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Ravens Must Start Looking Forward

While Kyle Boller should remain the starting QB, everybody wants to see the rookie Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State, Troy Smith, get some action under center before the year is out. This team needs to know if he will ever be anything more than a #2 quarterback, which is, uh, what Kyle Boller has looked like after almost five years in the league. If so, do the Ravens seek out another quarterback through free agency or the 2008 NFL Draft? What about the cornerback position, where they probably need a younger shutdown corner even more than a QB. Wide receiver is still an issue, where the Ravens need a big fast wideout to stretch the opponents secondary. At the same time, while the trenches have been problematic this season, they are both filled with young guys who deserve the chance th prove themselves next season, rather than wasting a high draft pick in that area. I'm not against looking for a pass rush DE through free agency or trade (hint: Miami's Jason Taylor?)

Matt Miller from New Era Scouting (see link to his site at the bottom of this column for more great info!) has traded emails with thoughts about the upcoming draft options for the Ravens.

QB- At the quarterback position in the beginning of round one, we can expect that there is a strong possibility that all of the quarterbacks will still be on the board. Brian Brohm from Louisville is your traditional drop-back quarterback, with great accuracy and the arm to make down-field throws. Brohm is an experienced leader and proven winner. Kentucky's Andre Woodson will draw many comparisons to a player already on your roster in Steve McNair. Woodson has a huge arm and good accuracy underneath. He's more of a play-maker than Brohm, but because of this can be prone to throwing into coverage and trying to hold the ball too long. Matt Ryan from Boston College is a player that is quickly on the rise and would be a great pick for Baltimore should they see a few more wins this season. Ryan is a big quarterback, but has the mobility to get outside the pocket and make plays. He has one of the strongest arms in this class, combined with pin-point accuracy and the leadership that is so key to the position. If the Ravens decide to wait until the second round, Colt Brennan of Hawaii or Erik Ainge from Tennessee would both be good picks for this franchise. Neither may be ready to start immediately in the NFL, but both are long-time college starters with the tools to be productive starters.

I really like Matt Ryan of Boston College, but still probably wouldn't use my first pick for a QB. Some of the other options should still be available when the Ravens make their second round pick.

WR- The Ravens need for a big, play-making wide receiver could make this their first round need. Again, the senior class lacks star power, but the junior class will add punch to the overall value of this position. Malcolm Kelly from Oklahoma is a big, fast, strong wide receiver in the Roy Williams/Andre Johnson mold. He has exceptional hands combined with great balance and speed. Kelly should be the first receiver off the board. Should Baltimore miss out on Kelly, there is a consolation prize in Limas Sweed from Texas. Sweed is an identical player to Kelly, but has not seen the production as his counter-part due to injury and a run-based offense.

While we need a big, fast wideout to complement our possession guys, the time to do this would be the third or fourth round, or through free agency (Why do the Packers have all of them!?)

CB- With the play of Samari Rolle declining rapidly, the Ravens find themselves needing to get younger opposite Chris McAllister. The cornerback class is loaded this year, with talents like Antoine Cason (Arizona) and juniors Aqib Talib (Kansas), Malcolm Jenkins (Ohio State) and Jack Ikewguono (Wisconsin) likely to declare early. Jenkins is a complete, shut-down corner reminiscent of Charles Woodson. He's athletic, strong and has the ability to run with the best receivers in the NFL. Talib and Ikewguono are both raw, but have the athletic ability and cover skills to develop into elite corners in the NFL.

Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins would be my first round pick if I'm Ozzie Newsome. He can step right in after the Ravens release Samari Rolle due to his high salary and low effectiveness.

RB- If nothing changes between now and the draft, the Ravens will most likely be picking around 10 in the first round. Sadly, the senior running back class for the 2008 draft is nothing to write home about. Picking a running back in the first round will be dependent on the junior class. In this class we have Darren McFadden (Arkansas), Rashard Mendehall (Illinois), Jonathan Stewart (Oregon), Ray Rice (Rutgers), Steve Slaton (West Virginia) and James Davis (Clemson). There is a strong chance that all of these backs could declare for the draft, but it's most likely we'll see three of them declare and the others stay. If McFadden declares, he could be the first player taken overall. The most likely option for Baltimore would be Mendenhall or Stewart. Mendenhall is an exciting runner that can make plays inside and outside the box. He's a good receiver with enough speed to run away from defenders. The draw back on him is that he has played in an option-based offense and hasn't seen many straight handoffs from behind the quarterback. Stewart is the second most complete back in the class, behind only McFadden. He has a rare blend of speed, power and vision that many compare to Steven Jackson of the Rams.

While I'd love to have McFadden even with McGahee, he probably will go in the top five, if not first. The Ravens need a big bruiser to complement McGahee, such as a Brandon Jacobs or Marion Barber type of back.

All in all, these are the biggest needs in the early rounds, depending on what the Ravens do in free agency. Unfortunately, you can't pick a coach in the draft, but perhaps Coach Billick will sign an offensive coordinator through "Free Agency!"
New Era Scouting