>\n\nWorst to First: 25. Baltimore Ravens \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 25. Baltimore Ravens

Written by Ben Morgan on 04/19/2010

There's an emerging Offense for the Baltimore Ravens and for once, a team known for it's Defense is approaching a balance. Sadly part of that is due to a defensive drop off as well. Could be time to reload on Defense with this draft as there's some ageing stars on the downsides of their stellar careers. Let's not forget the Ravens are the posterchild for Defense Wins Championships, having won one with Trent Dilfer under center. No such worries on the offensive front these days though. Fast maturing QB Joe Flacco is starting to become an elite signal caller and the acquisition of Anquan Boldin from the Cardinals gives the Ravens the best WR corps they've ever had. By a long distance. But with the Bengals and Steelers sharing a division you can never even guarantee a playoff berth. So, how might they fix some of those defensive problems from last season? Let's take a look.

2010 Free Agent Losses 2010 Free Agent Additions
Adam Terry T (Colts,RFA), Dwan Edwards DE (Bills,UFA), Justin Bannan DE (Broncos,UFA)

Cory Redding DE (Seahawks,UFA)
2010 Unsigned Free Agents 2011 Potential Free Agents
Mark Clayton WR (RFA), Jared Gaither T (RFA), Corey Ivy DB (UFA), Sam Koch P (RFA), Dawan Landry SS (RFA), Le'Ron McClain FB (RFA), Tony Moll G (RFA), Samari Rolle CB (UFA-cut), Greg Ryan C (RFA), Lou Saucedo T (RFA), L.J. Smith TE (UFA), Troy Smith QB (RFA), David Tyree WR (UFA), Frank Walker CB (UFA), Fabian Washington CB (RFA), Kelley Washington WR (UFA), Demetrius Williams WR (RFA), Marshal Yanda T (RFA)

Antwan Barnes LB (RFA), John Beck QB (RFA), Prescott Burgess LB (RFA), Chris Carr CB (UFA), Chris Chester C (UFA), Oniel Cousins OT (RFA), Lamar Divens DL (RFA), Danelle Ellerbe LB (XRFA), Tavares Gooden LB (RFA), David Hale C (RFA), Edgar Jones TE (RFA), Matt Lawrence RB (RFA), Haruki Nakamura DB (RFA), Haloti Ngata NT (UFA), Jalen Parmele RB (RFA), Marcus Paschal DB (RFA), Trevor Pryce DE (UFA), Marcus Smith WR (RFA), Marshall Yanda OT (RFA), Tom Zbikowski S (RFA)

Quarterbacks Minimal Need
I don't have to say much about Joe Flacco except he's one of the young up and coming QBs in the NFL and figures to be pushing the Top 5 this year with Anquan Boldin on board. Were he to get hurt though, well as things stand the Ravens would be forced into becoming a very, VERY run dominated team. Troy Smith and John Beck won't frighten anyone except their own fans if they're forced to start. Smith may have some use in a Wildcat type of package but Beck has a couple of knocks against him. Firstly, he'll be 29 and is only in his 3rd season having come out of Brigham Young. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, he's never looked capable of playing QB in the NFL. Realistically the Ravens could do with adding a decent veteran, someone like Marc Bulger, you know, someone who's actually started some NFL games and maybe even won a couple. They could also do with adding a genuine developmental type of QB. But with only a handful of picks it's probably not a likely proposition and they may make do with some undrafted types competing in camp instead.

Runningbacks No Need
With Ray RIce emerging as one of the top all round threats in the NFL and Willis McGahee still around to spell him and take some of the goal line carries the Ravens are pretty set. When you throw in big bruising FB Le'Ron McClain's rushing ability and Jalen Parmele's return abilities the Ravens can clearly ignore the RB position in the draft if they want to. There's still a chance they may choose to trade McGahee but it's not looking like it right now.

Wide Receivers Minimal Need
With Derrick Mason signed for another 2 years and the trade acquisition of Anquan Boldin, Joe Flacco should have the biggest goofiest smile on any Raven's face this offseason. Finally a legitimate Receiving corps for him to work that big arm with. With Donte' Stallworth signed as well and Mark Clayton to compete as well they should be set. But with Mason being 36 and Clayton a possible draft day trade they should still be looking at WRs. Boldin is a great WR but he's done his best work alongside Larry Fitzgerald and the Ravens may be smart to look for another WR they can pair up with Boldin to really frighten defenses beyond this season. They have other needs but if Dez Bryant falls all the way down to #25 it could be hard to say no.

