NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28: A general view of the Draft stage during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
The Baltimore Ravens are heading into this year’s NFL Draft with very few actual needs. Through the years, the front office has done a superb job at not only finding quality starters, sometimes even super-stars like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, to fill their roster, but they have also done a great job at building depth behind their starters by using the draft with a few under-the-radar, solid free agent acquisitions sprinkled in.
Check, check, and check. That’s pretty much par for the course for the Ravens and this off-season is no different.
Arguably, the Ravens’ biggest need is to overhaul their offensive line after the departure of guard Ben Grubbs coupled with the fact that center Matt Birk is in the twilight of his career. Add in that left tackle Bryant McKinnie is also not getting any younger and has had some weight problems in the past and that right tackle Michael Oher has been shifted from one side to the other more than anyone can count and you have all the makings of needing a complete re-think along the offensive line.
Those issues aside (although it should be expected that the Ravens will heavily address their offensive line in the draft), the Ravens’ roster is just a solid and cohesive as ever. With no noticeable controversy over any of the Ravens’ starting roster spots on either side of the ball, the Ravens will be looking to add solid depth through the draft in case of injuries, but also as a way to cultivate the new talents they pick up to store for future use, much like Paul Kruger who will now get his shot to start consistently with Jarret Johnson signed away this off-season.
(After the "Jump", where the Ravens will look to build depth via the Draft.)
Safety: Losing two major depth and special teams contributors in Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura this off-season, the Ravens will need to fill in the open spots behind Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard. Unfortunately for the Ravens, this year’s free agent crop and draft crop of safeties is noticeably weak. Even though neither option is a sure thing for the team to pick up quality role players that can contribute early, the Ravens may be forced to take a safety in the draft to fill in for depth purposes.
Linebacker: It’s not clear when one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history will call it a day, but Ray Lewis will eventually step down and the Ravens have been prepping for that inevitably for some time. Though they re-signed Jameel McClain, the Ravens should look to add a linebacker this off-season that can be groomed into the eventual heir to Lewis. There will be several dynamic prospects in the mid-rounds of this year’s draft that could prove to be solid additions to the Ravens’ already fearsome defense and would also give a linebacker group that struggled at times last season at defending passes over the middle a significant boost.
Wide Receiver: The Ravens will enter this season with a clear #1 and #2 starting duo at wide receiver: Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. Beyond those two though, the waters are a little murky. 2011 4th round pick Tandon Doss and undrafted free agent LaQuan Williams are slotted to battle it out for the #3 job, but it won’t be as simple as that. The Ravens will look to add at least one of the several prospects out of a fairly deep receiver pool in the upcoming draft. There should be several attractive options for the Ravens in this draft where it’s plausible that they could take a receiver of any caliber in any round, it’s just a matter of how the boards play out and when the Ravens strike on a player that they like. As perhaps the most talked about and debated position this off-season, it’s almost a given that the Ravens will add a new receiver to quarterback Joe Flacco’s arsenal through the draft.
The start of the draft is almost upon us. With only a handful of days left until the start of the 1st round on Thursday evening, the Ravens will be finalizing their draft boards and gearing up for the tedious days ahead.
Which positions do you feel the Ravens most need to build depth at and how will they use the draft to do so?