Archive for the ‘NFL Draft’ Category

2012 Mock Draft Round-Up Version 1.0

February 10, 2012

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!

Todd McShay

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)

CBS Sports

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.

Burfict

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.

Walter Football

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.

Burfict

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.

Goob Grades the Ravens' Draft

May 2, 2011

I know you’ve all missed Goob here during his 3-month hiatus since we went to Dallas for Super Bowl XLV. Well, fear not, because he’s back and ready to hand out his version of “grades” for the Ravens’ 2011 draft picks.

What do you think of the Ravens’ picks? Let us know in the comments.

Torrey Smith is staying in MARYLAND!

April 29, 2011

TORREY SMITH is staying in Maryland!

Torrey Smith’s road to Raven-hood has been storybook for the franchise as well as the speedster from the University of Maryland.  It’s completely common for Ravens fans to dawn Terps gear on Saturdays during football season and cheering for Smith is something many fans have already made a habit. The fact that the Ravens had a great addition for their offense playing down I-95 is just something that makes this pick extra special for both parties.

Torrey is poised to become the permanent field-stretching player the Ravens have been looking for to accommodate Joe Flacco’s rocket arm. Seemingly one Coach Harbaugh and Ozzie picked up the phone to call Smith, Donte’ Stallworth immediately started packing his bags.

Smith comes into the 2011-2012 season only two catches behind the player in the role he is replacing so its pretty fair to say this is an upgrade on so many levels for the Ravens.

I’m so glad Torrey is now in purple and I’ll definitely be picking up a T.Smith jersey this offseason. The good news for other Ravens fans/morons who called into WNST every day raving about how much “Troy Smiff” is better than Flacco-they can now take the jerseys out of the trash and put them to use…they just need to replace the number.

WELCOME TO BALTIMORE TORREY!!! Does anyone else named Smith want to join the team?

With the 26th (Actually 27th) Pick, the Ravens Select….

April 28, 2011

Jimmy Smith.

I’ll be honest.  I don’t like it. I’d much rather the team have went with a pass rusher to sure up the pass d than go with a guy with such a sketchy past.  Remember Chris McAlister? Super talented CB, but a head case who was frustrating his entire time here?  I hope we’re not in for more of the same with Smith.

 

It's Draft Day! Will the Ravens take Jimmy Smith?

April 28, 2011

With indications that football may be happening in the not-too-distant future, it’s a bit easier to get excited for tonight’s first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

“The NFL has filed for an emergency stay with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, while the Eighth Circuit considers the NFL’s stay request.  Unless and until such a request is granted, however, we believe the 2011 League Year now has to begin; the Clubs must open their facilities to allow players to work out, meet with coaches and otherwise perform their jobs; and the NFL and the Clubs cannot collectively continue to refuse to deal with players.  It is our view that the NFL and the Clubs will be in contempt of court if they do not comply with the order unless and until they hear differently from the Eighth Circuit.

“We will let you know later today what the NFL is going to do to comply with this order, and what the specific schedule will be going forward.”

We agree with everything they’ve said.  The orders are clear — and the league’s effort to delay the lifting of the lockout have served only to make the situation clearer.  The lockout is over.  Turning players away, as at least three of the teams have done, constitutes contempt of court.

Our man Tony Lombardi from Ravens24x7.com likes Jimmy Smith, cornerback out of Colorado for the Ravens at 26.  Others have confirmed the Ravens’ interest. Personally, I’d rather the Ravens stay away from Smith, whose rap sheet is none too flattering:

  • Flunked three drug tests at Colorado
  • Two alcohol-related arrests
  • Two abortions paid for by parents of the would-be mothers
  • Arrest for 3rd degree assault in a restaurant

While I’m fully aware that we all do things in college that we regret and are ashamed of, these red flags are a bit above and beyond in my mind.  I’m enjoying that the Ravens are moving away from the thug/criminal reputation they had under Brian Billick here in the John Harbaugh era, and I think adding Smith to the roster would be a big step back in that regard. However, winning football games has to be the main concern here, and Smith’s talent is undeniable. I’d just rather, if it comes down to Smith and say, a good pass-rushing defensive end that will instantly make the entire secondary better, the Ravens go with the latter.

