Looking ahead to the Ravens' 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
ESPN’s Todd McShay: CB Vontae Davis, Illinois
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.
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
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