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).
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.
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.
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.