Regardless, enjoy the draft!

FOOTBALL, WOO!

Final Mock Drafts – One Week Out

April 21, 2011

With just one week remaining until the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, it’s time to take one final peek at who all the “experts” have the Ravens picking (see our previous round ups here and here).

Todd MacShay (subscription required):

Cameron Hayward, DE, Ohio State

Scenario 1: Heyward would have an immediate impact on a team that is trying to find the right fits along the front seven. Some teams prefer Clayborn as a 5-technique, but Heyward fits Baltimore’s desire for a bigger, stronger player.
Scenario 2: The best available cornerback — Smith, Miami’s Brandon Harris, Texas’ Aaron Williams — is also an option.
Scenario 3: The Ravens are yet another team that would like to trade back and this is prime real estate for teams looking to get back into the first round to get one of the second-tier quarterbacks. Baltimore could move back as many as 10 spots and get similar value with someone like Maryland WR Torrey Smith or Virginia CB Ras-I Dowling.

Our Take: Heyward could certainly be an option, and on paper fills a dire need for the Ravens – that of a defensive end/outside linebacker pass rushing type.  While Ozzie Newsome has stated that the story on Sergio Kindle “[isn’t] written yet,” the team would be wise to proceed as if the former Texas star will never see the field again.  However, Scouts, Inc. isn’t high on Heyward as a pass rusher,ranking him as only “average” and saying:

Is relentless as a pass rusher and drives legs when he gets under offensive linemen. Active hands and flashes the ability to slip blocks by hesitating before shifting gears quickly. However, he is limited athletically. Struggles to counter when offensive linemen beat him to the punch and get sound hand placement. Lacks the burst and closing speed to consistently turn the corner at the NFL level.

Based on these descriptions, it sounds to me like Heyward would be almost another Haloti Ngata-type (though perhaps slightly better as a pass rusher and weaker against the run).  With an extension for big #92 looming, I can’t see the team sinking first-round money into a guy like Heyward.  I’d be surprised if the Ravens took the Ohio State defensive end.

CBS Sports

Rob Rang: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple

Chad Reuter: Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland

Our take: As far as Wilkerson goes, see my above argument: I can’t see the team investing that much money in the D-line right now.  No on him.

As for Smith, while I like the former Terp, I don’t like him much as a first round selection.  I participated in a mock draft on Twitter this week, where I served as Ravens’ assistant GM.  We were able to snag Smith in the second round, at number 58 overall.  If Smith is the Ravens’ guy (which I doubt, by the way), they certainly trade down and not take him at 26.

NFL.com

See video here

Brian Baldinger: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin OR Derrek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

Charlie Casserly: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA OR Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona

Charles Davis: Titus Young, WR, Boise State OR Torrey Smith

Our Take: While this segment was more of a “what are the Ravens’ needs and some possible ways to address them?” than a true Mock Draft, I think it’s worth taking a look at.  Baldinger obviously took on the Ravens’ needs at offensive line, while Casserly and Davis addressed pass rushing and wide receivers, respectively.

In the aforementioned Twitter Mock Draft, we took Sherrod in the first round.  If Carimi had been available, he would have been the pick.  I like the idea of the Ravens using their first rounder this year to solidify that offensive line that allowed 40 sacks last season.  I’m not looking forward to any more Jared Gaither drama either, so Sherrod – while not a sexy pick – would be a very welcome choice.

Akeem Ayers and Brooks Reed are both rated as above average pass rushers by Scouts, Inc., with Reed garnering a label of “exceptional.”  They are rated at 27 and 31, respectively, on Scouts, Inc.’s Big Board, so either could be  good value at #26.  I’m of the mindset that football games, even here in 2011, are still won in the trenches, so a defensive line pick – like an offensive line pick – would go over just fine in my view.  Reed has some durability issues that Ayers does not (played in all 37 games he was eligible to at UCLA), so he may be the safer choice.

