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: Safeties
Ravens needs: Although the Ravens may not want to face a reality that does not include Ed Reed, at some point in the next few years, they'll have to. Whether that happens right away -- Reed recently confessed that the nerve impingement in his neck has gotten worse -- is unclear. But if you're not planning for the future in the NFL, it's usually too late by the time you're forced to make a change. Tom Zbikowski played well in Reed's absence this year. But there is still a question of whether or not he's a permanent solution. If the Ravens believe he is, it's unlikely they'll look for Reed's successor. Dawan Landry looked shaky early in the year, but played well once he regained confidence and put his neck injury from the previous season behind him.
Best Players Available: Eric Berry, Tennessee; Taylor Mays, USC; Earl Thomas, Texas; Myron Rolle, Florida State
Analysis: Berry is a great player -- a vicious hitter and great leader -- but he'll be gone long before the Ravens get a chance to pick. The same will probably be true of Mays, a physical freak who runs like a corner and hits like a middle linebacker, although Mays' stock slipped a bit after he elected to return for his senior year. He was once thought of as a Top 5 pick, but has been sinking like a stone in recent projections. In that sense, he might be a steal the Ravens couldn't resist if he fell all the way to 25. Hard-hitting safeties who are 6-foot-3, 235 pounds and can run don't come along very often. Thomas presents an interesting case. He would be a reach for the first round, but if he was available in the second round -- even if the Ravens had to trade up in the second round, or down from Round 1 -- he could be a steal. Only a sophomore, Thomas is still a bit raw, but he's smart and versatile, and could even play corner in nickle packages if needed. Another possibility? Myron Rolle, who took a year off from football to study in England when he was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. Could Rolle be the next Ed Reed?
Chances the Ravens pick a safety: John Harbaugh seems convinced that Ed Reed is going to return, meaning finding his replacement can hold off for a bit longer. If the Ravens loved what the saw in Mays or Thomas, then it's not out of the question. Mays would definitely fit the bill of "best player available" at 25. But it would still be a bit of a surprise. If Rolle is there by the time the Ravens pick in Round 3, they should run to the podium and consider themselves thrilled.