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Ravens' Needs Play into 2012 Draft's Strenghts

It’s only a matter of weeks now until the start of the NFL Draft. The 1st round of the draft this year kicks off on Thursday, April 26th where it will be broadcasted all across the nation so that die-hard fans like all of us can take part and watch as our favorite team selects who they believe could become a new star here in Baltimore.

Fortunately for the Baltimore Ravens, the upcoming draft will be loaded with talent in the exact positions where the Ravens need the most help. Due to the stranglehold on the team’s current salary cap figure, the Ravens haven’t had the luxury of being particularly aggressive during this off-season’s free agency period, only signing a few under-the-radar defensive backs and taking care of their own linebacker Jameel McClain.

After the Ravens’ heart-breaking loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, GM Ozzie Newsome out-lined his off-season plan in which he divulged which areas of the Ravens’ roster he felt needed some upgrading:

"We are going to have to build on the offensive line. I think we will still build at the receiver spot. I think we'll work there. And, you don't ever have enough pass rushers. So, if that guy is there, we'll entertain that also."

The Ravens, rather luckily, are looking to rebuild specific positions which hold a lot of value and talent in the upcoming draft, such as: guard, center, and wide receiver. With very clear and obvious needs, expect that the Ravens will search for at least a few offensive linemen to fill the void left behind by Ben Grubbs and with so many talented wide receivers falling between the late 1st-4th rounds, the Ravens will surely add at least one new target for quarterback Joe Flacco.

(After the "Jump", see more on the Ravens’ biggest needs and how the upcoming draft will fulfill most of what the team is looking for)

With the departure of left guard Benn Grubbs to the New Orleans Saints, the Ravens’ offensive line is in dire need of some TLC, especially considering that even though Grubbs’ absence will be felt, the Ravens also have two starting linemen in the twilight of their careers in left tackle Bryant McKinnie (32 years old) and center Matt Birk (35 years old). Simply put, the Ravens could definitely use an infusion of youth along their offensive line.

Although Birk signed a new three-year contract last month, it’s unlikely that the 14-year veteran will play out the newly inked deal and the Ravens could look to add a prospect this off-season through the draft who could eventually take over for Birk when he decides to call it a day in the NFL.

Centers that the Ravens could consider: Peter Konz, Wisconsin. Projected Round Taken: Late 1st-Early 2nd. Michael Brewster, Ohio State. Projected Round Taken: 3rd-4th. David Molk, Michigan. Projected Round Taken: 3rd-4th.

Guards that the Ravens could consider: Cordy Glenn, Georgia. Projected Round Taken: Mid-Late 1st. Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State. Projected Round Taken: 2nd. Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin. Projected Round Taken: 2nd. Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State. Projected Round Taken: 3rd.

The Ravens are also showing a strong interest in building-up their receiving core for quarterback Joe Flacco. In an increasingly pass-heavy league, receivers are a high priority for just about every team and are in very high demand. The Ravens added a big piece to their vertical passing scheme last year in 2nd round draft choice Torrey Smith and will look to add at least one more receiver to add to their young stable of pass-catchers.

Wide receiver Anquan Boldin is 31 years old with two years remaining on his contract, and while he is the Ravens’ current #1 option, the Ravens may consider searching for his eventual replacement in the upcoming draft. Currently, the Ravens’ only proven and reliable options heading into next season are Boldin and T. Smith. Though 2nd year players Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams are promising as the receivers of the future for Baltimore, Head Coach John Harbaugh isn’t ready to proclaim either receiver as the future #3 guy and plans on having them compete for a starting role this off-season:

"If a better player comes in and beats those guys out and pushes one of those guys back, or two of those guys back, it would make us even better. But those guys will all be playing in that No.3 type, if you want to call it that role, three or four receiver."

The Ravens will have a bevy of talent to choose from strewn throughout several rounds of the upcoming draft.

Receivers that the Ravens could consider: Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina. Projected Round Taken: Late 1st. Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech. Projected Round Taken: Late 1st. Kendall Wright, Baylor. Projected Round Taken: Late 1st. Tommy Streeter, University of Miami. Projected Round Taken: 2nd-3rd. Joe Adams, Arkansas. Projected Round Taken: 3rd. Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma. Projected Round Taken: 3rd-4th.

The Ravens will be able to fill most of their needs through the draft this off-season. Expect the Ravens to select at least a couple of offensive linemen and wide receivers, two positions that the Ravens arguably need to upgrade the most. As one of the best teams at drafting talent and having their young players contribute early, we as Ravens fans have a lot to look forward to with the draft only a few weeks away.

As a quick side note, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish my good friend Jake R. a very Happy Birthday. My best wishes to you and I hope that you have a wonderful day!