Thursday's column in b focused on the Ravens' five biggest needs entering next month's NFL draft. Thanks to the trade for Anquan Boldin and the two-year deal for Derrick Mason, wide receiver is no longer the team's first, second and third offseason priorities. As I mentioned in the column, GM Ozzie Newsome now has flexibility in the draft — and we know how excellent Newsome's track record is when it comes to taking the best player on his board.
Defensive line and cornerback topped my list in the column, and all of the needs mentioned were pretty obvious. But barring some potential personnel moves that could happen before the start of training camp (and one massive one looming two years from now), here are five other positions — ones you might not readily think of — that the Ravens might address in the draft (in no particular order).
1. Running back (if the Ravens trade Willis McGahee):
The Ravens continue to say that McGahee is in their plans for 2010, but a team looking for a starting running back could be willing to pay a pretty price for a guy who had 14 total touchdowns and averaged five yards per carry in 2009. Obviously, the Ravens don't want to lose that kind of production, but it might be smart to unload McGahee for a pick or two while his value has peaked. The Ravens could then use a pick to take a younger, cheaper alternative to spell Ray Rice.
Three names to remember: Jonathan Dwyer (Georgia Tech), Montario Hardesty (Tennessee), Toby Gerhart (Stanford)
2. Quarterback (should the Ravens grant Troy Smith's wish):
Much has been made about Smith's zany, attention-loving agent, Ralph Cindrich, saying his client would "crawl" to Cleveland to play for his hometown team, the Browns. But it doesn't seem Smith's advances will be reciprocated by Mike Holmgren, and no other teams have knocked Newsome's socks off with an offer for the backup QB. Still, if the Ravens, who are confident in John Beck, get an offer for Smith — or simply get tired of his agent's shenanigans — they could unload him. If they do, they'll probably look for a project in the later rounds to develop behind Flacco, perhaps someone with a versatile skill set similar to that of Smith.
Three names to remember: Daryll Clark (Penn State), John Skelton (Fordham), Armanti Edwards (Appalachian State)
3. Safety (in case Ed Reed does the unthinkable and actually retires):
Make no mistake, there's no replacing Reed should he hang up his cleats this offseason. The longer we wait for Reed to announce his decision, the more likely it is that he's returning for another season, though. Either way, the Ravens will continue to look his eventual replacement. They drafted safeties Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski two years ago to get younger at the position, and they could grab another young safety next month. Another smart idea would be drafting a mad scientist who can clone Reed. The player closest to fitting that mold is Myron Rolle, who is a Rhodes Scholar, but I'm not sure he possesses that kind of scientific know-how. I'm looking into it, but I'll put him on the list just in case.
Three names to remember: Taylor Mays (USC), Chad Jones (LSU), Rolle (Oxford)
4. Offensive tackle (if another team signs Jared Gaither to an offer sheet):
If a team like the Colts or Cowboys signed Gaither, a restricted free agent, the Ravens might let him walk and take another first-round pick for their troubles (of they could trade Gaither). They would then shift Michael Oher, who played well in five starts at left tackle in 2009, over to the blind side (ugh, damn you Sandra Bullock). The Ravens could then move Marshal Yanda to right tackle and Chris Chester from the bench back to right guard, or plug another rookie in to protect Joe Flacco's non-blind side. It's a deep draft for offensive tackles, by the way.
Three names to remember: Jared Veldheer (Hillsdale), Adam Ulatoski (Texas), Kyle Calloway (Iowa)
5. Inside linebacker (preparing for life after Ray Lewis):
A big question mark last offseason was determining who would replace Bart Scott. We kind of got our answer: it would either be Tavares Gooden or Dannell Ellerbe. But Gooden isn't physical enough, and Ellerbe isn't as fast as Gooden, so we're still trying to figure out who will start next to Lewis in 2010. Ellerbe is the frontrunner. But what about when Lewis' contract is up two seasons from now? Sure, that's an eon in football years, but if Newsome can grab an inside linebacker he really likes in the first couple rounds of this year's draft, he'll do it. And I think it would be the savvy thing to do. You can never have too many good linebackers here in Baltimore.
Three names to remember: Rolando McClain (Alabama), Sean Lee (Penn State), Patrick Angerer (Iowa)