Let’s face facts here. There are a lot of good players in this year’s NFL Draft which is less than two weeks away. The Ravens are going to get one of them with the 17th pick. But who is it going to be? The fans vote on the Ravens website wants them to draft free safety, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from Alabama, or tackle, Taylor Lewan from Michigan. Hate to burst your bubble, but there’s a real good chance both are off the board well before the Ravens are on the clock. There are a lot of mock drafts out there that basically plugin the best player available to the team that’s up. Or guys out there trying to stir the pot that put players in positions that make people say, “What? Johnny Manziel is not in the first round?”
Here, a real simple, logical, nothing fancy approach to the draft.
Teams covet two things. Quarterbacks obviously, and protecting quarterbacks, evident by last year’s draft where six of the first 11 picks were offensive lineman. You’re not going to win many games with a bum under center and Ravens fan saw first-hand how putrid an offense can be with a poor line in front of him. So let’s not over think things here, don’t get fancy on the road to the Ravens pick at #17.
There are the big three Quarterbacks that will go in round one. Teddy Bridgewater is the most “pro style” QB, Blake Bortles is the most “everything”, Johnny Manziel is the most “it” whatever “it” is. One of them will go in the top three picks, whether it’s the Texans at #1 passing on Clowney, or the Jaguars at #3 waking up and realizing they need to put butts in seats and a QB might do that. Khalil Mack, like I’ve seen in most mocks to Jacksonville, will not sell tickets. A fresh QB gives crappy teams fanbases hope.
The Browns at #4 and the Vikings at #8 should be in the market for a QB as well. Swing and miss in Cleveland on guys like Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden. Brian Hoyer can’t be the answer, can he? Again Browns, see Jaguars, they need someone to give them hope. The Vikings have Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder. Enough said. They were so desperate they tried out Josh Freeman last year.
QB’s with picks #1 or #3, #4 and #8. If Henne, Hoyer, and Cassel/Ponder are atop their respective depth charts after the draft, those teams failed the draft.
After Quarterback, there are four top tier offensive linemen. Jake Matthews with NFL in his genes, Greg Robinson, Taylor Lewan, and Zack Martin who can play tackle, but grades out as a Pro Bowl Guard down the road.
The Rams at #2 are definitely taking one of Matthews or Robinson after losing most of their line to free agency. Unless they can trade out to a team that wants a QB or Clowney at #2, and the Rams get one of their guys and some picks later. The Falcons at #6 are in desperate need of O-line help and are set with the skill positions on offense except for TE with the retirement of Tony Gonzalez. I would expect them to take the guy the Rams don’t take, either Robinson or Matthews. It would be a stretch for Atlanta to take TE, Eric Ebron at #6, when other tight ends can be had in later rounds. The Bucs at #7 also need help on the line and a speedy wide out opposite Vincent Jackson, but it’s too early to take Brandin Cooks at #7. So Look for Taylor Lewan here. The other team depleted on their O-line is the Giants at #12. Zack Martin would be a good fit there for them since the team that drafts him can us him as a tackle or guard, depending on how the rest of their draft pans out. There’s nothing wrong with versatility.
Offensive line with #2, #6, #7, #12
So who haven’t we mentioned yet? The Raiders at #5 would be hard pressed to let WR, Sammy Watkins slip past them. The Bills biggest need at #9 is run defense. Drafting ILB, C.J. Mosely to play along with Kiko Alonzo could be a brutal tandem for a few years. The Lions biggest need at #10 is their pass defense, and with former Ravens secondary coach, Teryl Austin in charge of the defense now, I could see him liking FS, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix here.
After the top 10, with #11 the Titans need pass rushers and Khalil Mack provides great value here, or Anthony Barr will still be there. The Cowboys at #16 are likely taking the one the Titans pass on to replace DeMarcus Ware. The Rams have a second first round pick at #13, and they are going to make it sexy after going O-Line first. I think Mike Evans likely to go to St. Louis here to complement the small, speedy Tavon Austin. A lot of people like the Bears to go safety at #14, but the word is that aging Charles Tillman will move to safety instead of his usual corner spot. That means the biggest need is the middle of D-line that was by far the worst in stopping the run. Filling that need would be DT, Aaron Donald. We get to #15, and the rival Steelers. They have holes all over the place, but none more than at receiver with Antonio Brown being it for them. I wouldn’t think Eric Ebron would fall out of the top 15, and that’s why I have Pittsburgh taking him. Its good value for him there, he doesn’t have to run block because Heath Miller can, and a great TE can be just like having stud WR.
So who is out there at #17 for Baltimore? One of the Ravens needs is a right tackle. That will probably have to be addressed in a later round, or trade up to get one of the top four, really third or fourth best in Lewan or Martin. They could move up from #17 to #8 and grab Taylor Lewan for possibly a second round and sixth round pick. A second and fifth would be more likely, but they only have a compensatory picks in round five that can’t be traded. More likely, the Ravens trade up to the Giants at #12 and take Zack Martin. To move up five spots from #17 to #12 would cost them at least a third round and a sixth, again with the fifth being more likely, but unavailable. The best player available also changes if they move up. The Ravens could grab Eric Ebron, Aaron Donald, maybe Mike Evans. But with the lack of tradable draft picks, moving up doesn’t seem likely.
Trading back is an option to land a guy like Cyrus Kouandjio, who would be a reach to grab at #17.
The other need is at free safety where Calvin Pryor is still on the board here in this exercise. Pryor would be the playmaker Ozzie Newsome is looking for at that position. He’s also a heavy hitter, intimidating presence, very Ravens-esque. For the complete breakdown on Calvin Pryor, check out BSL’s review by Matt Jergensen.
The best player available in this exercise is probably CB, Justin Gilbert. Gilbert is the best cover corner in the draft, and most mocks have him going off the board between #11- #15. Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith seem to have the corner spots locked down, and drafting Gilbert would be a depth move to replace Corey Graham. Also an option if they have little faith in Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson behind them. Gilbert also has kick return skills. Bradley Roby (Ohio St.) and Darqueze Dennard (Michigan St.) are also a couple corners that could be had around the middle of the first round.
I don’t think that teams are going to reach for WRs as deep as the draft is. So Marquise Lee, Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin could all be had as well, whereas a lot of mocks a few weeks back saw guys like Lee, Cooks, and of course Evans all going ahead of the Ravens pick at #17.