Each day leading up to the NFL Combine, the Sun's Kevin Van Valkenburg will blog about a different position, assess the Ravens needs, and evaluate whether or not the Ravens might use an early pick on that position, and if they did, whom it might be. Next up on the list: Linebackers

Ravens needs: Replacing a legend is always a tricky endeavor, especially when there are delicate egos involved. Privately, Brett Favre supposedly made it clear he was furious when Green Bay drafted Aaron Rodgers to be his eventual replacement, and the Broncos decision to draft Tommy Maddox when they still had John Elway certainly contributed to Dan Reeves exit in Denver. Replacing linebackers is usually a lot different than quarterbacks, because quarterbacks are always the face of your franchise, but in the Ravens case, it's actually a fair comparison because Ray Lewis is such an important figure. At what point do the Ravens decide to find his replacement and start grooming him? Because if they wait until Lewis' contract is up, or his skills diminish, it will be too late. But if they draft his successor too soon, they risk offending a proud man who still wants another Super Bowl and still believes he's as good as he was at age 25. The Ravens found a gem in undrafted free agent Dannell Ellerbe last season, but is he fast enough to slide over into Lewis' position someday? That's debatable. Also, where does Tavares Gooden fit in? He has great physical tools, but in the heat of play, he still looked lost at times last season. The Ravens could also choose to address their pass rushing needs at the linebacker position, and try to find and outside linebacker with a high motor who could do multiple things, much like the way they use Terrell Suggs.

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Best Players Available: Rolando McClain, Alabama; Brandon Spikes, Florida; Jerry Hughes, TCU; Brandon Graham, Michigan; Sergio Kindle, Texas; Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri; Daryl Washington, TCU; Navaro Bowman, Penn State; Darryl Sharpton, Miami; Analysis: It's a bit of a shame the Ravens won't have a shot at drafting Rolando McClain, because he is the closest thing to a sure thing in this draft. He's also the closest player to Ray Lewis the college game has seen in awhile, except that he's even bigger than Lewis. He can run, hit, cover and is like having a defensive coordinator on the field. And that's why he'll be long gone before the Ravens pick at No. 25. Brandon Spikes is an interesting prospect because, while the physical tools and production are there, some scouts question his speed, quickness and character. Hughes might be one of the most interesting players to keep an eye on, especially if the Ravens trade their first round pick for an early second rounder. A former high school running back, Hughes has excellent speed on the edge, a non-stop motor, and he also has the athletic ability to drop into coverage. He led the nation in sacks in 2008 with 15, and had 11 in 2009. The Ravens could potentially use him the way they used to use Adalius Thomas and currently use Jarret Johnson and Suggs. Brandon Graham's versatility could also be intriguing. The Ravens defense is something of a hybrid between a 3-4 and a 4-3, so athletes who can play multiple spots and do multiple things are always on their radar.

Chances the Ravens will draft a linebacker: With all the focus on getting a wide receiver, there are rumors swirling that the Ravens might go defense-heavy in this draft. Few teams are as good at evaluating defenders the way the Ravens are, which means you'll likely see them take a shot at someone with the ability to get to the quarterback or run down ball carriers from behind. It's just too difficult to guess what round they'll do it in.

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