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Mel Kiper anticipates run on tackles before Ravens' first-round pick

The Baltimore Sun

When it's the Ravens' turn in the first round, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. doesn't anticipate any of the top four offensive tackles still being available.

In the Maryland resident's most recent draft projections, Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson and Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews will be gone in the first 10 selections. And he doesn't think that either Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan or Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin will still be on the board when the Ravens are picking at No. 17.

“Zack Martin, I don’t think will be there," Kiper said during a recent conference call. "I don’t think any chance of Lewan being there.”

Both Martin and Lewan met with the Ravens at the NFL scouting combine. Both would fill a need for the Ravens and appear ready to plug in immediately at right tackle, which is a position they're looking to fill after Michael Oher signed a four-year, $20 million contract with the Tennessee Titans during free agency.

Lewan would be an ideal fit, but he's not expected to drop much, if at all, due to a pending misdemeanor assault case.

"He’s got great speed, great balance, got a punch," Kiper said of Lewan's blocking skills. "He can get after you as a run blocker. To me, Lewan is a nasty, tough street fighter. He’s a battler.”

Martin excelled at the Senior Bowl, finishing off blocks aggressively and with perfect technique.

“The kid is a reliable, consistent player,” Kiper said. “He’ll come in there right away and help you. He’s the safe pick. He could go anywhere in the top 17 [to a team] who needs an offensive lineman. That’s down to Baltimore picking at No. 17.”

The Ravens allowed 48 sacks during the 2013 season, second most in the NFL. They had the 30th-ranked running game.

Martin started a school-record 51 games for Notre Dame as a four-year starter, being named second-team All-American as a senior for the Fighting Irish. He ultimately could wind up at guard in the NFL, but he's determined to play tackle.

"I obviously want to prove to people that I can play there," Martin said during the NFL scouting combine. "I've played there my entire career. I had a pretty successful career, so, yeah, I want to prove to everyone I can be out there. But at the same time, if a team takes me and their plan is to put me at guard, I'm willing and happy to do that for him.

"I think one of my biggest strengths is my versatility. I want teams to know I can play any position. They agree with me from the versatility standpoint. I take pride in doing a lot of technique to make up for a little lack of size. I've become a more complete player. I saw solid growth in my technique. From a consistency standpoint, 2013 was my best year."

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