Ravens draft preview: defensive 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 look at the defensive line:

Current defensive linemen under contract: Ends – Pernell McPhee, Michael McAdoo; Tackles – Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody, Arthur Jones, Bryan Hall

Chances that the Ravens draft a defensive lineman in first three rounds: High. It is certainly a need after starting defensive end Cory Redding and reserve nose tackle Brandon McKinney left in free agency. Ngata and Cody are entrenched as starters and McPhee, a fifth-round pick last year, and Jones figure to get every opportunity to fill Redding’s spot. However, the Ravens like to have a deep defensive line rotation to keep everyone fresh. In order to do that, they’re going to have to make some acquisitions either in the draft or free agency. They’re also looking to increase their pass rush beyond outside linebacker Terrell Suggs. A bigger role for linebacker/defensive end Paul Kruger, who moved to the top of the depth chart with Jarret Johnson’s departure, could help accomplish that, but his presence won’t prevent the Ravens from drafting a quick and physical defense end who can get to the quarterback and take some off the pass-rushing burden off of Suggs.    

Defensive linemen possibly on Ravens’ radar: Ends – Andre Branch (Clemson), Jared Crick (Nebraska), Vinny Curry (Marshall), Cam Johnson (Virginia), Chandler Jones (Syracuse), Whitney Mercilus (Illinois), Nick Perry (USC), Courtney Upshaw (Alabama); Tackles – Mike Daniels (Iowa), Mike Martin (Michigan), Kendall Reyes (Connecticut), Devon Still (Penn State), Derek Wolfe (Cincinnati), Jerel Worthy (Michigan State).

 Outlook: The Ravens have been looking to put more heat on the quarterback for a long time so it wouldn’t be shocking for them to grab a pass-rushing defensive end if the right guy falls to them at 29. However, it’s generally considered a weak draft for pass rushers and the top ones like Melvin Ingram (South Carolina) and Quinton Coples (North Carolina) are expected to be long gone by the time the Ravens are on the clock. That being said, the Ravens do like Mercilus, who led the nation with 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles last year, and have been linked to Chandler Jones, the younger brother of their own, Arthur Jones. However, Mercilus will probably be also gone before 29 and Jones' draft status seemingly improves on a daily basis. There has also been plenty of speculation that Upshaw could slide to late in the first round and he’s another guy who would represent pretty good value for the Ravens. As for defensive tackles, the Ravens were stingy against the run last year and a big run stuffer in the middle is not a huge priority. However, they are likely to add a defensive tackle at some point in the draft.

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