Upon listening to the rebroadcast of the “Pre-Draft Breakdown” show today, and sifting through the copious amount of information on the web, I had to write this post to amend my previous blog concerning who the Ravens will draft at 26. I still feel, as I did a number of days ago, that Kenny Britt will be the choice at 26. However, I think that if Brandon Pettigrew the tight end from Oklahoma State is there he may be the preferred choice. Eric DeCosta mentioned the fact that tight end and linebacker are two of the positions which are drafted most effectively in the first round from picks 24 to 32. Knowing this fact coupled with the fruitful selection of Todd Heap late in the first round 2001 when they did not necessarily have a need at the position points to a best player available selection. Also add in the fact that DeCosta specifically mentioned Pettigrew by name, and the logical conclusion is that if he is there they will probably take him.
However I have been told by people in the know that this is the lying time of year for professional scouts and player management personnel. So whatever anyone says is pure speculation. The fact remains that Pettigrew is widely considered the top tight end prospect in this year’s draft which is largely due to his blocking ability. Many of the tight ends in this year’s draft are “receiving” tight ends, but Pettigrew can essentially do it all. If the Ravens are able to draft a dual threat tight end like Pettigrew to team with Heap and L.J. Smith then it will give them a superior offensive threat when compared to the unbalanced line that they often ran a year ago. Better blocking from the tight ends will allow the Ravens to run two tight end sets and give them a dual threat offense. In this scenario the running game should not be adversely affected. Also the main blocking tight end going into last year was Quinn Sypniewski and there is no telling how he will be able to recover from his ACL injury or if he can be counted on to contribute effectively.
My last thought concerning the 26th pick is somewhat of a surprise. Although I have seen his name appear in some mock drafts I, like most Ravens fans, did not seriously consider him a possibility for the Ravens in the first round considering their apparent lack of need at linebacker (although again all signs point to best player available). The person whom I am speaking of is James Laurinaitis an inside linebacker from Ohio State. On first glance the pick does not seem logical. One might wonder why the Ravens would not play Tavares Gooden at that spot, and the answer may be as simple as ineffectiveness during his opportunities last year. Gooden is also on the smallish side for an inside linebacker and like Sypniewski he too ended up on injured reserve last year.
With the departure of Bart Scott to the Jets (or Ravens North to us in Baltimore) the Ravens will need a middle linebacker who is not afraid to mix it up at the line of scrimmage on running plays. Laurinaitis may not be as flashy as Gooden, but he started and played extensively all four years at Ohio State. He is also well decorated as a collegiate which does not necessarily guarantee success at the next level (see former Heisman winners) but does indicate a history of high performance. With the Ravens’ propensity for successfully drafting linebackers and the aforementioned comment from Eric DeCosta, Laurinaitis could be a distinct possibility if he is still available at 26.