As Giants fans continue to celebrate their latest Super Bowl victory, we fans of the other 31 NFL teams are left to turn deep green with envy while they do. At the same time, though, we turn our eyes toward the next big day on the football calendar – the draft in April. The Ravens fell literally one catch short of a Super Bowl berth in 2011 – will the player that can finally push John Harbaugh’s team over the hump fall to them on draft day?
Before we get into who the mock drafts have the Ravens taking, our usual disclaimer:
Admittedly, we take a very unscientific approach to our mock drafts. I’m the first to admit that the true draft geeks amongst you, dear readers, would probably be better served getting your information elsewhere. These posts are done knowing full well that 1000′s of variables will come into effect between now and the time the Ravens turn in their pick for the first round, and that literally anything can happen. However, that being said, chances are we won’t be appreciably further off on our predictions than any of the other “gurus” out there will turn out to be.
So, if you are just looking for some fun, informal information, we hope you’ll give us a look from time to time as the big April date approaches.
The Ravens are picking 29th this year; the lowest position they’ve had entering any draft under John Harbaugh (2008 – 8, 2009 – 26, 2010 – 25, 2011 – 26). However, they didn’t select from their original position in any of those previous four drafts. In 08, they traded down to 18, where they selected Joe Flacco. In 2009, they moved up from 26 to 23 to get Michael Oher. They traded out of the first round completely in 2010, selecting Sergio Kindle in the second round as their first selection. Last year was the trade fiasco with the Chicago Bears, which resulted in the Ravens running out of time with the 26th pick before nabbing Jimmy Smith at #27.
Based on that recent track record, we have no reason to believe they’ll even be picking at #29. However, that’s all the information we have to work with at the moment, so away we go!
Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State
(turn sound down)
Burfict is a physical freak with tremendous athleticism and explosive power. He’s a top-20 talent, but questions about his discipline on and off the field are hurting his stock. However, Burfict could contribute immediately and would benefit greatly from the leadership and guidance of Ravens MLB Ray Lewis. And you have to wonder whether the Ravens would press their luck and take another player with character flags after bringing CB Jimmy Smith into the fold last year.
My take: First off, I take issue with McShay’s assertion that they might not “press their luck” with Burfict (due to his off-field issues) because they chose Jimmy Smith – who had similar questions surrounding him – last year. On the contrary, because Smith was such a model citizen during his first season in Baltimore, I’d think the Ravens would instead be MORE likely to take a chance on a guy like Burfict.
Burfict’s “off-field issues” concern missing nearly his entire sophomore season due to academic problems. He plays a bit undisciplined, being benched at Arizona State in 2010 due to his high volume of personal fouls.
Still, he has all the talent in the world, and here’s guessing that the chance to be Ray Lewis’ heir would be enough to make even the crookedest arrow fly straight.
Here’s Scouts’ scouting report on Burfict:
Possesses an excellent frame with good length and thickness. Top-end speed appears above-average on tape.
Durability is not an issue at this point and has appeared in all 24 career games the past two seasons.
Plays with great intensity however, emotions can get the best of him on the field which has led to personal foul calls and costing his team in key situations (Late 4th QTR USC 2010). Also had three personal foul calls against Washington in 2009. No off-the-field issues that we are currently aware of. Had some maturity issues early in his career. Reports are that he has taken big steps this off-season in terms of maturing. Passionate and football is important to him.
Needs work with technique and will free lance on occasion. However, possesses natural football instincts. Make a quick diagnosis, finds the ball and has playmaking instincts. Flashes ability to take a snap shot before taking on blocks and get in position to make a play most collegiate LBs cannot make. Disciplined against play action and can sniff out screens.
Possesses prototypical traits for a MLB. Has a thick frame and solid anchor. Strong and flashes a violent and quick-twitched strike that can shock blockers. Not just a battering ram, though. Does a nice job of slipping blocks when need be and uses hands extremely well to discard blocks.
A gifted athlete for his size and possesses a wide range to make plays outside of the tackle box. Light on his feet and shows an easy change of direction. Closing burst is above-average and can make up ground in pursuit. Can show more consistency with effort chasing plays though.
A reliable run through tackler. A heavy hitter that possesses a rare ability to uncoil hips upon contact. Angles are consistent in pursuit and does a nice job of corralling ball carriers in the open field. Only concern is that he leads with helmet too much.
A three down linebacker that can make an impact both defending the pass and rushing the passer. Athleticism provides him with a wide range in underneath zone coverage. Does a nice job of reading QBs eyes but needs to do a better job of looking up crossers behind him. Can run with TEs down field but may have limitations matched up with quicker RBs in man coverage. A powerful blitzer up the gut that can run through blocks and create disruption in the pocket. Also was observed hurdling cut blocks on several occasions throughout film study.
With Steve Bisciotti stating in the Ravens’ end-of-the-season press conference that he has no interest in building up the offense at the expense of a steeply declining defense, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Ravens go with D in the first round for the second consecutive year. If Burfict is there at 29, he could be a perfect fit in B’More. Who better to teach him to properly harness all that emotion that he reportedly plays with than the king of gridiron emotion, Ray Lewis? Despite the red flags, for Baltimore, Burfict could be Perfect! (grooooaaaaaaaan)
Peter Konz, Center, Wisconsin
A three-year starter, Peter Konz (kahnz) was a three-star offensive line recruit out of high school and was considered the state of Wisconsin?s top prep player, choosing the Badgers over Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota. After redshirting in 2008, he took over as the starting center for the injured Travis Frederick as a redshirt freshman early in the 2009 season, starting nine games at the pivot spot. Konz became the full-time starter at center in 2010 as a sophomore and started 11 games, but missed two games due to injury, earning All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honors. He started the first 10 games of 2011 as a junior before an ankle injury sidelined him for the final three contests, earning First Team All-Big Ten honors.
