By Jeff Zrebiec
The Baltimore Sun
10:00 AM EDT, May 12, 2014
If second-year offensive lineman Rick Wagner was the Ravens' big winner during the draft because the team didn't take an offensive tackle, the big loser may have been the group of interior defensive linemen who figured to be in line for more playing time after Arthur Jones departed for the Indianapolis Colts in free agency. The drafting of Timmy Jernigan in the second round and Brent Urban in the fourth certainly creates a logjam of interior defensive linemen. The players who probably will need a strong training camp to solidify their spot on the team are DeAngelo Tyson and Terrence Cody though Tyson has done nothing but improve since he was drafted by the team.
I've gotten a lot of questions about why the Ravens used not one but two picks on their defensive line. Newsome has said that like cornerbacks, a team can never have enough quality defensive linemen. A deep rotation allows defensive coordinator Dean Pees to mix and match and keep veterans like Haloti Ngata and Chris Canty fresh. Ngata and Canty are 30 and 31 respectively and both have battled injuries in recent seasons. Also, nothing bothers Newsome and the coaching staff more than the team getting dominated physically up front. And finally, have you looked at the cadre of running backs the other teams in the AFC North have assembled? This offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers added bruiser LeGarrette Blount and explosive rookie Dri Archer behind Le’Veon Bell who gave the Ravens fits last year. The Cincinnati Bengals already had a good one-two punch in Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. They added LSU’s Jeremy Hill to that mix. The Cleveland Browns now have a backfield that includes Ben Tate and Terrance West (Towson). In other words, the Ravens are going to need to be really stout up front.
General manager Ozzie Newsome's admission that the only time that the Ravens even considered taking a cornerback was in the first round tells you two things: One, the Ravens were not too impressed by the cornerback class; and two, they at least thought about taking Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard with the 17th overall pick. Newsome, of course, didn’t specify that it was Dennard who the Ravens considered taking before opting to go with C.J. Mosley though that seems pretty obvious. Justin Gilbert and Kyle Fuller were already off the board by the time the Ravens picked and Jason Verrett and Bradley Roby were not expected to go until late first round. Dennard, who wound up going 24th to the Cincinnati Bengals, was projected to be a mid first-round pick.
I don’t know a whole lot about former Coastal Carolina running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, the second of the Ravens’ two fourth-round picks, other than what I’ve seen on the various scouting reports. But he adds an element to the Ravens’ backfield that the team lacks and it goes beyond just pure size. At 230 pounds, Taliaferro is the Ravens’ biggest back, but the two things that stood out to me were the reports on his pass protection and his hands. One of the ESPN draft analysts – I forget which one as the three days of coverage is all blending together now – said that he was the best blocker among all of the running backs in the draft. That shouldn’t be discounted because that’s a skill that Bernard Pierce has struggled to pick up and that affects his ability to be on the field on third downs. With that skill, along with good hands, Taliaferro could help revive the Ravens’ dormant screen game. Perhaps, the Ravens can use him like the Carolina Panthers use Mike Tolbert, another former Coastal Carolina standout.
I don’t think the drafting of Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning changes things too much for Tyrod Taylor unless Wenning outplays Taylor thoroughly in training camp and beats him out for the backup job. The most logical scenario is keeping Taylor as the No.2 quarterback and keeping Wenning as the No.3. That way, Wenning can spend a year in a developmental role and then take over the No.2 job if Taylor leaves in free agency after the 2014 season.The Ravens are now out two draft picks in 2015 after trading a sixth-rounder to the Cleveland Browns to get into the seventh round and select Wake Forest wide receiver Michael Campanaro (River Hill), and a fifth-rounder to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for center Jeremy Zuttah. However, they will have an extra seventh rounder next year, courtesy of last year’s trade of Bryant McKinnie to the Miami Dolphins. The Ravens are also in line for at least three compensatory selections next year after they lost Jones, Michael Oher, Corey Graham and James Ihedigbo among others in free agency. The extra comp picks are huge and it’s obviously better to have them than not to. However, the fact that they can’t be traded does limit your options a little bit especially when most of your mid-to-late-round picks are of the comp variety. I’d guarantee that the Ravens would have moved up at least once – perhaps in the third when the Browns traded in front of them to grab West – to get a player that they coveted but they were limited in what they could do because four of their final five selections were comp picks. Because of that, the Ravens didn’t make a trade to move up or down for the first time since the 2001 draft.
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