The Ravens have some clear areas of need heading into the 2013 NFL Draft.
They have to replace departed future Hall of Famers at safety and inside linebacker. They are also looking for a left tackle to solidify the offensive line for years to come.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper expects General Manager Ozzie Newsome to address those needs early.
“I think they’re going to come out of these first two picks with a middle linebacker/inside linebacker, safety and left tackle,” Kiper said during a conference call Wednesday.
The popular names linked to the Ravens in the recent mock drafts have been at inside linebacker, with the draftniks projecting Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, Georgia’s Alec Ogletree and LSU’s Kevin Minter as likely options at pick No. 32.
But Kiper thinks all three of them will be gone by the end of the first round, and he expects Baltimore to go after a safety.
“You’re looking at a safety like Jonathan Cyprien from Florida International or Matt Elam from Florida,” Kiper said. “That’s assuming that [safety] Kenny Vacaro from Texas is gone. If he’s there, it’d be a very good pick. You’d team him up with the other safety you just got from the Texas Longhorns in
In his latest mock draft, Kiper currently has the Ravens taking Elam. The hard hitting defender is best suited as a strong safety, said Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz, which would make him a good player to pair with the recently-signed Huff.
Cyprien was a free safety in college who was a strong defender in the passing game and could also come up to defend the run.
“You have no problem with him playing the run at the line of scrimmage, but he’s also got the range to work on the back end,” Hortiz said.
If the Ravens went a different direction with their first-round pick, then South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger was a player Kiper mentioned as an option in the second round.
A possible second-round target at left tackle, Kiper said, is combine star Terron Armstead out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
The 6-foot-5, 306-pound lineman attracted plenty of attention at February’s combine when he ran a 4.71-second, 40-yard dash, the fastest time ever for an offensive lineman. He was also the top performer in the vertical jump (34.5 inches) and broad jump (112 inches).
“If he’s there, I think he’d be very viable,” Kiper said.
Armstead is still considered somewhat of a project because he played at small college and hasn’t faced top-flight competition. But he performed well at the East-West Shrine game and Senior Bowl, and has been quickly moving up draft boards over the last couple months. He could end up getting taken early in the second round.
“He definitely helped himself over the course of the all-star process and the combine,” Hortiz said.
If the Ravens were to take Armstead, then that could allow them to keep