Ravens draft preview: offensive line

Every weekday through Wednesday, the day before the first round of the NFL draft, The Sun will examine where the Ravens stand at each position, the likelihood that they will address that spot early in the draft and some of the prospects that they may consider.

Today, we’ll examine the offensive line:

Current offensive linemen under contract: Centers – Matt Birk, Justin Boren, Cecil Newton; Guards – Marshal Yanda, Howard Barbieri; Tackles – Bryant McKinnie, Michael Oher, Jah Reid, Ramon Harewood.

Chances that the Ravens draft an offensive lineman in first three rounds: Almost guaranteed. The Ravens offensive line is by far the team’s biggest question mark at this point of the offseason. They have yet to replace Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs, who signed with the New Orleans Saints, though they have talked about giving second-year tackle Jah Reid an opportunity to move to guard.  Veteran center Matt Birk re-signed, putting off retirement for at least one season. He’s not the long-term answer, nor is Bryant McKinnie at left tackle. While Marshal Yanda and Michael Oher represent a strong right side, the Ravens don’t have any experienced backups at any spot along the offensive line. The Ravens maintain that they draft the best player available rather than selecting by need. But they have addressed their biggest need with their first-round pick more often than not in recent years, and most draft pundits expect them to do it again this year.   

Offensive linemen possibly on Ravens’ radar: Centers – Philip Blake (Baylor), Gino Gradkowski (Delaware), Ben Jones (Georgia), Peter Konz (Wisconsin), David Molk (Michigan); Guards – Jeff Allen (Illinois), Brandon Brooks (Miami-Ohio), Cordy Glenn (Georgia), Joe Looney (Wake Forest), Kelechi Osemele (Iowa State), Amini Silatolu (Midwestern State), Brandon Washington (Miami), Kevin Zeitler (Wisconsin); Tackles – Mike Adams (Ohio State), Levy Adcock (Oklahoma State), Jonathan Martin (Stanford), Bobby Massie (Mississippi), Brandon Mosley (Auburn), Zebrie Sanders (Florida State), Mitchell Schwartz. (California)

Outlook: It would be surprising if the Ravens don’t exit the draft with at least two new offensive linemen, and one of them may have to be ready to play right away depending on how Reid takes to left guard or whether the Ravens decide to sign a veteran free agent at the position. The interior linemen draft class isn’t extremely deep and there are also plenty of questions about several of the draft’s top tackle prospects. Konz, an intelligent center who played a lot of football at Wisconsin, has been the player most connected to the Ravens with their 29th overall pick. Konz could play guard for a year and then move over to center when Birk retires. But Zeitler, Konz’s former Wisconsin teammate, may make even more sense for the Ravens because he could step in and play guard right away. If the Ravens don’t get a guard in the first round, expect them to target one in the second or third, where guys like Brooks, Allen and Osemele are expected to come off the board. The Ravens also won’t ignore the tackle spot and if somebody like Martin or Adams is still on the board at 29, it will at least give them something to consider.

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