Tonight is the night that the Ravens have planned for. We've all seen the lists and we've all done the research. Now comes the time to select players to be on the 2014 Baltimore Ravens roster. For this, I used the live mock draft from FanSpeak, and took who I think was the best option at the pick for the Ravens
With that being said, let's see how the Ravens' draft might go...
Round 1 #17 - Zack Martin - Offensive Lineman - Notre Dame
I covered Martin in a previous article. With this being the Ravens' biggest need remaining on the team, grabbing a floating offensive lineman that can play both tackle and guard, the Ravens' offensive line is complete and signed for a few years to give quarterback Joe Flacco some continuity in his protection.
Round 2 #48 - Carlos Hyde - Running Back - Ohio State
Hyde is a perfect fit for this offense and given the uncertainty around Ray Rice, the Ravens need to think of the present and future at one of the more critical positions in their new offensive scheme. Hyde is a downhill runner with some mass to him that will do incredibly well in the AFC North.
Round 3 #79 - Kelvin Benjamin - Wide Receiver - Florida State
Benjamin is currently rated at #26 on Mike Mayock's top 100 board. The idea that he fell to the third round probably comes with the idea that he isn't polished in any sense as a receiver. However, what you can't teach is being 6-foot-5, which would tie him with Marlon Brown as the tallest wide receiver on the team. Benjamin has decent speed but isn't a burner, decent hands but isn't Megatron, good route running but isn't perfect. If he can improve his hands and route running, which should be easier given the veterans on the team, he is in line as a possible #1 type receiver. If he doesn't improve, he will be mediocre but still see the field each week. The risk/reward is just too great to not pick in the third round.
Round 3 #99 - Marqueston Huff - Free Safety - Wyoming
Replacing one Huff with another, except this one will actually start. Huff has great speed, having run the 40 yard dash in 4.49 seconds. The Ravens are clearly looking for a "rangy" free safety that can cover the back end and let Matt Elam be the enforcer on the inside. Huff even has the speed and quickness to slide down and play corner occasionally or be put into man coverage which will give the Ravens a ton of options with scheme and how to play opposing teams.
Round 4 #134 - Daniel McCullers - Defensive Tackle - Tennessee
With Ngata likely being given an ultimatum next year, the Ravens need to add some depth to a defensive line that got pushed around at times last year. McCullers is a physically daunting player at 6-foot-7 and 352 pounds with very long arms. He isn't known for being disruptive in the backfield, but he'll eat up space and push offensive lineman around. If he can learn to keep his pad level lower, disengage on blocks and get faster off the ball, he could be a real steal. With the Ravens' coaching staff and veteran defensive lineman, he should flourish here and hit that potential he has.
Round 4 #138 - James Gayle - Defensive End - Virginia Tech
You can never have too many rushers in this league. Gayle is an explosive edge rusher that figures to be a situational pass rushing linebacker. He's a big player but doesn't do very well in run diagnosis and attacking the ball carrier, so he wouldn't see much of the field in that role unless he improves there. He would also see the field as a special teams player initially, which greatly enhances his ability to make the final 53 man roster and make an impact on a tough Ravens roster
Round 5 - #175 - E.J. Gaines - Cornerback - Missouri
The Ravens are in need of more depth at the cornerback position after losing Corey Graham this offseason. While there are some players on the roster that figure to be in the running for the nickle position, an infusion of new blood is always a good thing. Gaines isn't the biggest or fastest corner on the planet, but he plays tight and is strong enough to handle receivers that are bigger and faster than he is in short space, making him the ideal compliment in a nickle formation. Gaines is smart and more than willing to tackle, which fits the mold of what the Ravens like out of their defensive players. He would be a good fit to start on special teams and compete for playing time as a nickle or dime corner.
Round 6 #194 - Jeff Mathews - Quarterback - Cornell
The Ravens have made it no secret that they are not happy with the production that Tyrod Taylor has put up in his backup role. Given that he doesn't fit what the Ravens run with Flacco under center, it wouldn't be surprising to find another quarterback in the mold of Joe Flacco so that if there was a need to go down the depth chart, it wouldnt change what the Ravens are running schematically at all. With that, the Ravens also don't need to drop a high round pick on a backup since Flacco has started every game of his career to date. Given the late round options, Jeff Mathews from Cornell is the best option. He's a pocket passer with a great arm and solid accuracy that could come in and play almost exactly like Flacco. A complete professional, he's a guy that will keep his head down during his time in Baltimore and practice, which makes him a great pick to stay on the roster long term.
So here is a second way that this draft could go down. This is another draft where every major issue was resolved through selecting a player without having to reach. The Ravens would have a solidified offense for the next decade and would have added much needed depth in the defense. Ultimately, at the end of this draft, the Ravens are a better team.