Ravens look to regain championship form through Draft

Story posted April 11, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio, NFL Draft by Matt Bortner

The Baltimore Ravens are now one year removed from their Super Bowl Championship and the departure of wide receiver Anquan Boldin.  Since Boldin’s exit, the Ravens have failed to fill the void of the reliable possession receiver. 

In effort to bolster their receiving corps, Baltimore signed veteran wide receiver Steve Smith to a three-year deal worth up to $12 million.

The Ravens should now be able to focus their needs elsewhere in the earlier rounds of the NFL draft.  Before the signing of Smith, it appeared as if Baltimore would target a receiver in the first round. 

Although the Ravens could still use improvement in their passing game, Baltimore will likely now turn to their struggling run game in the draft.

Ranked 30th overall in rushing yards, the Ravens only managed to average 83 yards per game on the ground.   Ray Rice failed to reach 1,000 yards for the first time since 2009, and only amassed 3.1 yards per carry, a whole yard less than his career average.

In part, Rice’s struggles could have been due to a lingering hip flexor issue, but an inconsistent Baltimore offensive line did not contribute much to the rushing attack. 

This offseason the Ravens traded for Tampa Bay lineman Jeremy Zuttah, to secure the starting center spot and released penalty prone offensive tackle Michael Oher.

Tackle Eugene Monroe, guard Kelechi Osemele, guard Marshall Yanda, and tackle Ricky Wagner currently round out the rest of the Ravens projected offensive line starters.  Baltimore holds the 17th pick in the first round of the draft and could possibly take an offensive tackle to replace Wagner on the depth chart.

Mel Kiper currently has Baltimore selecting offensive tackle Zack Martin from Notre Dame.  Martin is Kiper’s third ranked offensive lineman.  Marin started 52 games at Notre Dame, which is the most in team history. 

He started games at both the left and right tackle positions.  Martin’s versatility and experience could ultimately lead the Ravens to draft him and put him in the starting lineup at the beginning of the season. 

It would probably be a stretch for the Ravens to draft Kiper’s third best linemen in the draft, Taylor Lewan (Michigan), since teams at the top of the draft order could use his services.  If teams would happen to pass on Lewan, it would be no surprise if the Ravens selected him. 

It would also come at no surprise if Baltimore waited until the second round to add to their line, since since general manager Ozzie Newsome likes to pick the best player available, not necessary by position needs.

In the second round the Ravens could pick up quality tackles in the likes of Cyrus Kouandjilo (Alabama), Morgan Moses (Virginia), or Joel Bitonio (Nevada).

At receiver, the Ravens will return Torrey Smith, Marlon Brown, and Jacoby Jones.   With quarterback Joe Flacco looking to bounce back from a poor 2013 campaign and a reliable tight end rotation of Dennis Pitta and newly acquired Owen Daniels from the Houston Texans, Baltimore could put their passing game over the top with a quality receiver in the draft.

This year’s deep receiving class opens up a plethora of options for John Harbaugh’s team.

Baltimore has shown interest in receiver Mike Evans of Texas A&M, but would unlikely be able to pick him up as he is widely projected to go as a top 15 pick. 

If the Ravens wait until the second, third or fourth rounds, they could still pick up a good receiver.  Some receivers linked to the Ravens are Davante Adams (Fresno State) Brandon Coleman (Rutgers), Allen Robinson (Penn State), and Cody Latimer (Indiana).  These receivers would fit into the Ravens downfield style of passing.

Whomever Baltimore selects, Ravens fans should not fret with Newsome calling the shots.  Newsome has a fine track record of drafting productive players that fit into Baltimore’s philosophy.

Matt Bortner is a Junior majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email mrb5572@psu.edu.