With pre-draft workouts and showcase games right around the corner, it's time to start looking ahead to the NFL draft. I love this time of year -- that's the "Madden" fanatic in me -- and I will be pumping out my first mock draft a couple of weeks from now. In the meantime, let's take a look at the Ravens' draft needs.

Mel Kiper told reporters on a conference call on Wednesday that he thought the Ravens' biggest needs were, in order, cornerback, wide receiver, linebacker then safety. Offensive line help was a notable omission. Also, in his first mock draft, Kiper has the Ravens taking Miami corner Brandon Harris at No. 26. "A coach's son, he offers prototype size at 5-11, 195 pounds, good instincts and isn't shy in run support," he wrote.


I'm on board with that logic, assuming value meets need in the first round. The chances of the Ravens inking a top-flight corner such as Nnamdi Asomugha are slim, so they need to find an impact player in the draft.

Anyway, here's how I rank their needs, with my list looking a lot like that of the concrete-coiffed Kiper:

1. Cornerback: I just touched on this, but I need to add that the Ravens should be looking for a cornerback on the bigger side, one who is physical in bump-and-run coverage. The Ravens cornerbacks played much better than expected in 2010, but it's an undersized group that doesn't match up well with taller wideouts.

2. Wide receiver: We could see an overhaul at the wide receiver position, which will likely include the Ravens drafting a receiver or two. The Ravens lack a blazing downfield playmaker. I don't see them finding one in free agency, so look for GM Ozzie Newsome to try once again to draft and develop one. Kiper said the Ravens might consider Maryland's Torrey Smith if A.J. Green and Julio Jones get taken early as expected.

3. Offensive tackle: Despite the organization's insistence that the door has not closed on Jared Gaither in Baltimore, I can't envision him returning next season. That means the Ravens need to fortify their offensive line with another tackle. I still think Michael Oher has a bright future at left tackle, so the Ravens should look to find a mauling right tackle to help jump-start their running game. And even if Gaither does somehow remain a Raven, the team should reinforce the line in the first few rounds with an interior lineman.

4. Linebacker: There is still hope that 2010 second-round pick Sergio Kindle can boost the Baltimore pass rush, but keep your expectations low for the outside linebacker. The Ravens need to find a wingman for Terrell Suggs, so finding an outside linebacker is a priority. They also need to find a long-term replacement for Ray Lewis soon, so I wouldn't complain if they took the right inside linebacker early in the draft.

5. Safety: Speaking of replacements, it's unclear how long Ed Reed will play, so they need to find an heir apparent for him, too. Strong safety is a pressing need, though, especially if they let Dawan Landry walk. But today's safeties are evolving into hybrids -- they can cover and tackle -- so maybe they can kill two birds with one stone if they target the right player.