justin Green returning from a knee injury and Mike Anderson being a few years removed from the position. Who exactly are the top fullbacks?
Brian Leonard: Rutgers 6â€™1â€ 238 4.52
Leonard is listed all over draft boards as a fullback, but really desires to be a running back as he was in 2003, yet in 2004 he still recorded an average of over 100 all-purpose yards per game. It wasnâ€™t until the arrival of Ray Rice that Leonard became a more traditional fullback for the good of the team. Even so, in 2005 he averaged over 100 all purpose yards per game. It wasnâ€™t until 2006 that he truly became a traditional fullback in the Rutgers offense. While it has been said in some circles that Leonard wishes to return to his earlier role, there is the potential he may be a fullback in the NFL.
The trouble with this concept is that Leonard is more of a runner as evidenced by his speed to the outside and comparisons to Justin Griffith, formerly of the Falcons. There is also speculation that the Rutgers product may be more effective in a single-back offense as evidenced by his speed, hands, and solid running between the tackles. As a lead blocker Leonard improved, but is not an imposing blocker, which makes him more closely resemble Justin Green than Lorenzo Neal.
The Ravens: Leonard is projected as a first day pick and there is likely to be substantially more value at FB during day two than in the second round where the Ravens have more pressing needs at other positions.
Leâ€™Ron McClain: Alabama 6â€™ 257 4.94
McClain is shorter with some extra weight around his mid-section but more closely resembles the bowling-ball drive blocker. However, as indicated by his time in the 40 yard dash, there isnâ€™t a substantial threat running the football. There are questions as to his intelligence, needing several reps to understand a play. This may be compensated for by his reported status as a team leader who responds well to hard coaching which indicates a motivation both to work through those struggles to be a solid player. Ultimately, it appears that McClain isnâ€™t quite ready to start as he needs a bit of additional work on refining technique and to get into ideal football condition, which may greatly improve his mobility and speed.
The Ravens: McClain is a solid second day pick at fullback though he is not yet ready to start, which may deter Baltimore despite his complementary skill sets when paired with Green.
Jason Snelling: Virginia 5â€™11â€ 232 4.56
Snelling is a supremely underrated talent who is able to do everything. Starting as a special teams standout he worked his way into the fullback role at Virginia. After taking over the job, he drew praise for his punishing blocking style. During his senior season Snelling was the primary tailback for the Cavaliers but struggled throughout the year with an ankle sprain. Snelling is quite effective when asked to convert short yardage opportunities and he is an adequate receiver out of the backfield although he is more comfortable catching the ball in stride as opposed to over-the-shoulder. Weaknesses include extensive wear and tear in college based on his injury history and he struggled temporarily holding on to the football.
The Ravens: Snelling could be that replacement for Mughelli as the Ravens starting fullback right out of the gate assuming heâ€™s not set on remaining a running back. Snelling will also go second day and may even be an undrafted free agent depending on perceptions of his use.
Cory Anderson, Tennessee 6â€™3â€ 259 4.7
This Volunteer is a pure blocker who started is collegiate career as a defensive end. Andersonâ€™s past is a bit checkered. He failed to meet NCAA eligibility requirements after committing to Tennessee in 2001. Scouts are likely to wonder why the Volunteers often featured a two tight end set if Anderson is such a good blocker limiting the FB to only six starts as a senior. Even so, his blocking ability and adequate pass catching skills are a big reason for Tennesseeâ€™s success when running the football. Other problems still linger as a result of his limited experience with football (Anderson did not play until his senior in high school). He struggles in pass protection and has difficulty adjusting the ball to an outside arm when turning the corner.
The Ravens: Anderson is certainly a potential second day pick though his lack of versatility is problematic for any potential Ravens fullback. If Snelling or McClain elude the Ravens, he may be next in line if a fullback is taken at all given the remaining slim pickings.
Other options include Jesse Allen and Tim Castille who fit the stylistic description of Anderson.
Ravens currently hold the following picks in the 2007 NFL Draft: Nos. 29, 61 (Round 2), 134 & 137 (Round 4 Compensatory Picks), 166 (Round 5), 174 (Round 5 Compensatory Pick), 203 (Round 6) & 207 (Round 6 Compensatory Pick).
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