Tight End Major Need

With Todd Heap's declining steadily but is still useful. But he is expendable. There's just nothing else worth mentioning on the current roster. They could possibly approach L.J. Smith about coming back after the draft but at #25 Jermaine Gresham, the consensus best TE in the draft could be available. Rather than looking for another WR Gresham could very quickly become Flacco's new best friend. Failing Gresham there could be some second round talent for the Ravens like Rob Gronkowski but without another pick until round 5 you feel they'd probably need to use their first or second on a TE to get a difference maker. Dennis Pitta might, just might fall to the 5th round because he's 25. He may not be much of an upgrade over Todd Heap but he is 5 years younger. They've also had Ed Dickson and Tony Moeaki in for visits. There's good TE talent all the way down in this draft so if Gresham's gone by 25 (which he should be) all is not lost.

Offensive Line Minimal Need
The Ravens have an extremely talented Offensive Line and barring any trade for Jared Gaither (looking less likely now) they'll return the same starting lineup who protected Joe Flacco well and carved out some big holes for Ray Rice. They've got some depth there but it's more versatile than outstanding, a couple of major injuries could have them in trouble. A couple of major OL injuries usually has any team in trouble though. Gaither is the Left Tackle but Oher is capable of playing there too and going into his second year could eventually force a switch around with Gaither. Oher was a great pick last year, a great story and a favourite on this site. Baltimore made a lot of teams look silly for passing on him, so kudos to Ozzie Newsome. Inside Marshal Yanda's made RG his own and Matt Birk mans Center. Birk is really the only question mark and it's not for his playing ability, merely his age. At 33 they could do with finding an eventual replacement. I don't think it's David Hale who at 6'6" is really going to struggle with leverage against some of the best NTs around the AFC if he's ever forced into service. Chris Chester should be the main backup at Center but he could carry some value as trade bait. Zone blocking teams would have to like him and I think in the right situation he could start. With few picks it could be a possibility, especially if Maurkice Pouncey found his way to Baltimore. Whilst it's not a need position for the Ravens Pouncey would, I think, be a great fit for this offense... He shouldn't fall this far but then we said that about Oher last year. Pouncey could play Guard as a rookie and take over Center in 2011

Defensive Tackles Minor Need
Baltimore has some seriously large lads on the DL. Haloti Ngata is one of the best players in his position in the league and although he's a free agent in 2011 I think he'd be extended this year but like a few guys round the league the 30% rule would prevent it. So he'll probably have to wait til next year but he'd be a priority. Kelly Gregg is 33 but still producing to a high level and is under contract for this season and next. They could probably look to find his eventual replacement but they have 3 guys on the roster currently who all fit the bill physically at least. Kelly Talavou, Brandon McKinney and Lamar Divens. I'm not sure any of them could develop enough to replace Ngata or Gregg but they're set for starters. At worst this ia a Minor Need right now and at best it could be Minimal if one of the 3 younger players can step up.

Defensive Ends Minor Need
The Ravens D has been great for years and one of the reasons is the versatility of it's core players. They can show 4-3 fronts or 3-4 fronts and the key to this at the moment is Terrell Suggs. Suggs can play standing up as an OLB or with a hand n the ground as a 4-3 DE, but last season he was a bit out of shape and it showed. Suggs should slim down this season and get back closer to his disruptive best. Cory Redding's been picked up from the Seahawks but he's several years removed from being a genuine factor now but he has some of that versatility too. But he's not Trev Pryce's long term replacement. Pryce is still around but at 34 he's not likely to be much more than a situational player this year. They really need last year's #2 pick Paul Kruger to step up. At present this still looks like Minor Need, but if Kruger can improve they should be pretty good for numbers, but I have questions about Redding and him. Needs across the whole Defensive Line utimately come down to what front the Ravens want as their base. If it's a 4 man front they could really use some pass rush ability up the middle. So think Jared Odrick in round 1. But if they prefer to stick mainly with the 3-4 then you're looking at a weakness at 3-4DE as I'm not sold on Cory Redding in that role. In which case, errr you could still look at Jared Odrick. I'm almost as confused as most QBs facing the Ravens.
 
