1. Inside Linebacker- The most obvious task ahead of the Ravens, of course, is finding a replacement for Ray Lewis. However, the issues at the position run deeper than just finding someone to fill in for the future Hall of Famer. With the Dannell Ellerbe potentially hitting the free agent market and Jameel McClain recovering from a spinal cord contusion, it is very possible that none of the Ravens’ ILBs from 2012 will be returning for the start of the 2013 season. Manti Te’o, Alec Ogletree, and LSU’s Kevin Minter could all be available when the Ravens pick at 32, but look for them to take at least one more ILB in the later rounds.
2. Defensive Tackle- Haloti Ngata is arguably the most dominant interior lineman in the game today and Pernell McPhee proved last season that he’s capable of handling a starting role, but depth on the defensive line is a glaring issue for the Ravens. Baltimore ranked 20th in the league in rush defense last year, allowing an atrocious 122.8 yards per game that included back-to-back 200-yard games against the Chiefs and the Cowboys. The issue on the defensive line reared its head again in the Super Bowl when Ngata left the game due to injury, leading to a 49ers offensive explosion on the ground sparked by Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick. Purdue’s Kawann Short or Ohio State’s Johnathan Hankins could be there for the Ravens in the first round. Otherwise, look for Baltimore to target a defensive tackle somewhere in the middle rounds of the draft.
3. Outside Linebacker- With Paul Kruger’s contract situation, Terrell Suggs’ injury situation, and Courtney Upshaw yet to emerge as a consistent force on defense, outside linebacker is the Ravens biggest need that nobody is talking about. Last season, the loss of Jarrett Johnson and the injuries to Suggs were significant contributions to the defense’s struggles against the run. Teams exploited this weakness by continually gashing the defense with off-tackle runs. Luckily for the Ravens, Outside Linebacker is one of the deepest positions in this year’s draft. Oregon’s Dion Jordan, a former tight end, is an athletic and versatile DE/OLB hybrid that could fit very well into the Ravens’ scheme. LSU’s Sam Montgomery is very similar in size to Paul Kruger and plays very well in against the run on the weak side.