If Ravens Trade, Look For It In Second Round
With 10 draft selections – including nine in the first five rounds – the Ravens are in prime position to make a trade.
That could happen in the first round, but if ESPN's Jamison Hensley had to bet on it, he'd put his money on a second-round trade.
"[I]f I was handicapping the Ravens' draft, the round where I can see them trading up is the second round," he wrote. "The Ravens will probably wait to see if a pass rusher, cornerback or wide receiver falls to them in the first round. Then, I can see the Ravens going after a player at one of those positions in the middle of the second round if the team has a first-round grade on him."
Nabbing first-round talent in the second round? That sounds like an Ozzie Newsome move. The board would have to work in his favor, however.
Three players that Hensley could see the Ravens GM moving up to get in Round 2 are:
WR Devin Smith (Ohio State)
Senior, 6-foot-1, 199 pounds
2014 Stats: 33 catches, 931 yards, 12 touchdowns
"He has very good speed, can get on top of defenders, stack them off the line of scrimmage and pull away down the field. He's a good athlete. He can cut off his route and catch the ball pretty well. Like most wideouts, he needs some polish with his routes, but certainly the speed was evident out here when he was taking guys vertical." – Joe Hortiz, Ravens director of college scouting
TE Maxx Williams (Minnesota)Junior, 6-foot-4, 250 pounds 2014 Stats: 36 receptions, 569 yards, 8 touchdowns
"Many coaches have told me Williams is a game breaker. One went as far as to say he was a freak. At any rate he has rare athletic ability and Joe Flacco knows how to feed him the ball." – Pat Kirwan, CBS Sports
CB Jalen Collins (LSU)Junior; 6-foot-2, 198 pounds
2014 Stats: 38 tackles, 1 interception, 9 passes defensed
"Collins is still developing, but he has the length and speed to become a good starting cornerback in the NFL." – Todd McShay, ESPN
Williams and Collins have been projected to the Ravens at No. 26 in recent mock drafts, and Smith was named as a possibility by Mel Kiper back in March.
Now, this doesn't mean the Ravens won't make a trade in the first round. If top-10 talent starts to fall to the second half of the draft, Newsome could move up a couple spots to secure him. Missouri pass rusher Shane Ray is the exact type of player that could fit that scenario, says Hensley.
"When you watch Ray on film, he reminds you of Terrell Suggs and his ability to get around the edge," the EPSN reporter wrote. "Harbaugh raved about Ray's motor during the pre-draft news conference, and Ray does play with a passion that the Ravens love. Most draft analysts have Ray going in the top 10."
Not only does Ray play like Suggs, but he could fall down draft boards just like Suggs did in 2003. Ray's Pro Day may have hurt his stock with a not-so-great outing (by his standards), per NFL Media's Mike Mayock, and a slower 40-yard dash compared to others in his draft class. There are also doubts about where he would fit as an outside linebacker or defensive end at the NFL level.
But, the game tape is undeniable, which is what mostly counts, especially in Baltimore.
"The Ravens know he wouldn't last until the No. 26 overall pick," Hensley wrote. "If Ray slips into the second half of the first round, that could be the point where Baltimore jumps up. It wouldn't surprise me if Ray is very high on the Ravens' draft board."
Who Has The Best AFC North Roster?
Three out of four AFC North teams advanced to the postseason last year, and NFL Media's Marc Sessler says the division has the talent to repeat the trick in 2015.
When you look at other AFC divisions, there are clear leaders with the Patriots, Broncos and Colts. But in the AFC North, 2015 looks to be up for grabs once again.
Sessler took on the difficult task of ranking teams in the division based on the strength of the current roster, and put the Pittsburgh Steelers at the top despite an aging defense and the losses of Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau, safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor.
"There's no ceiling with Ben Roethlisberger at the helm," Sessler wrote. "January's playoff loss to Baltimore would have been a different contest with a healthy Le'Veon Bell, who gives the Steelers one of the game's most dangerous runners."
Sessler put the Ravens in the No. 2 spot, followed by the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns.
Like Pittsburgh, the Ravens have lost a successful coordinator (Gary Kubiak) and plenty of talent, including Haloti Ngata, Torrey Smith, Owen Daniels and Pernell McPhee.
"The loss of Torrey Smith leaves Baltimore vulnerable at the wide receiver position," wrote Sessler. "Need also exists at cornerback, safety, tight end and running back, but general manager Ozzie Newsome has a whopping 10 draft picks at his disposal. History tells us the Ravens know how to solve their own problems."
Flacco Provides Flexibility In Draft
Nearly half of NFL teams will be looking for a potential franchise quarterback in this year's draft, but the Raven's quest to find one ended seven years ago when they selected Joe Flacco with the 18th-overall pick in 2008.
Since that time, Flacco has never missed a start, earned the Super Bowl MVP honor and has thrown for a franchise record 25,531 passing yards and 148 touchdowns.
"Steady, strong-armed and durable, he has given the Ravens rare stability at football's most important position," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson. "After enduring years of mediocrity and uncertainty under center, the Ravens approach yet another NFL draft without quarterback concerns. In the NFL, that security is uncommon."
"While other teams contemplate the risk of taking talented but troubled Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston or explore trade scenarios to move up for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Flacco's presence offers Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome the flexibility to address other needs."
What Mel Kiper Would Do If He Were Ozzie Newsome
First off, as good as Baltimore-native Mel Kiper is as an ESPN draft analyst, I think we can all say we would much prefer to keep Ozzie as the Ravens general manager.
But since Newsome isn't looking to give away any draft secrets, Kiper put together a different kind of mock draft for the Ravens and the 31 other NFL teams. Instead of projecting who Kiper thinks will be selected with each pick, he put together a mock draft based on what he would do if he were that team's decision maker.
"In this one, I'm the general manager ... for every team," Kiper wrote. "This isn't me projecting picks, this is me making them, for three full rounds, based on what's best for each team at that slot."
So, in the first three rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft, below are the three players the Ravens would select if Kiper were calling the shots (notice Williams falls to No. 58, which would mean Baltimore wouldn't need to trade up as Hensley suggested):
Round 1 (26): CB Marcus Peters, Washington
"The secondary was obviously the downfall of the team last year. Injuries were the culprit, so even if we assume perfect health coming out of camp, there's no reason we shouldn't be looking to get deeper there with one of our first couple of picks. Peters at No. 26 feels like a steal based on the talent, and I trust that John Harbaugh is a coach who can get the most out of him. He was kicked off the team at Washington last year, though you don't hear 'bad kid' when you talk to scouts."
Round 2 (58): TE Maxx Williams, Minnesota
"Williams has the tape of a Round 1 guy, and we definitely have the need at tight end (though he'll line up off the line for the most part). His issue was his workouts were pretty average, and I see him more as a reliable target than a weapon. That's the difference in a round at that position."
Round 3 (90): WR Dezmin Lewis, Central Arkansas"Lewis isn't a name, but he is definitely a guy with the upside of a good NFL starter. He brings a 6-foot-4 frame and 4.4 speed to a depth chart on which Steve Smith and Marlon Brown are the top two options at wide receiver. Lewis is obviously facing a huge jump in competition, but he has a chance to outperform this draft slot given the physical ability."
Tebowmania Is Back
Just when you thought the madness was over, the Philadelphia Eagles reportedly invited Tebowmania back into the NFL.
He will have an uphill battle making the final 53-man roster in September, but word on the street is that Tim Tebow will get a legitimate chance as he competes against four other signal-callers on Head Coach Chip Kelly's roster. Tebow joins a crowded quarterback room with Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford, Matt Barkley and G.J. Kinne.