Whether or not the Baltimore Ravens trade up, back or stick with the 26th pick in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the team and especially fans are on the edges of their seats holding their breath waiting to hear NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announce those pulse-pounding words, "With the 26th pick in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens select..."
There has been a ton of debate here on Baltimore Beatdown as well as Mock Drafts everywhere you look. The debates and Mocks have the Ravens selecting any number of prospects, with as many as six different positions being mentioned. Defensive end, linebacker, cornerback on defense as well as wide receiver, offensive tackle or center on offense seem to be the most often picks and then a plethora of names within each position have been specified.
Until that pick is made, no one knows for sure what will happen as Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome has been the 'Wizard of Oz' in how he moves or determines whom the team will ultimately select. However, today, I will tell you why and who they will most likely pick when their card is finally handed in and Goodell walks to the podium.
Most of the predeictions we've talked about here on The Beatdown have focused on the team's inability to put pass pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and the guys we've talked about include both defensive ends and outside linebackers. I've said repeatedly that the team needs to draft guys in the trenches on both sides of the ball, as that is where the games are won or lost. However, the Ravens have guys in both of those positions that were originally selected early in the past two drafts and have not either contributed to the extent that they were expected to or never even got ont the field to show what they can do.
I cannot believe that the Ravens brain-trust is ready to write off and close the door on both DE Paul Kruger and OLB Sergio Kindle. Kruger seems to have been in the doghouse and while we have not seem much of him on the field, the little we have seem gives us hope that he can turn into that quarterback-sacking DE the team expected him to be when they drafted him in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Likewise, while Kindle is working out and reportedly in excellent shape, he still has not been cleared for football-contact activities. I have mixed feelings whether he will be able to get on the field in 2011 and at what level of effectiveness, but if anyone knows, it's the Ravens.
Therefore, I've decided that they will not be taking a defensive player with their first pick, regardless of their so-called "Best Player Available" mantra, unless they trade up of find a player they rate a lot, lot higher on their Draft Board begins to fall to them. This includes the defensive line, linebacker and cornerback position, despite so many Mock Drafts having the team taking Colorado CB Jimmy Smith.
Offensively, the Ravens biggest needs is the tackle postion, as well as at wide receiver. While Matt Birk is perhaps playing his final season and the team must take into consideration finding a replacement for him, I can't see them using such a valuable first pick for a guy who will be on the bench for most of his rookie year. At wideout, while there are a bunch of guys that would definitely help Baltimore open up its lackluster passing attack, none of them rate as first round picks other than the two who will be long gone by the time the Ravens pick comes up. With so many out there with size and speed, the Ravens can wait at least until the 2nd round if not later to get a guy who could step in and contribute right away.
That leaves offensive line and specifically finding a right tackle that firms up the line by allowing current RT Marshal Yanda to move back inside to RG, where he would be so much more effective. Many fans media and even experts seem to think the team needs a left tackle so they could move Michael Oher back to the right side, but the team has repeatedly said and there is no way that Oher will be anywhere other than on QB Joe Flacco's blind side when the 2011 season finally opens. I do not expect Jared Gaither to be returning to the team in 2011.
So there's my first round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens. I do not expect them to drop back into the second round, as most of the offensive linemen spoken about look to be gone by at least the end of the first round, if not sooner. I believe they might drop back later in the first round but only if a couple of those top linemen are still on their board. I could see them move up as those guys dwindle but firmly believe they will pick one of probably 3-4 players who could be around as their number comes up Those players are Boston College's Anthony Castonzo, Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi, Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod and Colorado's Nate Solder.
Personally, I think those four guys will be picked in that order, and I think any of the first three could step right in and start from Day One on the right side of the offensive line. I'm not as sold on Solder even though he is the biggest of the group at 6'8" and 320 pounds. Th3 others are no slouches, all at least 6'5" and 310 pounds and you just know the team can add even more bulk to those guys if the it is determined they need it.
Of course, we won't know for sure what the Ravens will do, but we can be sure that whomever they do select and what position they target, will immediately be on a team that plans to compete for the Super Bowl in 2011.