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 with others.
However, as this year’s version gets closer – the three-day draft will begin 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 offensive linemen.
Current offensive linemen under contract: Centers – John Urschel, Ryan Jensen, Matt Skura; guards – Marshal Yanda, Alex Lewis, Jarell Broxton, Jarrod Pughsley; tackles – Ronnie Stanley, James Hurst, De’Ondre Wesley, Stephane Nembot
Chances that the Ravens will draft an offensive lineman in first three rounds: Decent. It’s an obvious need after trading away three-year starting center Jeremy Zuttah and watching three-year starting right tackle Rick Wagner leave in free agency. The Ravens, who said that they were making the offensive line a priority this offseason, have unanswered questions at two different spots: center and right tackle. They’ll draft at least one offensive lineman, but it’s not an especially impressive class this year. The Ravens also spent first- and fourth-round selections on offensive linemen last year.
Possibly on Ravens’ radar: Tackles – Dion Dawkins (Temple), Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin), Cam Robinson (Alabama), Justin Senior (Mississippi State), Darrell Williams (Western Kentucky); centers – Pat Elflein (Ohio State), Ethan Pocic (LSU), Chase Roullier (Wyoming)
Outlook: While acknowledging that the offensive line class isn’t very deep this year, Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said he feels there is an offensive lineman the team could take in each round. The question is how early the Ravens will address their offensive front, and the answer will say a lot about how the team feels about its internal options. Urschel and Jensen are the prime candidates to replace Zuttah at center, while the much-maligned Hurst and developmental linemen Wesley and Nembot are options at right tackle. The Ravens would like to add more talent to the mix. Sitting at 16, they’ll likely have a shot at one of the draft’s top offensive tackles: Ramczyk, Robinson or Utah’s Garett Bolles. It wouldn’t be a sexy pick, especially with so much talk on adding offensive and defensive playmakers, but the need is obvious. As for center, Elflein and Pocic head a relatively weak class and it doesn’t seem like the Ravens would reach on either. DeCosta pointed out at the team’s draft luncheon that the Ravens have had success finding and developing middle-round offensive linemen. Perhaps his comment will foreshadow his team’s approach at this position.