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Looking ahead to the Ravens' draft

Poll question:  Who should the Ravens select with the 26th pick in the NFL draft?

Once a year, reporters gather in Owings Mills to discuss the NFL draft with Ravens officials. It's the reporters' goal to trick team officials into offering some insight. And it's the Ravens' goal to trick the reporters into thinking every word out of their mouths is profound insight.

In short, it's great theater.

Typically, the Ravens say they go after the best player available, regardless of position, that they might trade their first-round pick and that there are several players they like. It typically takes an hour to explain this.

"There's a lot of good players out there," Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of player personnel, said yesterday. "We probably have five or seven players that we think have a realistic chance to get at 26 who can come in and contribute Year One."

Because we can't trust the Ravens to divulge those names with a straight face and because we can't wait until Draft Day to find out who will be joining the team, let's turn to the outside analysts. 

In the next three weeks, there will be plenty more debating and projecting here at the Toy Department, but for today, let's take a look at what some of the experts think the Ravens will do with their first-round pick. As you'll see, the analysts do their projections based on need, which is why you'll see a lot of wide receivers, cornerbacks and linebackers on this list.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper: LB Rey Maualuga, USC

Maualuga is capable of becoming a quality "Mike" linebacker in the NFL but needs to use his hands better to ward off blocks and must be more consistent from week to week.

ESPN’s Todd McShay: CB Vontae Davis, Illinois

Davis hasn't won over many scouts with his footwork or his attention to detail. Still, he's a talented cover corner with playmaking instincts. The Ravens certainly could use his services, should he slip this far.

 Yahoo and National Football Post: Davis, Illinois

Even with the addition of CB Domonique Foxworth, the Ravens still need to add a more physical presence to the cornerback position. Davis is one of the draft’s most athletic cornerbacks but is considered a boom or bust pick.

USA Today’s Sean Leahy: CB Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest

CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco: WR Percy Harvin, Florida

They need to get a deep threat for Joe Flacco. Harvin has the speed, but will need to learn how to run routes.

NFL.com’s Charles Davis: LB James Laurinaitis, Ohio State

SI’s Don Banks: WR Hakeem Nicks, UNC

With the Ravens signing Domonique Foxworth in free agency as the potential replacement for Chris McAlister, they can turn their first-round attention to finding receiver Derrick Mason's eventual replacement. Nicks doesn't have the speed of the other first-round receivers, but he's got a polished, NFL-ready game.

Scout.com’s Chris Steuber: LB Clay Matthews, USC

CBS Sports’ Clark Judge: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland

The Ravens find their next receiver 45 minutes down I-95. I could see them going for a corner back here, too, with Wake Forest's Alphonso Smith a possibility, but they need a weapon for Joe Flacco more.

NFL.com’s Pat Kirwan: Heyward-Bey, Maryland

USA Today’s Matt Pitzer: RB Chris Wells, Ohio State

Scout.com’s Rob Rang: T Eben Britton, Arizona

USA Today’s Larry Weisman: CB Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State

Pro Football Weekly’s Nola Noawrocki: Maualuga, USC

With Bart Scott fleeing town to play for his former defensive coordinator, the Ravens not only have a need inside, they have the perfect mentor in Ray Lewis that Maualuga needs to stay in line. Maualuga could give the Ravens the most intimidating ILB tandem in the league.

Athlon: CB Darius Butler, Connecticut

Rivals.com: LB James Laurinaitis, Ohio State

NFL.com’s Steve Wyche: C Max Unger, Oregon

USA Today’s Jim Corbett: Davis, Illinois

USA Today’s Nate Davis: Heyward-Bey, Maryland

Scout.com’s Derek Harper: Heyward-Bey, Maryland

USA Today’s Scott Zucker: Britton, Arizona

Photos: AP

Comments

It's going to be Kenny Britt out of Rutgers. We love to run and his blocking was legendary at Rutgers. He has size, and speed. His hands could be a little better but overall he'll be the best pick for who's still there.

Pitzer at USA Today put Beanie Wells as a first round pick for the Ravens? Man did he phone in that pick or what?

That is probably one of the last positions the Ravens need to draft for. National newspapers once again showing they don't bother following the Ravens.

Nice work expert...

Wow, those are some experts! The fans know the biggest needs, and those needs are with that first pick at either TE or WR... Heap is getting older and LJ Smith not far behind.. We need that Play Maker for Flacco and my vote is for Nicks or Heyward Bey.

2nd Round we should go TE, there's a lot of great depth there too, like paul casey out of Rice, or Chase coffman out mizz, or jared cook at SC (he should be gone by our 2nd pick though).

If we are smart it will be Rey Maualuga. He's a man-ster. With some polish and all that speed and aggression it will be scary to come over the middle. Lewis has lost a couple of steps, not just one. We desperately need that mike linebacker that can go side to side and "hunt". Ray, meet Rey....

As much as I want a WR, I honestly will be happy with whomever the Ravens pick. Aside from Travis Taylor and Kyle Boller (Model wanted a QB and Billick forced this), the Ravens always draft, at the very least, solid starters in the first round, if not Pro Bowlers.