Finally, wideouts? Unless it’s Julio Jones or A.J. Green – both of whom will go in the top 10 – not in the first round, thank you very much.

Thanks to the guys at NFL.com, I think we’ve covered just about every scenario for the Ravens here in our last Mock Draft roundup.  The only exception, of course, is the trading down one, which NFL Network’s Mike Mayock sees the Ravens doing. While I trust the judgement of the Ravens’ front office, I would be a bit disappointed if they trade out of the #26 pick.  They traded down last year, with poor results (extenuating circumstances, I know, but still).  With the teams strong history of picks in the 20’s (Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Michael Oher), I like to think they can pick another star out of the bottom of the first round.

Enjoy the draft everybody – it will be our last chance for who-knows-how-long to pretend that everything is A-OK in the world of our favorite professional sport.

Post-Combine Mock Drafts

March 8, 2011

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:

Peter Schrager, FOX Sports

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.

Our take:

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.

WalterFootball.com

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.

Our take:

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.

National Football Post

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.

Our take:

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).

NFL.com’s Pat Kirwin

Smith

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.

2011 Mock Draft Version 1.0

January 25, 2011

Once again – unfortunately a few weeks earlier than we would have preferred – it’s Draft Season here at the Nest.

First, 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 (Glenn Clark, for one). 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.

We now know that the Ravens will be picking 26th (in the absence of any trades) in the first round this year. That’s one spot down from last year, when they ended up trading out of the 25th spot anyway.

The way we do things around here this early in the draft season then, is to look at the 26th ranked player on some “big boards” from around the web.

Scouts, Inc.

Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia

Scouts, Inc. has Houston as their #3 ranked OLB currently, behind Von Miller (#9 overall) of Texas A&M, and Akeem Ayers of UCLA (#18) . The junior, listed at 6’3″ 254 lb, started all 13 games for the Bulldogs in 2010 and totaled 67 tackles including a team-leading 18.5 for loss and 10.0 sacks to go along with 44 quarterback pressures, two pass break ups, an INT, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Houston was named the Bulldogs’ Most Valuable Defensive Player, and was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Butkus Award and a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award. He totaled 20.0 sacks during his three seasons in Athens. (source: http://www.georgiadogs.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/houston_justin00.html)

Our take:

The Ravens have swung and missed on the outside linebacker pass-rushing type twice lately.  First with Paul Kruger in the 2009 second round; Kruger was largely ineffective for his first 1.75 seasons or so, before showing life down the stretch and into the postseason in 2010.  Then there was the Sergio Kindle mess from a year ago.  At this point, it’s still largely up in the air whether or not Kindle will ever play a down in the NFL.  It is a well-known fact that an area of huge need for this team is more pass rushing help, in the form of a compliment to Terrell Suggs on the other side.  You have to wonder, though, if Ozzie & Co. will start to get a bit gun-shy about drafting pass rushers, given their recent string of bad luck.  If they’re 100% sold on Houston, he could be a very welcome addition to Charm City.  Otherwise, the Ravens may be better off opting for a more established free agent-type.

CBS Sports

Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

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Harris is listed as the #3 cornerback on the CBS board, behind Patrick Peterson of LSU (#1 overall) and Prince Amukamara of Nebraska (#7).  Another junior, Harris stands 5’10.5″ and weighs in at 193 lbs.  CBS has this to say about Harris:

Read & React: Quick to recognize run and does a nice job of coming up in support. Reads the body language of the receiver and is typically in good position to a make a play on the ball due to his instincts and standout athleticism. Rarely out of position, especially when playing man to man. Does a nice job of focusing on his receiver rather than peeking into the backfield, though this leads to fewer interceptions than he’d have if he “cheated” more.

