Will the Ravens use their first-round pick on offense for the first time since 2009?
By By Matt Vensel
The Baltimore Sun|
Mar 19, 2014 | 11:15 AM
Despite re-signing left tackle Eugene Monroe, tight end Dennis Pitta and wide receiver Jacoby Jones, adding veteran playmaker Steve Smith and hiring a new coordinator, the Ravens still have work left to do this offseason to improve an offense that plummeted to 29th in total yards and 25th in scoring in 2013.
The only offensive position where they don't need to add talent and depth appears to be quarterback.
So might the Ravens use their top pick on offense? It's been a quite a while since they have done that.
The last time the Ravens used their top pick on offense was in 2009, when they traded up three spots to draft offensive tackle Michael Oher at pick No. 23 overall. That was the third straight year that they used their first-round pick on an offensive player -- they took Joe Flacco in 2008 and Ben Grubbs in 2007 -- and the fourth time in five years.
Since then, they have focused on defense early in the draft. They traded out of the first round in 2010 but selected Terrence Cody and Sergio Kindle in the second. Jimmy Smith was their first-round pick in 2011. They traded out of the first round again in 2012 and drafted Courtney Upshaw in the second. They took Matt Elam at the end of the first round in 2013.
Their first-round picks have been split throughout their history, though, with nine on offense and nine on defense.
The Ravens should probably make it 10 on offense in May. While they need a free safety and would benefit from an infusion of talent on all three levels of their defense, their offense isn't going to experience a complete turnaround just because they brought back a bunch of their guys, added a 34-year-old receiver in Smith and have a new coordinator calling the plays in Gary Kubiak. Their offense needs more impact players.
And in terms of value, this could be a good year for the Ravens to go with an offensive prospect in the first round.
Taking a look at Mel Kiper's Big Board -- it isn't the be-all, end-all but it gives a frame of reference -- seven of his top 10 draft prospects play on the offensive side of the ball and 13 of the top 20. Five of those players are wide receivers, a stated need for the Ravens. Four are offensive linemen, another position they covet.
Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens are almost always going to go with the top guy on their draft board, which is why they have hit so many home runs in the first round. But if they have equal grades for an offensive and defensive player when they are on the clock at pick No. 17 this spring, they should address the offensive side of the ball for the first time since 2009.