Not high on their needs but still a concern is a replacement for Pryce, who's starting to get up there. He'll be productive for another year or two. However, the Ravens could use a 3-4 DE who could slid into the middle on obvious passing downs. These guys are difficult to find, much more so than a CB or WR, so I think if a 3-4 DE is there, the Ravens would take him.

No way Davis or Jenkins fall back for enough for Baltimore to get. It would be worth it to trade back because the guys they would pick would still be alive in the second round. (Derrius, Nicks, Maybe Laurinitus, Britt)

Kenny Britt looks like he's already equal to or beyond playing in the NFL ....Heyward bey tremendous talent but Raw....Darrius Butler looks polished and ready to impact.....Hakeem Nicks will impact like Bolden Immediately.....Pettigrew wont make it to 26....forget it....but any team that passes on Sean Smith this year will regret it....Size, Strength ,Speed and Incredible Ball Skills....there's nothing else you could want in a great impact corner.....he will make any team significantly better ...instantly.....Cornelius Ingram is the most Physically Perfect football speciman I've ever seen....and you can probably get him in round 3. because of a past serious knee injury......and the truth is right now Brian Robiske is the most NFL ready best receiver in the draft.....but dont tell anyone...

If they're smart and they are, they'll go with Heyward-Bey. Mason is still the dependable go-to receiver that we have come to expect of him season after season but the Ravens need an explosive weapon to match Flacco's cannon of an arm.. and Heyward-Bey is that weapon

Love receiver Johnny Knox out of Abilene Christian. He's flying under the radar a bit, because he played at a small school. He has tremendous speed, great route running ability and unbelievable hands.

Barnes, Gooden, J McClain, who exactly thinks we need an LB??? We got three excellent ones with great growth potential. I say CB or speedy WR is our greatest need, no contest.

there is Dhb that could draw the double team , ingrim and Db in the third round, 4th round FB , 5th Sp team, 6 round Specil team players

From what everyones said it seems like were either going to get a wr, ilb or a db..maybe an offensive lineman..thats obvious...i hope hayward-bey falls to 26..he would be perfect for the ravens..its very rare to run a 4.3 and be 6'2..while being a great reciever..he just needs to work on his route running. If not DHB i say we go with britt or nicks ...we have to get a WR..i wouldnt mind taking vontae davis or laurinatis either..cause they both have tremendous upside. Hayward-Bey, Nicks, Britt, Lauranits, and Davis seem to be the main favorites..go with DHB OR NICKS

here's what baltimore will do.. since DHB and Kenny Britt are questionable first round picks as well as cornerback Alphonso Smith, Baltimore is going to trade back into the early second round and nab both DHB and Alphonso Smith/offensive lineman

I agree with just about everything written here. I am also fine with whatever the Raven front office decides is best. Personally, I would love to nab Pettigrew (sp), but if he's not there (and most likely will not be), I see the Ravens trading down picking up 2nd or 3rd round picks. I can't wait for this season!!!

I think the ravens should draft Quinn Sypniewski, Kelly Gregg, Prescott Burgess, and Dwan Edwards to improve the team.

Wait! They already have those guys. I think the CBs are cleaner than the WRs in the first round, maybe WR in the second round. I wouldn't take Pettigrew because he's not a stretch the field TE, for example he's nowhere near the athlete Heath Miller was when he came out, and Quinn S may be the best blocking TE we have on the roster. A lot depends on if they phase out Lorenzo Neal's position. I hope they re-sign him.

A lot of people like DHB, but their is a long list of size/speed WRs who fail because they have no other skills. He'd be a much bigger gamble than Mark Clayton.

I'd love them to get a WR in the 1st round DHB or Britt. Nicks gained 17lbs and didn't run at his pro day. I also agree with another post...a 3-4 DE is key as well. Also keep an eye for Ramses Barden... 6'6" 227lbs 4.51 speed and 18 touchdowns at Cal Poly-SLO. Played big against 1-A schools and the Ravens got a good look at him at the Senior bowl...

You know I would love to get some D in the first round. I also would like to Joe have another offensive weapon to stretch the feild. Heyward-Bey would be a nice fit. If Gooden doesn't pan out in the middle I do like Griesen but we would like to get younger at that position if at all posible. I think we have the personell in our own stable of linebackers. You figure there was a Mark Clayton sighting last season and throw DHB in the slot with Mason I think it would warrant more attention on our passing game and free those horses we have in the back field up. What worries me will be if none of those recievers are available in the second round. I know Oz is the miracal worker in B-more so he will figure it out he's not Matt Millen you know!

DEFINITELY THE BEST AVAILABLE WR to SUPPORT Derrick Mason who is our most dependable WR! Mason played 'bravely" through pain, but needs a STRONG backup to come-in to help him!! A Tall and fast WR is what would be great @ pick 26! It sounds like NICKS, HEYWARD-BEY or BRITT may be the best fits, if available........

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