Man Coverage: Better in man to man coverage than zone due to his pure athleticism. Quick feet, loose hips, good balance and outstanding speed to remain in the hip pocket of his opponent. Doesn’t back down from the challenge of playing bigger receivers. Keys on the receiver and gets his head around late. Quick hands to knock passes away, but doesn’t have the time to locate the football, leading to more PBUs than INTs.

Zone Coverage: Improved his overall recognition as a junior, but remains a better man to man corner than zone defender. Good feel for where receivers are around him, but can get flat-footed and savvy QBs can “push” him laterally, opening up holes for receivers to expose. Generally a reliable open-field tackler, but isn’t a punisher.

Closing/Recovery: Possesses outstanding game speed, including a late burst to recover if beaten initially. Can plant and drive downhill on the ball. Good recognition to know when he’s beat and to make the tackle and when he has a chance to break up the pass or go for the interception. Times his collisions well so he doesn’t draw the flag. Times his leaps well to compete for jump passes and shows good hand-eye coordination to slap away the ball as the receiver is attempting to secure it. Doesn’t turn enough PBU’s into interceptions, however, only securing four despite 26 passes defensed over his career.

Run Support: Recognizes run quickly and isn’t afraid to come up in support. Good agility and flashes physicality to break free from receiver blocks. Maintains his containment responsibility and will force the back inside. Isn’t a physical tackler, too often resorting to duck and swipe techniques, but gets the man on the ground.

Tackling: A reliable open-field tackler, but isn’t always pretty doing it. Has a tendency to lead with his shoulder and/or lunge at the defender, resulting in some precarious tackles. Flashes the ability to deliver a pop, but relies too much on arm tackles. Has to do a better job of wrapping up the ballcarrier, though important to note that he did not miss a tackle on the games reviewed. Occasionally asked to blitz off the edge. Times the blitz well, shows good closing speed and the wherewithal to strip the football. Did take a terrible angle on a big play by Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd in the Sun Bowl.

Intangibles: Passionate and accountable. Quoted as saying that he and his classmates (2008 signing class) should dedicate their 2010 season to head coach Randy Shannon and that they were largely to blame for Miami’s inconsistency. (Despite Harris’ words, Shannon was ultimately fired.) Ran track for Miami as a freshman in the 60 meter (indoor), 400 meter (outdoor) and 4×400 meter (both). Good bloodlines. Coached in high school by his father, Tim Harris, USA Today’s National Coach of the Year (2007). His brother, Tim, Jr. was a four-time All-American in track for Miami. Only needs to serve a two-month internship to earn his bachelor’s degree in Business.

Our take:

Cornerback is another area of (at least, perceived) need for the Ravens.  Unfortunately, Harris doesn’t really fit the bill as the kind of big, physical guy Baltimore really needs.  The fact that he’s listed at “Five ten and a half” is a red flag to me that he is a bit on the small side.  Chris Carr, Josh Wilson, and Fabian Washington are all free agents though, and it seems likely that no more than one of the three will be wearing purple and black in 2011.  While Harris may not be the prototypical “shut down” corner, CBS still touts his coverage skills as “among the best available in the 2011 draft.”  The fact that he is a University of Miami Hurricane, and would be eager to join fellow ‘Canes Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, only increases the odds that the Ravens would target him in my book.  Good cornerbacks are hard to find, and in my estimation Harris would be a solid selection.

That’s it for the first installment of Mock Draft ’11 here at the Nest. We’ll do this at least a few more times though, and try to bring you as many different opinions from the wide world of draft gurus as we can between now and April.

Let's Meet our New Ravens, Shall We?

May 3, 2010

After a bit of a blogging vacation (blogcation?), I’m back and finally ready to look at how the Ravens’ 2010 draft went.

Round 2 (43 overall) – Sergio Kindle, OLB, Texas

After trading out of the first round (for the record, as I predicted they would do if Jermaine Gresham was not available, which he was not), the Ravens used their first pick at #43 to take Kindle, the LB from Texas. In their final Mock Drafts, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay of ESPN had kindle going at #22 and #13 overall, respectively. This was just days before the draft, and Kindle was considered by the “experts” to be a first round talent.

