With compensatory picks announced, the draft outlook for the Baltimore Ravens is finally set, with eight draft picks, including four in the top 100.
For a team that addressed plenty of holes in free agency (mainly through re-signing its own free agents), there aren’t many glaring needs with the draft less than two months away.
But now having the draft picks set, it’s finally time to start taking a look at who the Ravens could potentially target, and more importantly when.
Here’s an initial seven-round mock draft for the Ravens:
* Mock drafts are nothing but a guessing game. Don’t take any mock draft picks verbatim, but rather use the mocks as general guidelines of who teams could target and in which round(s), as well as which positions will be focused upon. Nobody knows what will actually happen on draft day, not even NFL general managers.
* With news that the Ravens could potentially bring in competition for Tyrod Taylor at backup quarterback, drafting a quarterback this year may become a realistic scenario. But as of now, with the news so fresh and little information as to just how inclined the Ravens are to adding legitimate competition for Taylor, projecting when/if the team will draft a quarterback is a shot in the dark; so no quarterbacks in this mock until the picture becomes more clear.
* Only players who I’ve actually studied in some fashion thus far were eligible for the mock, which did limit the pool from which to select. It’s painfully obvious that many other mocks don’t follow this practice, but we’ll keep it honest here.
* The “what would I do?” and “what would be the best scenario?” concepts are factored in, as it almost has to be a component of a team-specific mock.
Round 1, pick No. 17: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Safety, Alabama
This is probably too optimistic of a projection, as Clinton-Dix very well may be off the board before the Ravens pick. As a comparison, the first safety selected last year was Kenny Vaccaro at No. 15 overall. If available, Clinton-Dix would be an ideal long-term option at free safety, and would create a diverse duo with Matt Elam.
Clinton-Dix’s niche is coverage, where he is instinctual, rangy and reliable. However he isn’t a difference maker on a consistent basis. He won’t make game-changing interceptions on a regular basis, but in man coverage and as a one-deep safety, he is a reliable asset. If Clinton-Dix is off the board, safety could still be a first round target, with Louisville’s Calvin Pryor and Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward being options.
Round 2, pick 48: Troy Niklas, Tight End, Notre Dame
As a tight end with little experience at the position but desirable physical traits, it’s hard to gauge just how interested teams will be in Niklas early in the draft. Despite re-signing Dennis Pitta, the Ravens still need at least one more starting-caliber tight end on the roster, and Niklas could fill that void. He possesses down-the-seam mismatches, but most importantly his blocking ability would be the single asset that would be valuable to Baltimore’s offense.
Round 3, pick No. 79: Jarvis Landry, Wide Receiver, LSU
You don’t need to do much digging to discover that Landry has been profiled positively on this part of cyberspace before. Outside of the noted attraction to Landry’s game, he fits what Baltimore needs in the passing game. Adding Steve Smith gave the team a reliable chain mover, and adding another player with that dynamic would further improve a once abysmal receiving corp.
In such a deep draft class at the wide receiver position, there are too many names to mention as possibilities for the Ravens. But given that Landry fits what Baltimore needs, as well as the fact he was one of the few receivers the team met with at the combine, the connection is easy to make.
Round 3, pick No. 99: JuWaun James, Offensive Tackle, Tennessee
This may be too low of a projection for James, whose draft ceiling is as early as the second round, but being available at this point in the draft isn’t completely unrealistic. Entering the NFL with 37 consecutive starts at right tackle – Baltimore’s biggest offensive need – makes him a viable plug-and-play option. The starting right tackle position could ultimately go to a free agent, but as a long-term investment, the athletic, powerful and experienced James wouldn’t be the worst option.
Round 4, pick No. 134: James White, Running Back, Wisconsin
The coaching connection has already been discussed regarding White and the Ravens. But even outside of that – as that connection could mean absolutely nothing – White fits what the Ravens need at the running back position. As a mid-round pick, White can provide value as a quick-burst, change of pace ball carrier, whose effortless cuts make him a viable zone-blocking running back.
He is also a viable pass catcher out of the backfield, and possesses many of the same traits as running back Ray Rice, just without the same impact. White could contribute in year one and also provide value as a Rice insurance policy, with the star running back’s long-term future in Baltimore in question.
Round 4, pick No. 138: Charles Leno, O-Lineman, Boise State
The Ravens should be in the market again this draft season for another guard/tackle hybrid, as Jah Reid’s days in Baltimore may be over before the 2014 regular season begins. When it comes to backup linemen in the draft, the Ravens almost exclusively draft players capable of playing multiple positions along the line (ex: Ricky Wagner, Ryan Jensen, Reid, Ramon Harewood).
Leno, an offensive tackle in college, is an intriguing athlete who has the length to play tackle, and short area quickness to be a valuable run-blocking guard. His athleticism makes him a worthy project to undertake, and could be a swing guard/tackle backup until/if he develops.
Round 5, pick No. 175: Jay Bromley, Defensive Lineman, Syracuse
Nothing has been more cyclical on Baltimore’s roster in recent years than the defensive line, where the Ravens annually use a day-three pick on a defensive lineman, keeping the rotation up to date as free agents depart elsewhere (in this year’s case, Arthur Jones).
To keep the cycle going, the team figures to use a late-round pick on a versatile defensive lineman again, and Bromley fits the bill as a two-gap player who could be a disruptor as a defensive end in Baltimore’s 3-4 defense.
Round 6, pick No. 194: Ricardo Allen, Cornerback, Purdue
The Ravens suddenly have a vacancy at the cornerback position with Corey Graham’s departure for Buffalo. The third cornerback/slot corner role is available for the taking and incumbents Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson figure to have the first shot at filling Graham’s void. Adding depth behind the two is also a priority, and drafting a corner – preferably with slot-coverage capability – is a plus.
Allen is a small, feisty corner who plays more physical than his size and is athletic enough to also contribute on special teams.
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