Over the years, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has often expressed his aversion to entering the NFL draft with such a glaring positional need that he'd be temped to stray from his best player available philosophy.
The Ravens believe that if they simply drafted strictly for need they would wind up missing out on more talented players. Newsome is the architect of two Super Bowl championship teams with the Ravens, winning the Vince Lombardi trophy this year with a victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
Now that the Ravens are adding former Oakland Raiders middle linebacker Rolando McClain, a former eighth overall pick and Butkus Award winner from Alabama, on a one-year contract not expected to be finalized until Friday, they aren't necessarily locked into drafting an inside linebacker with the 32nd overall pick of the first round, according to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.
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The Ravens have been linked to several inside linebackers for their first-round draft pick, including Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, LSU's Kevin Minter and Georgia's Alec Ogletree.
The Ravens may still need to address the position via the draft because star inside linebacker Ray Lewis retired, Dannell Ellerbe signed a $35 million free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins and Jameel McClain's health remains in question coming off a spinal cord contusion. They do have Josh Bynes, Albert McClellan, Nigel Carr and converted defensive tackle Bryan Hall currently on the roster as candidates to play inside linebacker, but they're relatively unproven.
"You’re getting an inside ‘backer who’s relatively young with ability," Mel Kiper Jr. said during a conference call. "There’s been several Alabama players to come through this program over the years, from Le’Ron McClain to Jarret Johnson to Terrence Cody, Courtney Upshaw last year. So, they’ve obviously done well with Alabama players, obviously with Ozzie Newsome’s connection there.
"[Inside linebacker] is a big hole. Obviously it’s a key need area for them still at inside linebacker. They need one, maybe two, but it allows them to not have to force something if there’s not a player there. They can pretty much not have to worry about saying, ‘We have to have this need filled via the draft.’"