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Ravens Could Face Tough Decisions in 2012 Draft

Mock drafts have been flowing out from various sources since before this year’s playoffs had begun. The NFL Draft has become a huge deal over the past several years, mostly due to the increased coverage it gets every off-season. From the NFL Scouting Combine, to various college Pro Days, and straight down to the first pick taken and the controversy that inevitably comes with it, the process of evaluating and scouting future stars isn’t just for experts and NFL franchises anymore, fans are now partaking more and more each year as well.

We, as fans, have the luxury of playing along in all of the off-season hoopla and having a good old time with it. Professional scouts and franchise personnel earn their livings off of perfecting the science of choosing just the right players for their respective teams and don’t have the same luxury of speculating like the fans do. Pick the right player and you’re team could thrive, but pick the wrong player and your team could suffer.

The Baltimore Ravens have several question marks heading into the 2012 NFL Draft with an array of options on how to fill their needs on the roster. Fortunately for the Ravens, many experts and even fans, are predicting that some fantastic talent could fall right into the Ravens’ laps this season, but with several questions surrounding positions such as: inside linebacker, offensive line, and wide receiver, which position do you decide to fill with that "elite" talent that could improve your team for perhaps the next decade, or even beyond that.

After the "Jump", see which position the Ravens could up-grade through the draft with an "elite" talent.

With the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine just a week away, each franchise will be prepping their note-pads or iPads, or whatever people are using these days, to take notes on the over 300 prospects that were invited to Indy to show off their talents.

With a few big questions surrounding several Ravens’ positions and an abundance of great talent projected to fall late into the 1st round where the Ravens select 29th overall, which position do the Ravens value the most and which "elite" prospect do they choose to perhaps be a new cornerstone of the Ravens’ future?

Wide Receiver: This position hasn’t always been the Ravens strong suit, but with Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith locked in and ready to go for 2012, the only true wild-card in the bunch is Lee Evans. Depending on whether or not the Ravens decide to retain Evans could determine just how much the team values a top flight wide-out in the 1st round of this year’s draft. With the likes of Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd, and Baylor’s Kendall Wright perhaps falling to around the 20th pick, the Ravens could look to trade up depending on how much value they place in finding an "elite" wide-out this year.

Offensive Line: With Matt Birk not yet announcing his plans for next season, the Ravens could be, and perhaps even should be concerned with the center position looking ahead. The center position is of extreme importance to the cohesion of the entire offensive line. As the "anchor" of the line, the center is responsible for everything from snapping the ball to even reading the opposing defense and adjusting his teammates lined up next to him according to what the defense is dictating. To know just how essential the center is, look no further than what general manager Ozzie Newsome said on the importance of the position:

"You need to have somebody who can neutralize that nose tackle. If you don't, everything can get screwed up. Your running game won't be effective and you'll also have somebody in your quarterback's face on every play."

If the Ravens feel they need to draft their center of the future, Wisconsin’s Peter Konz is projected to be taken very late in the 1st round and would be an excellent choice to become the new "anchor" of the Ravens’ offensive line.

Inside Linebacker: With this year’s 1st round loaded with several fantastic linebacker prospects, many are speculating whether or not this will be the year that the Ravens find the "heir" to future hall of fame ILB, Ray Lewis. Both Dont’a Hightower of Alabama and Vontaze Burfict of Arizona State are projected to fall into the late 1st round. Some are even already making comparisons between Lewis and Burfict for their intense, hard hitting, and relentless style of play. However, over the years, Ozzie Newsome has shown a soft spot for players from his alma mater, Alabama. While Burfict may seem to come with some baggage in the form of on and off-field issues, the Ravens have rarely been deterred by a player with a few questionable character concerns. Either way you slice it, both of these linebackers could immediately come into the Ravens organization and be instant difference-makers with one of the greatest linebackers to ever play the game help guide them.

With an extremely strong 1st round draft class this year full of offensive and defensive talent, the Ravens are going to need to do some soul searching. With so many great prospects and a few glaring needs, which position do the Ravens feel is of the most significance to up-grade? Tough decisions indeed.

Which position do you think the Ravens will up-grade in the 1st round of the 2012 draft? Take part in the poll and comment on how you think the Ravens will choose!