We are getting close now with the Baltimore Ravens now on the clock with the twenty-sixth overall pick in this year’s draft. Just one more day until I breakdown the Falcons, but we have to get through the Ravens first.
The Ravens are a team in a similar conundrum as the Falcons. They have a promising young quarterback and several pieces around him to make them a formidable team in their respective conference, but are looking for those last bits to push them over the top.
Fortunately for the Ravens, their defense is a lot further along than the Falcons. But there was one glaring issue in 2010 that held them back, which was their secondary play. But with the Ravens defense being considered one of the best in the league, they may decide that it is offense which is in need of the biggest improvement. And their main area of weakness is trying to generate explosive plays in the passing game, likely requiring them to address their old, slow wide receiver corps.
With that in mind, I think the Ravens will take Maryland wideout Torrey Smith with their top pick.
Last year, the Ravens made big moves to acquire Anquan Boldin, Donte Stallworth, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to bolster their wide receiver position, dumping the likes of Mark Clayton and Kelley Washington for what they felt were upgrades. Unfortunately for them Stallworth and Housh did little to bolster their position, and while Boldin was a strong addition, it showed their utter lack of ability to generate big plays down the field. Their other receiver Derrick Mason was on the verge of retirement last summer, so there isn’t much time left for the 37-year old who is likely entering his final season in the pros. Getting a playmaker like Smith makes a ton of sense, since he is a good vertical option, young, and blocks, which with their run-based offense, certainly is an added bonus. The Ravens will look at other wide receiver prospects such as Jon Baldwin and Leonard Hankerson, both of whom are bigger targets that can also stretch the field, but it’s hard to overlook Smith and his 4.4 speed.
Elsewhere on offense, the Ravens could also look to address their offensive line. The team is thinking of dealing left tackle Jared Gaither if possible, as they’ve soured on him due to the injuries that have marred the past two seasons. They seem prepared to move forward with Michael Oher as their left tackle and will want to find a suitable replacement at right tackle. Oher struggled a bit this past year on the left side. Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi is the more natural right tackle candidate, but Mississippi State’s Derek Sherrod is also intriguing because he offers better insurance to potentially play left tackle down the road if Oher doesn’t improve.
Defensively, as noted before, their most glaring weakness was in the secondary. Cornerback was a problem area due to a summer injury to Domonique Foxworth and Fabian Washington being mostly mediocre. The team did get some production from Josh Wilson and Chris Carr in replacement of those two, but both are undersized and much better suited for playing the nickel spot than being starters. Couple that with the fact that Washington, Wilson, and Carr are all prospective free agents, it leaves the Ravens with a clear need at the spot. So drafting a corner like Brandon Harris, Aaron Williams, or Jimmy Smith make a lot of sense. Smith is the best of the group, and would add much needed size to the unit.
But someone like Williams might offer better value for the Ravens, not only because he can help them at cornerback, but also potentially at free safety as well. Ed Reed has battled injuries and talked of retirement in recent years, giving doubt to the future of their second most valuable player. Previously the team was high on the likes of Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski as potential replacements, but both are coming off disappointing 2010 campaigns. Revisiting this position to add depth makes a lot of sense. Williams probably isn’t the best option though, instead the team might look at UCLA’s Rahim Moore. Moore led the nation in 2009 with 10 interceptions, showing those ballhawking skills that have made Reed one of the most feared defenders in the league today.
While Reed is expected back for at least one more year, they may see no better option going forward to find an heir apparent with comparable skills than Moore at this point.
The secondary isn’t the only issue the Ravens potentially face. They could want to bolster their front seven as well. Adding another pass rusher like Justin Houston makes sense to complement and eventually replace Terrell Suggs. They also need to start looking at options at middle linebacker to potentially succeed Ray Lewis. If Martez Wilson falls to this point in the draft, he could be a strong candidate. They also need some help at defensive end in their 3-4 scheme, so a player like Muhammad Wilkerson or Cameron Heyward will be on their radar.
But most likely, the Ravens will opt to decide between addressing their issues at wide receiver or cornerback. And without having Jimmy Smith left on the board, Torrey becomes the most likely option.