Rumors, Smokescreens Flying Two Days Ahead Of Draft
They've arrived right on cue.
Just two days ahead of the 2014 NFL Draft, rumors and smokescreens galore are flying. It's unclear which reports have truth behind them, and which are really just filled with bad information leaked by team executives to throw people off the scent.
"You can't get any information from anybody in the NFL that's going to be valuable, or that you trust," Head Coach John Harbaugh said last week. "I talked to my brother last night, and we were in a little sparring match."
With that disclaimer, let's get into numerous draft rumors out there and explore how they could affect the Ravens at No. 17:
- The Ravens' top target in the first round is North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron. "[Ebron is] a player they've coveted for quite some time," wrote Tony Pauline of Draft Insider. "Could Ebron slide to the 17th pick? I was told earlier this evening the New York Giants may be souring on Ebron due to many of the personality red flags we've reported on this site since November. The other obstacle for the Ravens [is] the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team we've mentioned several times as a suitor for Ebron."
- Expect the Ravens to draft a running back before the end of the fourth round. "Two names I've heard connected with the team for a while are Jeremy Hill of LSU in round two or possibly Terrance West in the fourth frame," Pauline noted. "Hill has been drawing rave reviews from scouts for his underrated pass catching skills. The Tennessee Titans and Atlanta Falcons are another pair of teams hot after Hill."
- Baltimore is courting potential undrafted free agents with a video message from John Harbaugh. "The Baltimore Ravens have sent a quick 25-second video which features a message from head coach John Harbaugh to a number of players," Pauline wrote.
- An early run on quarterbacks could tremendously help the Ravens land an elite player at No. 17 by pushing top talent at other positions down the board. Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz says a run will happen in the first round, he just isn't sure if it will be in the beginning, middle or end of the first round. There are eight teams – all drafting before Baltimore – that are quarterback needy: the Houston Texans (No. 1), St. Louis Rams (Nos. 2 and 13), Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 3), Cleveland Browns (No. 4), Oakland Raiders (No. 5), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 7), Minnesota Vikings (No. 8) and Tennessee Titans (No.11). Could they start the run? Yes, but by the looks of rumors, it may not be at the top of Round 1.
- Houston is keeping everyone in the dark, but a quarterback with their first-overall pick doesn't seem to be in the cards. A trade down, Khalil Mack and Jadeveon Clowney are the buzz, per Sports Illustrated's Peter King, and Houston may address QB with their No. 33 pick.
- You can expect AFC North rival Cleveland Browns to draft Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel with their No. 4 overall pick if he's still there, reports ESPN's Chris Mortensen. If they end up passing on Manziel, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport says not to be surprised if they grab Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater with the second of their two first-round picks at No. 26 overall. They may also be trying to get a THIRD first-round pick via trade to move ahead of the Texans at 33, per King.
- The Oakland Raiders are not interested in Manziel or Blake Bortles at No. 5, according to SFGate.com's Vic Tafur, and may consider trading back and drafting a quarterback later in the first round.
- Even though the Rams have Sam Bradford, they may pick a quarterback with one of their two first-rounders, and trade Bradford to the Vikings, per CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora. The Rams deny the report, and are adamant that they are committed to Bradford.
- The Tennessee Titans may go cornerback one, and quarterback two, per King.
- The Kansas City Chiefs (No. 23) haven't ruled out taking a first-round quarterback as contract talks with Alex Smith have not progressed as hoped, per Rapoport.
- The Cincinnati Bengals (No. 24) like quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, according to King, as they may not be sold on making Andy Dalton the franchise quarterback.
5. As many as six to eight receivers are expected to be taken in the first round. The Ravens could be one of the teams that takes a top pass catcher, but GM Ozzie Newsome said he has also taken calls from teams that want to move up into his spot. He is open to the idea. Were any of the teams that called Newsome the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers or New York Jets? The Eagles (No. 22) are exploring trade possibilities to get into the middle of the first round, where the Ravens reside, to get LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham, says King. They've talked to two teams in the middle of the round. The 49ers (No. 30) and Jets (No. 18) are both considering trading up to get a receiver, per Rapoport.