The issue that caused Sergio (I’ve heard some call him “Serge”) to fall down the board are questions about his knees. Some anticipate that he may need the kind of microfracture surgery that caused Kelly Gregg to miss the entire 2008 season, and need it sooner rather than later. However, Eric DeCosta, in his post-draft interviews around town, swore up and down that the Ravens’ doctors have no concerns about Kindle. According to Eric, team doctors failed about 15 players in this year’s class due to health concerns, but Kindle was not one of them.

Kindle represents HUGE value for the Ravens at #43, and one has to believe that they were ecstatic to pick him up on Friday. In the interest of getting ourselves a little ecstatic as well, let’s look at some Kindle highlights.

I’m excited about Kindle, but I have to think that the choice hints that the Ravens aren’t too confident in guys like Antwan Barnes and Paul Kruger (unless they’re totally convinced he can make the switch to DE) moving forward.

Round 2 (57 overall) – Terrence Cody, NT, Alabama

Hey, look – another pick, another semi-accurate prediction by yours truly (I said that there was as much chance of the Ravens taking Cody in the 2nd round as there was in the first, where Jamison Hensley had them taking him).

Also, another pick, another guy with some red flags. Unlike Kindle, whose health concerns stem from injuries, Cody’s stem from a perceived lack of motivation and inability to stay in shape. 2009’s Man-Boobs award winner Andre Smith passed the torch to Cody this year.

Smith Cody

I don’t really subscribe to the “Ray Lewis will just yell at him” mentality that some Ravens fans seem to buy into, but Ozzie & Co. must have liked what they heard from Cody in interviews and believe they can keep him motivated and in shape.

I just hope he works out better than the last guy named Cody they drafted in the second round.

Round 3 (70 overall) – Ed Dickson, TE, Oregon

The first of two consecutive “potential heir to Todd Heap” selections, was Dickson, the former Duck. Much like Heap, Dickson’s strength coming out of college is stretching the field, and he will have to work on his blocking skills considerably at the next level. Along with the next selection, though, Dickson should help the team be much improved at the position compared to a year ago, when the worthless L.J. Smith was running around M&T Bank Stadium.

Round 4 (114 overall) – Dennis Pitta, TE, BYU

I’ll admit, that video above was the first I had seen of Pitta. I don’t know about you, but I like what I see. It should be exciting to watch these two rookies battle it out in the preseason; they may both end up on the active game day rosters, especially if they can contribute on special teams, as their respective size and (apparent) athleticism suggests they’ll be able to.

Round 5 (156 overall) – David Reed, WR, Utah

Something tells me Reed and Cody may not be begging to be roommates at McDaniel College this summer.

Reed could have a hard time cracking the roster unless he can shine on special teams, with at least Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, Dante Stallworth, and Mark Clayton already entrenched on the depth chart. He might be able to unseat Demetrius Williams, however, as that guy has to be hanging on by a thread in B’More.

If Reed does make the roster, is Ed Reed’s jersey now going to read “E. Reed?” That might be annoying. Is there really room for another Mr. REEEEEEEED in purple and black?

Round 5 (157 overall) – Arthur Jones, DT, Syracuse

Jones may be Ozzie’s next late round gem, a la Adalius Thomas. He was graded as a 2nd-3rd round talent by many scouts. With the losses of Dwan Edwards and Justin Bannan, many had the Ravens’ defensive front as a sudden weakness just a few weeks into free agency. However, they have since signed Cory Redding, and with the drafts of Cody and Jones, combined with Kelly Gregg continuing to get stronger from his 2008 knee surgery, the Ravens may be even stronger at DT in 2010 than they were in 2009.

Round 6 (194 overall) – Ramon Harewood, OT/OG, Morehouse

Harewood is another giant, at 6’7″ 360 lbs. You can never have too many offensive lineman, but Harewood will have his work cut out for him to make the team. We wish him luck.

