A few weeks ago I created a post that addressed the Ravens' draft needs for 2013. Now that the free agency frenzy has hit, however, those needs have changed significantly due to the moves made by the team this offseason. Here is my list of the Ravens current needs as the 2013 draft nears.
1. Inside Linebacker- The retirement of Hall of Famer Ray Lewis coupled with the departure of Dannell Ellerbe via free agency has left the Ravens with a rather large hole in the middle of their linebacking corps. The current ILBs remaining on the roster are Brendon Ayanbadejo and Jameel McClain. Ayanbadejo is primarily a special teams ace who is not a great fit on defense and McClain is still recovering from a spinal cord contusion he suffered in 2012 and it is unclear if he will be at 100% for the start of the 2013 season. Georgia's Alec Ogletree seems to be the most talented ILB available in this year's draft, and concerns about his character due to his recent DUI could cause him to slip to the Ravens at 32. LSU's Kevin Minter and the infamous Manti Te'o should also be available, but would probably be a reach at the 32nd pick. If either of those two are on the Ravens' radar, don't be surprised if they trade back into the 2nd round to take them later.
2. Free/Strong Safety- In my prior post, i was working under the optimistic assumption that Ed Reed would be staying in Baltimore. Obviously, that is no longer the case. The Ravens will no longer have the luxury of having one of the all-time greats roaming and playing center field in the secondary. Ozzie Newsome also decided that it would be best for the team to part ways with Bernard Pollard. Pollard was a solid enforcer on the Ravens' defense but struggled often in coverage and racked up a ton of penalty yardage. Former Longhorn Kenny Vaccaro is a versatile player who is capable of playing both strong and free safety. If he is not available, LSU free safety Eric Reid, Florida strong safety Matt Elam and FIU strong safety Jonathan Cyprien could all be solid options when the Ravens are on the clock.
3. Center- While the most publicized loss on the offensive side of the ball this offseason in Baltimore was the Anquan Boldin trade, the retirement of center Matt Birk leaves a much more significant void. Birk was one of the most intelligent centers in the league and his ability to make line calls for an offensive line that played extremely well down the stretch will not be easy to replace. As of now, Gino Gradkowski is in line to replace Birk, but Gradkowski was drafted as a guard and is largely unproven entering his second season in the league. Wisconsin's Travis Frederick, Alabama's Barrett Jones, and Brian Schwenke from Cal would all be solid choices for the Ravens in the 2nd and 3rd rounds.