Linebackers Minor Need
I'm always wary of saying Ray Lewis is in decline, because every time I do he comes up with a stunning return. But someday it's got to happen and he looked like he'd lost a step in coverage last year. Whether he was playing hurt I'm not sure, but in your mid 30s injuries don't heal so quick and they tend to happen more often (this is personal experience talking!). Whilst he's still a tackle machine and effective at getting towards the QB I notice last year is the first year since 2004 he didn't record an Interception. I wonder how long before he's regularly off the field on passing downs? Ray's still got plenty to offer. So does monstrously sized Jarret Johnson, he doesn't get so many tackles but has a great habit of coming up with big plays. The other LB slot has some questions but the Ravens like Dannell Ellerbe and he should get first shot at filling it. There still could be a LB brought in early in the draft to compete with him too though. There's plenty of depth but it varies in quality. As with most teams some are only going to be special teamers but some could be more. Jason Phillips and Tavares Gooden were picked in 2009 and 2008 respectively, Phillips lost his rookie year to injury but as a 5th rounder he could still be a longshot to even make the roster. There's still talent here but with an undecided starting slot and an aging Ray Lewis it's definitely an area they could opt to address, even in the first round. With likely starters in all the slots  

Cornerbacks Major Need
With both Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington good candidates to begin 2010 on the PUP list (meaning they won't likely be available until midseason) the Ravens need a lot of help here. Dominique Foxworth was a fairly pricey free agent addition last year and he struggled some. He's not the biggest guys and Ravens corners have usually been known for playing aggressive football. That's not really going to be Foxworth's game so they need to find him some help and fast. They could really use a couple of veterans and there could be some available after the draft, but they could also opt to use their first rounder on a guy like Kyle Wilson. If he were there in the second round Kareem Jackson could be another option but both guys I've mentioned here seem unlikely to slip to the Ravens picks in round 1 or 2 respectively. Could be it's the veteran route...

Safeties No Need
There's some concerns about Ed Reed thanks to a  bad neck injury. Big enough concerns that he's been linked with retirement. If he did call it a day Reed could well be a first ballot hall of famer in a few years. Baltimore management don't seem to be outwardly concerned though. So let's assume for the moment that Reed will be back. He's still 31 but if he can still play there's obviously no need at Free Safety. Dawan Landy is a solid customer at SS too. And if Reed has problems this year, well it's worth noting that Tom Zbikowski had an interception in each of the first 2 games he started in Reed's place last year. Tommy Z's obviously been paying attention to the Master. All in all, if Reed can come back they're in a very healthy (no pun intended) position. If he can't obviously you're in trouble. Replacing a legend like Reed would be nearly impossible and with Eric Berry and Earl Thomas as good as gone by #25 they're chances of finding a direct replacement in this draft would be slim anyway. Until we hear otherwise we're assuming Reed sticks around. Meaning there's no need here.

Specialists Minimal Need
Kicker's a big need for the Ravens as Billy Cundiff disappointed down the back end of the season. I'd think the Ravens more likely to chase a guy like Shayne Graham but they're unlikely to do that until after the draft. With hardly any picks, using one on a kicker isn't the best move, so while it's a big need in general it's a free agency need rather than a draft need. Sam Koch's job as punter is safe.

Return Game Minimal Need
Chris Carr was decent on punt returns last year and the loss of Lardarius Webb will hurt them in the return game unless Jalen Parmele can carry on where he left off. They should be good but not great until Webb can come back.
 
Dream Day One
     
1.25 Jared Odrick DT/DE Penn State
2.57 Kareem Jackson CB Alabama
 
Player Visits
Toby Gerhart RB Stanford
Dez Bryant WR Oklahoma State
Mike Williams WR Syracuse
E.J. Morton-Green WR Cincinnati
Riley Cooper WR Florida
Ed Dickson TE Oregon
Tony Moeaki TE Iowa
Maurkice Pouncey C Florida
Jeff Linkenbach OT Cincinnati
Terrence Cody DT Alabama
Danny Batten LB South Dakota State
Vuna Tuihalamaka LB Arizona
Kyle Wilson CB Boise State
Terrence Johnson CB California (PA)

 

Last Edited: 04/14/2010




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