Ravens officials frequently call the draft the “lifeblood” of their organization and they put a tremendous amount of time and resources in preparing for it each year. They consistently downplay any outside attempt to place a greater importance on one draft compared to others.
However, as this year’s version gets closer – the three-day draft will begin on April 27 – the Ravens have the same sense of urgency that presided over their aggressive start to free agency and what’s been significant offseason roster turnover.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh has spoken confidently about his team returning to the playoffs after missing out three of the past four years, but a strong draft is seen as a must.
The Ravens have seven total picks, including the 16th overall selection in the first round, two in the third round and four of the first 78 selections. Their needs include a play-making wide receiver, one or two ready-to-play offensive linemen, an explosive edge rusher and depth along the defensive front and in the secondary.
Until April 26, the day before the start of the three-day draft, The Baltimore Sun will look at the Ravens’ depth chart at each position, the likelihood that they will add to it and who they possibly could target.
Today we’ll examine defensive linemen.
Chances that the Ravens will draft a defensive lineman in first three rounds: Decent. The free-agent departure of Lawrence Guy and the trade of Timmy Jernigan leave two significant gaps in the Ravens’ defensive front. The defensive line has long been one of the Ravens’ deepest positions and they still feel good about the young talent they’ve been able to assemble. Still, general manager Ozzie Newsome believes in building the team from the inside out and he won’t hesitate to grab a defensive lineman early if he feels the Ravens are getting good value.
Possibly on Ravens’ radar: Ryan Glasgow (Michigan), Malik McDowell (Michigan State), Derek Rivers (Youngstown State), Chris Wormley (Michigan)
Outlook: The Ravens have drafted at least one defensive lineman in eight consecutive drafts and two of them in four of the past seven. They’ve also selected a defensive lineman within the first three rounds in four straight drafts. They believe in maintaining a deep rotation along their defensive front so it’s probably not a matter of if they draft a defensive lineman, but a matter of when even though it’s not a glaring need. Urban and Kaufusi could help offset the loss of Guy to the New England Patriots, and Pierce, Davis and Henry could all factor in making up for the loss of Jernigan. However, the Ravens could use another interior pass rusher because Jernigan was the best one they had. They’re also always looking to solidify their run defense with another space eater up front. The bet here is the Ravens don’t pick a defensive lineman until the fourth round or later, but if a player like McDowell falls, Newsome has shown he won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on a talented defensive lineman with some effort questions.