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: Offensive line
Ravens needs: On the surface, the Ravens front line is in pretty decent shape. Michael Oher was everything the team could have hoped for and more in his rookie season, and he looks like a future all-Pro, either at right or left tackle. Ben Grubbs continued to make strides in his third year and was an alternate to the Pro Bowl. As he gets stronger, he'll only get better as well. Marshal Yanda and Chris Chester each had their moments as well, with Yanda providing the line with some much-needed nastiness late in the year and Chester giving it depth and athleticism. Center Matt Birk did, at times, appear to get pushed around late in the year, but in terms of technique and leadership, he's still an important part of the offensive line, and will be for at least another year. The one real question mark is Jared Gaither, the Ravens left tackle. Gaither is a restricted free agent this year, meaning if someone wanted, they could throw a bunch of money at him, and the Ravens would have to decide whether or not to match it. It wouldn't be an easy decision. Gaither certainly has the physical tools to be a great tackle in the NFL, but there are still questions about his work ethic and his desire to make it happen. So while the Ravens don't have immediate pressing needs on the offensive line, if Gaither got an offer from another team, they might be better off letting him go and hoping the right player falls to them in the first or second round. They could even play Yanda at tackle and move Chester back to guard while their draft pick adjusted to life in the NFL.
Best Players Available: Anthony Davis, tackle, Rutgers; Russell Okung, tackle, Oklahoma State; Bryan Bulaga, tackle, Iowa; Trent Williams, tackle, Oklahoma; Mike Iupati, guard/tackle, Idaho; Bruce Campbell, tackle, Maryland; Maurkice Pouncey, tackle, Florida; Charles Brown, tackle, USC; Kyle Calloway, tackle, Iowa; Jason Fox, tackle, Miami; Jared Veldheer, tackle, Hillsdale; Mike Johnson, guard, Alabama;
Analysis: Most of this depends on what the Ravens think will happen with Gaither, which probably won't be resolved by the time the draft rolls around. The best tackles (Davis, Okung, Balaga, Williams) will be gone by the time the Ravens are on the clock at No. 25. That will leave them with some interesting choices. Might they trade away their first round pick in exchange for another second rounder, knowing they could grab a wide receiver and an offensive lineman in the second round of decent value? Or, are they interested in a player like Maryland's Bruce Campbell (a player with a lot of growth potential) or Florida's Maurkice Pouncey (a very good athlete) who could be available at No. 25? It seems more likely they'll scoop up a lineman in the third or fourth round, but it's possible someone could wow them at the combine.
Chances the Ravens select and offensive lineman: It seems unlikely they'll do so with their first round pick. But definitely look for them to add some depth in the later rounds. One intriguing selection might be Jared Veldheer, a 6-foot-9, 340-pound tackle from Hillsdale College. Although he hasn't played against quality competition, he does have similar size and tools to Gaither, who was drafted as a project in the supplemental draft.