The Ravens have been getting high grades from around the sports-yap world for their draft. Of course, nobody can REALLY grade a draft for at least three years. The talent that they came away with is undeniable, but so are the question marks, especially on the top guys. If Kindle’s knees prove healthy and strong, and Cody’s work ethic is sound, the second round here could help solidify the defensive front for years to come. If one of Dickson or Pitta can step up and become a nice big downfield target for Joe Flacco, it could really help his development as a quarterback.

With the draft finally wrapped up, the rampant ridiculous speculation can come to a close for this year. Now we await reports from the spring minicamps, from which we hope to hear glaring reviews of this latest class of purple rookies.

Latest Mock Drafts – One Week Out

April 15, 2010

I think we’ve all had just about as much of the bad news from “Birdland” (more like Turdland, amright?) as we can stand for the moment, so we turn our attention now to “Ravenstown” instead. You know, that other team in B’More that actually tries (and succeeds) to win every now and again.

There is just one week remaining until the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, and that means it’s time for the Nest’s final mock draft round-up. (Find our previous round-ups here, here, and here.)

Let’s get to the picks, shall we?

ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay (they agree) (subscription required)

Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech

Kiper says: The Ravens have made moves to add help for Joe Flacco, but drafting a young WR that can grow with Flacco is still an important consideration. Thomas is a big, physical home run threat, and even this high, may have been undervalued because he was stuck in a running system at Tech. He’s the perfect downfield target for Flacco’s big arm, a guy who can make plays even when the defense knows it’s coming.

McShay says: Baltimore has a reputation for cashing in on the best available player and this is another opportunity to do so. Thomas would be a steal here given his size/speed combination and give QB Joe Flacco another dangerous weapon to go with offseason acquisitions Anquan Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth.

Our take: Thomas is an intriguing option. However, Ozzie Newsome may be a bit gun-shy about taking first-round WRs at this point, after missing on Travis Taylor and Mark Clayton, both of whom were/are decent, but never developed into the kind of talent you would like to see a first-rounder become. To borrow a phrase from Ray Lewis, bottom line is, Ozzie and the Ravens’ front office have been MUCH more successful evaluating talent at other positions.

One of the knocks on Thomas is that he struggles to run block, despite playing in a running system at Georgia Tech. Scouts, Inc. says that “it’s alarming how poor of a run blocker he is for his size. His angles are atrocious at times and he looks lost far too often.” The Ravens, even if they added Thomas, are likely to still be a run-first team. However, playing for a few years with a guy that takes such pride in his run blocking as Anquan Boldin could do wonders for the kid in this respect.

When it comes right down to it, I just don’t see the Ravens going WR in the first round. Think about it – last year, these mock drafts all had the Ravens taking a WR too. Ozzie didn’t do it then, so why would he do it now, after an offseason in which he added Anquan Boldin and Dante Stallworth, and locked up Derrick Mason for at least another season? I do think the Ravens will take a WR at some point in the draft, but not in the first round.

CBS Sports’ Rob Rang

Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State

Even with the addition of Anquan Boldin, the Ravens won’t hesitate to select a talented receiver should he be the best player available. General manager Ozzie Newsome has developed a reputation for finding superstars in the latter portions of the first round. If he can get over Dez Bryant’s questionable professionalism, Newsome might just discover another star. Some veteran scouts have compared Bryant to Randy Moss.

Our take: Alright, so you remember all that stuff I said about wide receivers in the draft regarding Demaryius Thomas? Throw it all right out the window if Dez Bryant is still on the board at #25. He is listed as the #12 overall prospect in the draft by Scouts, Inc., and if he falls this far, Ozzie and Co. would no doubt have to break their “best player available” rule to pass him up. On the field, Bryant is incredible, and there is absolutely no reason he should fall to the bottom of the first round. The questions arise regarding some off the field issues – he was suspended for the final 10 games of the 2009 season for lying to NCAA investigators regarding his relationship with former Raven Deion Sanders.

