If you know me; you know that there are about 5 things I enjoy more than anything else in the world. In no particular order……
Chick-Fil-A, College Football, Beer, NFL, and College Basketball.
On one particular weekend; a few of those things just so happen to combine for a GLORIOUS couple of days.
But for those of us whose lives are particularly lame (like me); the NFL Draft isn’t just about a weekend.
Frankly, for a guy like me……NFL Draft season starts before the NFL season ever ends.
Unlike those of you who enjoy the finer things in life; I’ve been spending the last few weeks drooling over reports from Senior Bowl practice; considering team needs, and studying the strengths of underclassmen. Unlike last year-when the Ravens were SUPPOSED to have a Top 10 pick; holding the Number 26 pick leads to a number of more options. With that being said; I’d like to declare draft speculation season underway.
Let’s establish some team needs.
First of all; we all know that Wide Receiver and Cornerback are areas that the Ravens need to address this offseason. This could come in free agency OR the Draft, but absolutely HAS to come.
Secondly; pass rush is a place where the Ravens could use some depth (Trevor Pryce could be a casualty, and won’t be around forever even if he does come back); and might need a serious upgrade if Terrell Suggs doesn’t return.
Third, Inside Linebacker is a place where the Ravens might need SERIOUS help (If Ray and/or Bart Scott leave); or might just need to develop more depth.
Fourth; Tight End is a place where the Ravens could REALLY use the addition of a playmaker. Todd Heap is obviously amongst the list of players who could become cap casualties; and even if he is back, the Ravens could use a second playmaker at the position.
Fifth; the Ravens have a couple areas of need in Special Teams. Jim Leonhard gave some life to the return game at the end of the season; but he might not be back, and the Ravens might not want to use a starting safety as a returner full-time even if he does return. If the Ravens can find a Corner or receiver in the first round who has return capabilities; that will only strengthen the likelihood of the pick. The Ravens might also want to consider a mid-round pick on a kicker. Matt Stover is a free agent; and Steven Hauschka showed some leg, but know consistency as a kickoff specialist. If the Ravens decide Stover’s time has passed; they could be in the market for one player to handle both responsibilities this season.
With all of that said; let me give you some names to think about that are already popping up on mock drafts thoughout the web…….
Sean Smith (CB, Utah): Smith is an interesting project. At 6’3″; he has the size to be a solid corner; but only played the position for little more than one year at Utah. He was a wide receiver before that; which obviously leads to the possibility of being a playmaker. He had 5 interceptions in his junior season at Utah (he left school a season early), a respectable number in an offense-happy Mountain West Conference. He did a very nice job of slowing down Alabama’s Julio Jones in the Sugar Bowl.
Alphonso Smith (CB, Wake Forest): Maryland fans still have nightmares of Smith from two seasons ago in Winston-Salem; and for good reason. Smith is known as the type of Corner who loves to gamble; using his ability to get the ball to make up for his lack in size (5’9″). Smith is unlikely to be a “shut-down” corner in the NFL; but given the fact that there really aren’t any “shut-down” corners anymore; he IS the type of Corner who can make plays. Some Draft analysts think he’s more likely to be picked by a team that uses zone coverage.
D.J. Moore (CB, Vanderbilt): At 5’10”; Moore is also not the ideal size for a first-round corner. But Moore has the ability to be a returner; which could intrigue the Ravens. Moore had 6 INT’s for the Commodores last season; and was also used offensively as a receiver and even got some touches running the football. He is obviously a playmaker; but lacks closing speed. Moore was known to be a leader on the football field; and had the chance to match up with some of the best receivers in the game playing in the SEC.
Vontae Davis (CB, Illinois): A D.C. kid who followed Mike Locksley to Illinois instead of following his brother Vernon to Maryland; Davis is the definition of an athlete. He’s strong, fast, and a solid 6 feet tall. Much like his brother; his ability is often labeled as “freakish.” I don’t think Davis will remain on the board to 26; but if he slips to 22 or 23; he’s good enough that the Ravens would have to consider making a move to go get him.
Clint Sintim (LB, Virginia): I had a chance to see Sintim close-up in Charlottesville last season; and the guy is a terror. Scouts said he struggled in space running the Bengals’ 4-3 defense at the Senior Bowl; but that wouldn’t be an option in Baltimore. He is a TERRIFIC pass rusher; and makes up space quickly when he gets a burst. The Ravens would look to use him in a similar way to how he was used at Virginia; looking for him to pressure the Quarterback. The future of Terrell Suggs will probably have a lot to do with whether or not the Ravens make this pick; but it is certainly not out of the question even if Suggs returns. I get the feeling Sintim’s stock is going to rise before April; and could end up being a steal if he’s on the board at 26.
Darrius Heyward-Bey (WR, Maryland): This is obviously the prospect we know the most about. We’ve seen repeatedly the two things about DHB that EVERY scout is drooling over: size and speed. Hey-Bey is 6’2″; and on top of the size has absolute leaping ability to go get a football. He could be a Santonio Holmes-type of player that you take chances lobbing the football too. He could be even better than that though. His speed makes you think he has Larry Fitzgerald-like attributes. (Okay, I’ll stop drooling for a second. But remember the double reverse at Clemson last season?) But Hey-Bey’s numbers were never particularly eye-popping; because he was never the best at doing whatever it takes to get open. Scouts want him to muscle up a bit; and he has to do better when it comes to route-running. But his size and speed obviously remain freakish. The hope for the Ravens would be that he and Mason could be similar to Holmes and Ward in Pittsburgh. His stock will likely rise at the Combine and his Pro Day; but he will have to get better when he makes visits to NFL teams.
Hakeem Nicks (WR, North Carolina): Not the fastest receiver in the Draft; but 6’1″ with great hands. Nicks was a constant playmaker for the Tar Heels; including a HUGE game in a Meineke Car Care Bowl loss to West Virginia. Nicks has been compared to players like Anquan Boldin; and can be the type of receiver that can both go get the football and also be an additional safety net for a quarterback like Joe Flacco. He does a nice job of getting into space and finding a way for the football to find him.
Percy Harvin (WR, Florida): Harvin could be the X factor in this year’s Draft. He’s not your typical first round receiver; but the Gators aren’t exactly your typical offensive team. If the Ravens acquire a Wide Receiver with size before April; Harvin could be added to the fold to allow Derrick Mason to move to the slot. Harvin is a threat to score every time he touches the ball; but had some injury issues (ankle) before leaving Florida last season. He’s an electric player; but the Ravens don’t really have the type of player you’d want him to complement at the position just yet.
Kenny Britt (WR, Rutgers): Britt’s size is much more freakish than his athleticism; but that size is very important when considering Britt. Britt is 6’4″ with very good hands; and has solid abilities to grab fade routes in the end zone. He’s also known as a pretty good route runner by many scouts; but doesn’t have overwhelming speed. Britt could be another sizeable option to match with Derrick Mason; but doesn’t bring the electricity of a Heyward-Bey.
There will be more names to come as we work towards the Combine and the players’ individual Pro Days; but for those Draft losers like myself, I hope this tides you over for a bit. We’ll be doing a weekly Draft segment at 9:30 every Wednesday morning on The Comcast Morning Show; no matter how much Drew doesn’t want to talk about D.J. Moore.
Talk to you tomorrow with a 15-7-0.