Konz is a very good station-to-station blocker and effective puller. He isn?t naturally explosive, but shows the quick feet and mobility to block well on the move. He is aggressive and tough-minded, but has some durability concerns after missing time each of the past three seasons with several injuries.
Konz has an excellent combination of size, strength and quickness and possesses the skill-set to also line up at guard if needed (despite only playing center in college). He blocks with very good balance and raw power and is the top center in this draft class, projecting as a solid top-30 pick.
Pass blocking: Possesses a solidly-built frame with a filled-out body and solid muscle definition. Naturally wide base off the snap. Does a nice job sinking his hips and playing with consistent pad level, sitting in his stance with steady balance. Shoots his hands into defenders with very good placement, flashing strong hands to sustain blocks for an extended period of time. Taller for the center position and will allow his upper body to get high at times. Understands blocking angles.
Run blocking: A physical run blocker with raw power and strength at the point of attack. Gets very good initial push off the snap. Does a nice job with body positioning, walling off defenders to seal run lanes. Not a quick-twitch mover and looks a tad uncoordinated in tight spaces.
Pulling/trapping: Athletic and mobile, blocking well in space and pulling towards either sideline. Shows natural instincts with a very good feel for the position, keeping his eyes elevated and always looking for someone to block.
Initial Quickness: Sets up quickly and gets into his stance in a flash. Stout and aggressive at the point of attack and is tough to move because he plays with such good leverage. Sticky blocker. Konz is a bit stiff in his core and struggles to quickly redirect. Not naturally explosive.
Downfield: Rangy blocker with the foot quickness to cover a lot of ground and easily get to the second level. Takes on defenders with toughness and aggression, looking to finish and dominate.
Intangibles: Intelligent with strong football character, working hard on and off the field. Has good starting experience with 30 career starts at center over the past three seasons. Offers some versatility with the skill-set to line up at other offensive line spots. Has strong durability concerns, missing time each of the past three seasons with various injuries. Missed three games towards the end of 2011, including the Big Ten Championship Game, with a left ankle injury.
My take: If Matt Birk retires – as many expect he will – the Ravens will have a gaping hole at center. Andre Gurode was only signed for one season, and while the team could bring back the former Dallas Cowboy – who played OK as a guard in 2011 – getting a stud young center like Konz that can potentially man the position for the next decade is a much more attractive option. The injury concerns worry me a bit though; the Ravens have been spoiled with Birk, who hasn’t missed a game since coming to the team in 2009. Offensive line is definitely a concern for Baltimore entering the offseason. They struggled mightily in short yardage situations in 2011, and while Birk had a very good season overall, his lack of push in those types of scenarios cost the team on a few occasions. However, the last offensive lineman the Ravens took in the first round – Michael Oher in 2009 – has not proven himself to be completely worthy of such a high selection. I could see the team waiting until later rounds to try to find some value at center and/or guard.
In addition to the big-name sites like ESPN and CBS, I like to look at some lesser-known draft sites. As a fellow blogger, I have a great deal of respect for these guys that scout and put together mock drafts in what amounts to their spare time, or for very little compensation, especially compared to the Mel Kipers of the world. I hope you’ll give them a look as your draft fever increases here over the next few months. The first one we’ll look at today is NFLDraftWizard.com. This mock is by a fellow Baltimore guy, Neal Driscoll – Dolphins fan though (yeah, I know). Give him a follow on twitter: @NealDriscoll.
Analysis: From a talent standpoint Vontaze Burfict is a beast but there are a ton of red flags surrounding him. The Ravens have had a history of taking a player with a bad reputation and making him fit. Burfict would be an ideal fit in Baltimore and eventually be Ray Lewis’ successor.
Again with the red flags. Unless I’m missing something, the concerns seem to be a bit overblown. Anyway, as I mentioned above, I think Burfict would be a great fit.
I’ve been including Walter’s predictions in my mock draft round ups for a few years now. I’ll undoubtedly get a few “who the hell is he?” comments, but if you take a look around the site, you’ll see that the guy knows his stuff. There is an incredible amount of content on the site, and I read his game previews pretty much every week during the season.
Ozzie Newsome indicated that he’ll be looking for Ray Lewis’ successor this upcoming April. Well, Vontaze Burfict makes sense for a number of reasons. He’s one of the best players available and fits the attitude of Baltimore’s defense. He can play next to Lewis right away, and Ozzie Newsome has taken chances on talented head-cases before.
Since just about everybody is mocking Burfict to the Ravens, it’s probably a pretty safe bet that he WON’T be wearing purple and black come next season. However, he’s definitely a guy that Ravens fans should better familiarize themselves with, as we’ll be hearing his name to the point of exhaustion in the coming weeks.
Maybe his “issues” will be better explained as well – I’m still not sold on him being a “head case.”
Until the next mock draft round up, ya’ll.