Baltimore Ravens 2014 NFL Draft Preview
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - Just over a year removed from the franchise's second Lombardi Trophy, the Ravens believe their path back to the top runs through their offensive line and defensive backfield.
Baltimore averaged an NFL-low 3.1 yards per rush last season, particularly struggling at center after Matt Birk's retirement and at left tackle, at least until Eugene Monroe came over in a trade from Jacksonville. Over on defense, a year after drafting Matt Elam with the 32nd overall pick, the Ravens need a presence next to him at the safety position.
Baltimore re-signed Monroe but lost Michael Oher to Tennessee and really have limited options at right tackle. Former Tampa Bay center Jeremy Zuttah, meanwhile, was brought in to replaced the overmatched Gino Gradkowski in the pivot.
If general manager Ozzie Newsome decides to go O-Line at No. 17 overall, keep an eye on Notre Dame's Zack Martin, a position-versatile player who is regarded as one of the safest picks in this draft. Other options could be tackle Cyrus Kouandjio of Alabama, as long as his problematic knee checks out, or Virginia's Morgan Moses.
In the defensive backfield the Ravens wanted to upgrade opposite Elam anyway, but James Ihedigbo's exit to Detroit only magnifies things. Kouandjio's teammate with the Crimson Tide, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, has the range and ball skills to be a playmaker early in his career, but is unlikely to be on the board. Louisville's Calvin Pryor could be, though, and is a nice fallback.
Wide receiver is probably the third position Newsome will be weighing seriously and the depth there could force his hand. Players like Odell Beckham Jr. of LSU, Oregon State's Brandin Cooks as well as lengthy Florida State prospect Kelvin Benjamin and USC standout Marqise Lee could present a favorite flavor scenario for Ozzie.
2013 Record: 8-8
Top Needs: OL, S, WR
First Three Picks: No. 17, No. 48, No. 79
Number of Selections: 8 (1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 6)
CALLING THE SHOTS: Newsome is regarded as one of the true heavyweights in personnel circles, having cobbled together rosters that have made seven playoff appearances and won two Super Bowls over his tenure in the Charm City.
RECENT FIRST ROUND HISTORY: 2013 - Matt Elam (S, Florida); 2012 - none; 2011 - Jimmy Smith (CB, Colorado); 2010 - none; 2009 - Michael Oher (OT, Ole Miss); 2008 - Joe Flacco (QB, Delaware); 2007 - Ben Grubbs (G, Auburn); 2006 - Haloti Ngata (DT, Oregon); 2005 - Mark Clayton (WR, Oklahoma); 2004 - none; 2003 - Terrell Suggs (DE, Arizona State), Kyle Boller (QB, California); 2002 - Ed Reed (S, Miami- Florida).
05/02 11:45:53 ET