The Ravens and veteran Bryant McKinnie have left the door open for his potential return, but the organization must look to address the left tackle position on a long-term basis.
Further complicating matters is the contract status of offensive tackle Michael Oher, who has one year remaining on his rookie deal. It’s clear the Ravens would prefer to keep him on the right side — for financial reasons just as much as his superior ability to play right tackle — but limited cap space and the absence of a higher draft choice could leave them with no choice but to consider moving Oher back to the left side for the 2013 season.
Barring a very surprising slide, top draft prospects such as Texas A&M star Luke Joeckel, Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher, and physical specimen Lane Johnson of Oklahoma will be long gone before the Ravens make their first-round selection. This will likely leave the Ravens to consider greener prospects with high upside such as Oregon’s Kyle Long, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long. The 6-foot-6, 304-pound lineman lacks experience and needs to get stronger but is considered by many to be a better athlete than NFL defensive end and brother Chris Long.
Other second-day draft candidates the Ravens should be examining closely include Virginia’s Oday Aboushi, LSU’s Chris Faulk, and Florida State’s Menelik Watson (a right tackle projected by some to have the ability to play on the left side), but it’s unlikely that any talent falling into that category would realistically be able to man the left tackle spot in his rookie season.
Starting up front
Asked to prioritize the areas he’d like to improve on his team two weeks ago, Newsome first mentioned defensive tackle as it’s become increasingly clear the Ravens are unhappy with the play of nose tackle Terrence Cody. He and veteran Ma’ake Kemoeatu were ineffective against the run this season as Baltimore’s 20th-ranked run defense received little push from either player.
Utah’s Star Lotulelei, Florida’s Sharrif Floyd, and Sheldon Richardson of Missouri are all very likely to be snatched up by the time the Ravens pick at the end of the first round, but there is an extremely deep pool of defensive tackles from which to draw in this year’s draft. The 355-pound John Jenkins of Georgia would be the prototypical nose tackle and could be on the board when Baltimore selects. Alabama’s Jesse Williams and Ohio State product Johnathan Hankins would also be potential fits with the 32nd pick.
Considering how many viable options there are at this position, the Ravens could elect to wait until Day Two and target the likes of Missouri Southern State’s Brandon Williams, Purdue’s Kawann Short, and North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams.
The defensive tackles will want to show off their strength and agility this weekend in Indianapolis, and the Ravens will be watching closely to see if they can find a nose tackle to stabilize the middle of the defensive line.
The Ravens aren’t likely to have a resolution over the future of Ed Reed in the near future, so they must plan accordingly to replace the ball-hawking safety in the defensive backfield.
Baltimore selected Christian Thompson in the fourth round last season, but his pass-coverage skills are extremely raw and he struggled to adjust to his responsibilities within the Baltimore defense in his rookie season. That doesn’t mean the Ravens have given up on Thompson by any stretch, but they will look to this class of safeties to see if they can find a more polished option to potentially replace Reed.
Kenny Vaccaro of Texas is the consensus top safety in the draft, but it remains to be seen whether he would be available to the Ravens at the end of the first round. A more realistic option would be Matt Elam of Florida, who lacks the size of Vaccaro but has the reputation for often taking calculated gambles that result in big plays, which doesn’t sound terribly different from Reed’s mindset over the years.
Second-round candidates include LSU’s Eric Reid, who is an intimidating hitter with great size at 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, and Phillip Thomas of Fresno State, who has good size and impressed with his coverage skills against top competition at the Senior Bowl.