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Mailbag: Which In-House Offensive Lineman Will Win a Starting Job?

From left: G Ben Cleveland, G Andrew Vorhees, T Daniel Faalele, G/T Sala Aumuvae-Laulu
From left: G Ben Cleveland, G Andrew Vorhees, T Daniel Faalele, G/T Sala Aumuvae-Laulu

Mink: I think multiple in-house candidates will ultimately win starting jobs on next year's offensive line.

The most likely is Ben Cleveland stepping in for Kevin Zeitler at right guard. Cleveland has the most experience of the candidates. He's played well in his seven career starts. He graded as Pro Football Focus' 27th-best guard in the league last season, including the third-best pass blocking grade (just behind Zeitler). Cleveland was a right guard throughout his time at Georgia and the hope is he's on a Ben Powers-like trajectory as a breakout Year 4 starter.

The other player I'm especially intrigued by is Andrew Vorhees. He was an AP first-team All American and Morris Trophy winner (top offensive and defensive lineman in the Pac-12) in his final season at USC. Had it not been for the Combine knee injury, Vorhees may have been a Day 2 draft pick last year. Vorhees says he's healthy and ready to play at the start of OTAs.

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. said it's like the Ravens have an extra second- or third-round pick this year with Vorhees, who they snagged in the seventh round and stashed. Kiper believes Vorhees is a "plug-and-play starter at guard this year."

Daniel Faalele could win the starting right tackle job, but I think he'll get heavy competition from an early Ravens draft pick. Sala Aumavae-Laulu will be tough competition for Vorhees at left guard. The sixth-round rookie got an extended look last offseason and may get a lot of snaps with the first team again.

Mink: I'll stick with the offensive line. I do think the Ravens will sign a veteran offensive lineman at some point this offseason to compete with the youngsters at guard and provide some experienced depth (if not start). I don't think an offensive lineman signing is coming anytime soon, however.

I expect the Ravens will get through the draft, where they'll surely add more offensive linemen, and possibly some spring/summer practices before reevaluating what needs they still have. Baltimore wants to continue to develop its young linemen and they'll want to give them plenty of practice reps to sharpen their skills and evaluate their readiness. If the Ravens feel at that point that reinforcements are needed, they can make a move.

It seems every summer veteran offensive linemen get released or are on the trade market. Baltimore has pounced on that market before and could do so again. The fact that the Ravens let Zeitler walk and traded Morgan Moses tells me they want to get younger on the O-line and don't want (or don't have) much money to spend on it.

Downing: When it comes to Clowney's potential return, I'll point you to last week’s Mailbag, where we dove into that question in more detail. With cornerback, the Ravens have addressed that position this week by agreeing to a new two-year deal with veteran slot cornerback Arthur Maulet. He was a quality player for the defense last year and bringing him back gives the Ravens a proven answer at slot, as well as overall depth at the position. However, I don't think the Ravens are done adding to the cornerback spot. They did lose veteran Ronald Darby in free agency, and cornerback is a position where the Ravens don't want to go into a season light on depth.

The top three cornerback spots at in place with Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Stephens and now Maulet. The Ravens also want to see what they have in young cornerbacks Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion "Pepe" Williams, who have both shown promise in their first two seasons but have been unable to stay on the field because of injuries. The Ravens could use offseason practices to take stock of what they have in those young players, and potentially add to the position if they feel like they need more of a proven veteran in the mix.

The draft will also be a spot where the Ravens address the position. Cornerback isn't the biggest need on the roster, but if the best player on the board at No. 30 is a cornerback, don't be surprised to see Eric DeCosta go in that direction. Daniel Jeremiah mocked Iowa cornerback Cooper DeJean to Baltimore (more on that below in Final Drive). My prediction is that the Raves will draft a cornerback, and maybe two. They will then see what they have with those rookies and young players already on the roster. If an injury occurs, or if the Ravens just feel like they need more depth when they get to training camp, then they'll look at the free-agent market like they did last year with Darby and Maulet.

Downing: If I were putting my mock draft together today (stay tuned for that 7-round mock closer to draft time), I would have the Ravens taking a first-round offensive tackle. After that, the Ravens could go a number of directions with their Day 2 picks. As I spelled out above, I'm not ruling out a high pick on a cornerback. That could come in the second round. Pass rusher and wide receiver are also into that mix. With the needs the Ravens have at various positions, I really believe DeCosta can be patient in this draft and allow the best players to fall to Baltimore. If the receiver position gets picked clean in the first two rounds, then that probably means the Ravens will have a good chance to get a plug-and-play tackle and starting caliber cornerback. But if the corners go early, which can certainly happen, then the Ravens could maybe address pass rusher or receiver in one of the first two rounds. The Ravens can be flexible and it's easy to justify a few different directions they could go early in this draft.

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