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: Running backs
Ravens needs: Even with their "Best Player Available" it's hard to envision the Ravens using one of their top three draft picks on a running back unless Willis McGahee is involved in some kind of trade prior to the draft, which now seems unlikely despite the fact that McGahee will make $3.6 million salary in the final year of his contract. Although McGahee may not enjoy splitting carries with Ray Rice, or even backing him up, at this point in his career, the arrangement worked out well for the Ravens in 2009. Running back is an important position for depth, since they take perhaps the most punishment of any position, but even Le'Ron McClain -- who has now been to two straight Pro Bowls as a fullback -- gives the Ravens another threat to run the ball if one of their tailbacks goes down. Despite some concerns about his size, Rice established himself as one of the best running backs in the league this past season, and he should get even better going in forward. It's close to 100 percent certainty that McGahee won't be in Baltimore beyond this season, so at some point the Ravens will need to search for someone who can spell Rice, but 2011 (presuming the lockout doesn't happen) seems like a better time to address it.
Best Players Available: C.J. Spiller, Clemson; Jahvid Best, California; Johnathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech; Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State; Joe McKnight, USC; Toby Gerhart, Standford; LaGarrette Blount, Oregon
Analysis: McKnight is the one player who I think might be a little intriguing to the Ravens. Using starters to return kickoffs and punts, or cover kickoffs and punts, is always a risky proposition -- as the Ravens found out when Lardarius Webb was lost for the year with a torn ACL. Jalen Parmele did an excellent job returning kickoffs late in the year for the Ravens, but is he a long-term solution there? It would be tempting if McKnight was still sitting there in the fourth round, simply because he has explosive athletic ability. Although he'll never be a every-down starter in the NFL, he might be dynamic punt and kick off returner. Still, the Ravens have other more pressing needs than running back, and seem much more likely to try to add depth on the defensive line and secondary in the middle rounds than they are at this position.
Chances the Ravens pick a running back: Unlikely.