Finally, after months of teams poking and prodding NFL draft prospects, scouts picking apart players they had previously pumped up, and media folks like me doing hours of homework trying to make sense of it all, the 2012 NFL draft is less than 48 hours away. I would be lying if I told you that part of me wasn’t ready for all of this just to be over and done with, but still, draft weekend is easily my favorite weekend on the NFL calendar.
After all, 253 young men -- well, technically 252 young men plus 28-year-old Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden -- will hear their names called by the commissioner and realize lifelong dreams as they become NFL players. Sure, the journey is really just beginning, but hope springs eternal at the draft for these players, all 32 teams and their fans. Yes, even ones in Cleveland, Jacksonville, Buffalo and Washington, D.C.
The Ravens have a handful of needs. Most are not pressing. They have yet to address the offensive line this offseason and will be forced to do it in the draft. Even with the emergence of Torrey Smith a year ago, they are looking for another game-changer at wide receiver. Terrell Suggs lacks a true sidekick. And then there is the annual question about whether this is the year they need to prepare for life after Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
On Thursday, I will release my sure-to-be-wrong projection of who the Ravens will select with each of their eight draft picks. But in this, my fifth and final first-round mock draft, all you get is a semi-educated guess at whom the Ravens will select with the 29th pick. Is it still Wisconsin center Peter Konz? Read on to find out.
1. Colts:Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford. It’s already been reported that the Colts plan to select Luck, so there will be little suspense with this pick.
27. Patriots:Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama. Bill Belichick is fond of SEC players, and Upshaw would give him the pass rusher they lack.
28. Packers:Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State. Upshaw would be a great fit in Green Bay, too, but if not, McClellin is an intriguing fallback plan.
29. Ravens:Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama. My gut tells me they are hoping one of the Alabama guys -- Barron, Upshaw or Hightower -- falls to them. If not, Konz or Hill could be the pick if they don’t trade out of Round 1. In Hightower, they might find that elusive successor to Lewis.