With the NFL combine in Indianapolis finally wrapping up (seriously, didn’t that thing seem to take a month this year? Maybe just because I finally attempted to watch a little bit of it on NFL Network and it was like watching paint dry…), everyone’s “big boards” are shuffling around based on 40-times and bench press reps.
Let’s take a look at who everyone has the Ravens targeting with the 26th pick here as March kicks off:
Mike Pouncey, C/G, Florida
Oh, baby. What better way to spice up the already vitriolic Ravens-Steelers rivalry than pitting two twin brothers up against each other for the next decade. Though the Ravens have more pressing needs at defensive back than they do on their offensive line, they’d certainly love to scoop up an elite interior lineman like Pouncey if he slips to 26th. Capable of playing either center or guard, I could see Baltimore starting him out at the latter, letting him learn from 14-year veteran Matt Birk, and then moving him to center once Birk’s Baltimore playing days are done. Everyone I spoke with was blown away with Pouncey’s build, strength, quickness, and overall love and enthusiasm for the game at the Combine.
While the whole “brother against brother” theme fits Ravens/Steelers perfectly well, and sounds like it would make a nice movie, its a bit melodramatic for us here at the Nest. Like, it just seems a bit TOO convenient that Pouncey (ranked #21 overall by Scouts, Inc.) would fall all the way to 26 and be sitting there for the Ravens.
That said, I would have absolutely zero problem with the Ravens taking the big interior lineman. The pick would again frustrate some Ravens fans who are pining for the sexy pick of a wide receiver or cornerback in the first round, but I’m firmly sold on the notion that great teams are built up front. The Ravens had plenty of problems on the offensive line in 2010, and drafting an heir to Matt Birk would be a fine choice. While it would unfortunately keep Marshal Yanda on the outside at tackle while Pouncey learns from Birk, he would be a huge upgrade from Chris Chester.
Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
After watching the Ravens lose to the Steelers, it’s pretty obvious that Joe Flacco and Ray Rice need a downfield threat to stretch the defense. Torrey Smith is one of the top players who make sense for the Ravens. The high-character Smith had an outstanding Combine; he ran a 4.37, and notched a 41-inch vertical and a 10-foot-6 broad jump. His microscopic 8 5/8-inch hands are the only concern.
Confession time: My whole “holier than thou/don’t take the sexy WR pick/build up front” goes right out the window when Smith’s name is thrown into the mix. After cheering for Smith on Saturdays, I would LOVE to keep right on pulling for him on Sundays as he suits up in purple. Smith could be exactly what the doctor ordered for Joe Flacco. Though he is only listed at 6’0″ – and thus wouldn’t be the jump-ball downfield type that the Ravens would ideally be looking for – his speed and big-play ability more than makes up for his not being 6’4.” You know who else is 6’0? Reggie Wayne. (apropros of nothing, of course)
What makes Smith an unlikely pick, though, is that he may require the Ravens to deviate from their usual “best player available” strategy; he is not listed in Scouts, Inc.’s Top 32, nor on Mel Kiper’s “Big Board” (Top 25). This hints that he may not be ranked at #26 or higher on Ozzie & Co.’s board, either.
Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
There could be some interest from the Ravens in an offensive tackle if one of the top guys seems to slip this far. Sherrod is a good athlete who has the ability to play on the left side at the next level and allow Michael Oher to kick back over to the right side if need be.
If the excellently named Sherrod were to fall to the Ravens at #26, it could go a long way to helping address some of those aforementioned offensive line issues that the team encountered last season. While you’re not going to find the slam-dunk perennial Pro Bowler type left tackle like those that are found in the top 5 this late in the first round, a guy like Sherrod who can play the left side could instantly improve three positions for the Ravens. Michael Oher could go back to the right side, Marshal Yanda could move back to guard, and Sherrod – if he’s up to it – can protect Joe Flacco’s blind side. You also have to ask yourself if you’re comfortable with the proposition of a rookie keeping James Harrison off Joe’s back though. If the Ravens are unable to improve the tackle position via the draft, I’d expect them to attempt to sign a veteran shortly thereafter (right or left side, whichever they can find).
The Ravens have a fine offense with very little speed at wide receiver. Smith can fly and he has return skills. He’s a nice complement to Anquan Boldin.
All three of these guys (Pouncey, Smith, Sherrod) are all over the boards. I’ve seen Smith going as high as 15th overall (to Miami) all the way down to 55th. Sherrod I saw at 23 in one mock draft, while some have Pouncey lasting until the late first/early second round.
I wanted to get the ESPN guys (Mel Kiper and Todd McShay) included in this round-up, but they’re dragging their feet too much and still haven’t updated their mocks since the combine ended. We’ll catch them in the next edition.