For comparison’s sake, Kiper and McShay have Bryant going at #7 and #21, respectively. I really do think this is a case where the Ravens would overlook the potential negatives in Bryant’s personality and select him in a heartbeat if he was there. I just don’t see any scenario in which he is still available by the time the purple and black are on the clock. Some team in the top 24 will give the kid from Oklahoma State a shot. It’s a pipe dream to think the Ravens could get him without trading up significantly.

CBS Sports’ Chad Reuter, Pete Prisco, and Clark Judge (all in agreement)

Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State

Reuter says: The loss of Dwan Edwards and Justin Bannan means Odrick would step in right away to help NT Haloti Ngata free up Ray Lewis to do his thing.

Prisco says: The more and more you hear, the more this one makes sense

Judge says: A vastly underrated defensive tackle who shouldn’t last this long. The Ravens are all about defense, and he helps them … or anyone … in the middle.

Our take: Reuter makes a valid point about the losses of Edwards and Bannan. However, he neglects to mention that the Ravens also added Cory Redding to the roster. Defensive tackle is a position at which the Ravens seem to consistently have adequate depth. Adding a guy like Odrick could certainly bolster the line, but at what cost? Scouts, Inc. has him ranked as the #28 talent on the board, so what are the chances that he will fit the Ravens “best player” motto? Not to mention that DT Haloti Ngata is due for a new contract after this season, and having that much money (Ngata’s contract plus first round money to Odrick, should they draft him) tied up in one position might not be the wisest course of action, NFL collective bargaining agreement issues aside. Especially on a team that is realizing that their offense is what has been holding them back over the last several years, not the defense.

While a purple-clad Odrick would make the local Penn State fans happy, again, I just don’t see it.

NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks

Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama

The Ravens need to fortify their interior defense after losing Justin Bannan and Dwan Edwards in free agency. Cody gives the team a mammoth nose tackle that is nearly impossible to move off the ball. He teams with Haloti Ngata to form an impenetrable wall at the point of attack.

Our take: Cody seems even less likely than Odrick to me. In addition to all the issues I mentioned above, “Mount Cody” comes with some weight and work ethic issues that make him even more of a stretch in my mind. Scouts, Inc. puts him at #48(!) on their board, so unless Ozzie & Co. see something extremely special in this guy that nobody else really seems to (hey, it’s happened before), this pick seems just as likely to happen on Saturday, if at all, as it does on Thursday night.

Fox Sports’ Peter Schrager:

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma

The Ravens’ five 2010 draft picks are: first round (25th overall), second round (57th), fifth round (156th and 157th) and sixth round (194th). The Ravens traded their third- and fourth-round picks to Arizona for Anquan Boldin and their seventh-round pick went to Tampa Bay in a 2009 trade for defensive end Marques Douglas. With just five picks, look for Baltimore to focus on finding players that can both contribute right away and fill glaring needs. Gresham is the top tight end talent in this draft. Add him into the mix with recently acquired wideouts Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth, and watch Joe Flacco’s passing numbers reach new heights.

Our take: We’ve already covered Gresham extensively – click here for the all-Gresham mock draft round up from last month.

Closing thoughts: Out of eight mock drafts, we have 3 experts seeing the Ravens go WR, 4 that say DT, and now just 1 guessing TE. I definitely didn’t start writing this blog planning to shoot down what every single “expert” had to say, it just kind of worked out that way. I have to say, it seems like these guys haven’t even been watching the way Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens’ front office operates over the last 14 years. I don’t profess to know any better than they do what the Ravens will do, but these guys don’t have a very good track record overall of predicting ANY picks, let alone those of the Ravens.

Additionally, I find it very hard to believe that none of these guys are mocking a cornerback to the Ravens at #25. A guy like Patrick Robinson or Kyle Wilson could give the Ravens some much needed depth at CB, and they seem infinitely more likely to me than a guy like Terrence Cody.

I realize that I’ve done all this critiquing of others’ picks without offering one of my own. Just for craps and giggles, I’ll go on record with this prediction: The Ravens either trade back from #25, or take Gresham.

What say you?


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