- We've gotten questions about the idea of the Ravens trading their top pick for Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. You can cross him off your list, however, as the Lions GM made it clear to reporters Monday that Suh is not on the table.
Zrebiec: Think CB Before WR For Ravens
Newsome has essentially guaranteed the Ravens will take a wide receiver at some point during the draft, considering how deep the class is this year. Meanwhile, Hortiz said he believes the corners will fly off the board quickly.
That leads The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec to believe the Ravens can wait on a pass catcher, but may jump at a corner to team up with Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb.
"I learned long ago to not believe much of what you hear around draft time. But Newsome's comment that there's a receiver who the Ravens could take every round and that's pretty much how the team's board sets up doesn't lead me to believe that it wouldn't be the Ravens' first choice to go in that direction in the first round," Zrebiec wrote.
"Now, director of college scouting Joe Hortizsaying that he expects the better cornerbacks to go really quickly makes me think that the Ravens will need to pick one by the second day or they can pretty much forget about getting immediate help at the position."
Billick: Oher Was Not A Bust
Maybe Michael Oher didn't become a dominating left tackle for the Ravens after picking him with their top pick in 2009, but that doesn't make him a "bust," says NFL media analyst and former Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick.
Oher started every game of his five-year career, was a solid teammate and unselfishly moved positions for the good of the team.
"Anybody that would suggest that Michael Oher was a busted pick is just flat out wrong," Billick said, per Zrebiec. "He's not still with the club, but you can't keep everybody. I just don't know how anybody can look at the Michael Oher pick like that. He's been a good, solid starter in the league. That's the only reasonable expectation that you can have."
Ravens Need Impact Players, Not Projects
With one of the deepest drafts in recent history, The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston says the onus is on the Ravens to snag a player that can have an immediate impact, rather than take years to develop.
"It's hard to evaluate a draft until three or four years later. But last year's was filled with projects, which is part of the reason why the Ravens finished 8-8," Preston wrote. "The Ravens can't afford another draft like last season, when only rookie safety Matt Elam played an important role. They shouldn't have to, because even the Ravens admit this draft class is loaded."
The position that needs an immediate impact over any other is offensive line, says Preston. As such, Preston doesn't think Ebron should be Baltimore's focus,* *as has been reported.
"Ebron is a great player, by most accounts, but can he run block? Can he pass block? Can he stop Joe Flacco, a quarterback the Ravens paid $120.6 million, from being smacked around like a piñata?" he asked. "A year ago, the Ravens offensive line was the weakest unit on the team — and it still is, until proven otherwise."
- Ravens could take a quarterback late in the draft. [The Baltimore Sun]
- The Ravens got a B-plus grade from Pete Prisco for their 2011 draft, in which they selected Jimmy Smith, Torrey Smith, Pernell McPhee and Tyrod Taylor. They "blew" their third-round pick in Jah Reid, however, say Prisco. [CBSSports.com]
- Don't expect these three players to fall to the Ravens, says Todd McShay: Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, Ebron or Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. [ESPN]
- RavensInsider: Not a surprise, but Ravens are not among the NFL teams allowing camera access to NFL Network during the draft [Twitter]
- @ElamVsElo: Seeing my fools graduate this weekend definitely inspired me to finish strong..! #17More [Twitter]
- ICYMI … @CliftonBrownCSN: #Ravens preseason (EST) - Aug. 7, #49ers, 7:30; Aug. 16 at #Cowboys,7:00; Aug. 23, #Redskins 7:30; Aug. 28 at #Saints 8:00 #RavensTalk [Twitter]
- Torrey Smith spoke to about 500 Maryland high school athletes at the Powered By Me athlete conference. [WJZ]