5 Potential First-Round Scenarios for the Baltimore Ravens in 2014 NFL Draft
5 Potential First-Round Scenarios For Baltimore Ravens
The 2013 season was a major disappointment for the Baltimore Ravens franchise and their fan base. Just like the seven previous defending champions before them, the Ravens failed to win a playoff game. Unlike some of those teams, however, the Ravens also failed to advance to the playoffs at all.
A perfect storm of unfortunate events directly related to the NFL salary cap ensued following their Super Bowl win. First and foremost, quarterback Joe Flacco was set to become a free agent and the Ravens had three options: franchise tag him and pay him upwards of $20 million for the 2013 season, offer him a huge contract in terms of money and years to spread out the cap hit, or let their Super Bowl-winning quarterback walk in free agency.
The Ravens opted to sign Flacco to a six-year, $120.6 million contract. Next came a flood of transactions that the Ravens were forced to make to get under the salary cap. First, they traded Anquan Boldin for a late-round draft pick when he refused to take a pay cut. Next, they were unable to sign key free agents like linebacker Dannell Ellerbee, defensive end Paul Kruger and safety Ed Reed.
These moves left the Ravens with a lot of holes all over their roster. These holes became more and more evident as the season progressed. The Ravens need to rebuild their offensive line. They have holes at left tackle, left guard, center, wide receiver, tight end, linebacker and safety.
After joining the team in a mid-season trade, left tackle Eugene Monroe helped the Ravens climb just above last place in Pro Football Focus’ offensive line rankings, but they still ranked among the worst lines in the league overall. Monroe is also an unrestricted free agent and will likely sign with the highest bidder.
Aside from Torrey Smith, the Ravens were lacking consistent production from the wide receiver position. Boldin was the perfect fit for a quarterback like Flacco, who relies on taking chances on jump balls and deep passing. He was never replaced.
Ray Lewis retired and Ellerbe left in free agency. The Ravens did not find the upgrade they needed at inside linebacker. Reeds’ departure left a hole at free safety that the Ravens attempted to fill with Michael Huff, whose play was so atrocious that he was benched for good before the mid-season mark.
As you can tell, the Ravens have a lot of needs, and therefore they can go a lot of different directions in the first round of the draft. Here are the five players that I think they are most likely to select with the 16th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Dan Schneier is a New York Giants writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @pff_dansc, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network through Google.
5. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is listed fifth not because he is the worst prospect, but because I find him the least likely to be left at 16th overall. Clinton-Dix has natural coverage skills along with the speed and size to play down in the slot against shifty receivers and tight ends. He can be used in a pinch at cornerback as well. He possesses the range and speed to play free safety across from last year’s first-round pick Matt Elam. Elam was forced to play free safety last year, but his natural position is strong safety. Adding Clinton-Dix helps the Ravens at both safety positions.
4. C.J. Mosley
C.J. Mosley is as instinctive as they come for a linebacker. He has experience playing the 3-4 defense under former head coach Nick Saban, so his transition to the Ravens' 3-4 base defense should be smooth. He is a smart and athletic linebacker who has no problems in coverage. Mosley has experience working as the “quarterback” of the Alabama defense, and these leadership skills, along with his football IQ, will both transfer nicely to the NFL. I do not fully expect Mosley to last this far in the first round, but if he does, the Ravens might have to choose him even though it might not be their biggest need.
3. Zack Martin
Zack Martin is a versatile offensive line prospect who can come in and start for the Ravens at multiple positions from day one. Martin might best be suited for guard based on his short arms, but scouts said the same thing about last year’s first-round pick Justin Pugh. Pugh went on to have an outstanding rookie season after a somewhat slow start, playing primarily at right tackle for the New York Giants. Martin would immediately fill a major need for the Ravens.
2. Eric Ebron
Eric Ebron is a bit raw as a tight end from a blocking perspective, but that does not mean he is not a willing blocker. Currently listed at under 235 pounds, he can add the weight and become a better blocker. None of this matters immediately for the Ravens, however, as Ebron is already ready to become a weapon in the modern NFL passing game. He is extremely strong at the catch point and has shown great ability to make difficult catches in traffic. He has also displayed the ability to adjust to the ball well in the air and high-point the ball.
1. Mike Evans
Mike Evans is the ideal first-round pick for the Ravens. His skill set as a wide receiver is a perfect match for Joe Flacco’s as a quarterback. Evans possesses the size and strength to serve as a big outside threat at wide receiver for the QB. Flacco loves to take chances on back shoulder fades and deep passes into one-on-one coverage — this is Evans’ forte. He is a more explosive runner than many give him credit for. He has experience and success playing in the slot, and displayed a great football IQ. For my full scouting report, take a look here.