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Mel Kiper Breaks Down Top Offensive Tackles


The Ravens may need two new bookends for their offensive line.

Starting left tackle Eugene Monroe and right tackle Michael Oher are both unrestricted free agents, making their futures with the Ravens uncertain. If the Ravens are unable to keep them in Baltimore, General Manager Ozzie Newsome may look to the draft to find a replacement.

And this year's draft is a good place to find an offensive tackle – especially at the top of the class.

"The three left tackles this year – [Auburn's] Greg Robinson, [Michigan's] Taylor Lewan and [Texas A&M's] Jake Matthews – all three will have a higher grade than the three we talked about from last year that went at the top of the board," ESPN's draft expert Mel Kiper said on a national conference call last week.

"These three will have a higher grade than those three and one was the number one pick overall in [Eric] Fisher so that tells you that this draft is certainly much stronger than last year's."

Giving this year's top three tackles higher grades is high praise considering that three of the top four players taken in the 2013 draft were all offensive tackles.

In his most recent mock draft for this year, Kiper has Robinson, Lewan and Matthews all getting selected in the top 11 picks. The Ravens will pick either No. 16 or No. 17, depending on the outcome of a coin flip with the Dallas Cowboys at the NFL Scouting Combine next week.

If the Ravens stand pat at their spot in the middle of the first round, they may miss out on an opportunity to take any of the top-three tackles. They could try to move up and get into the top 10 to target one of those players, or they could hope one of them slips like Oher did in the 2009 draft.

Lewan may have the greatest potential to slide after facing some criticism during his senior season at Michigan.

"I think he's an excellent prospect and I've thought that all along," Kiper said. "People who were questioning Lewan during the season I didn't understand them. It wasn't him, it was the interior of the line. It was the center and guard spots that were changing by the week and there were inexperienced players.

"Taylor Lewan has outstanding feet, balance and pass protection. Technically sound and has that nasty streak you love to see in a left tackle."

Kiper currently has Lewan getting picked at No. 11 by the Tennessee Titans, but said that he, Robinson and Matthew are closely graded right now. Next week's combine in Indianapolis will be important to determine exactly where the Ravens put them on their draft board.

"You'll have Robinson, Matthews and Lewan battling between now and May 8th to be the first one taken," he said.

The other consideration is whether the Ravens will target a left or right tackle. Lewan is a "true left tackle," Kiper said, but Matthew and Robinson could have the potential to flip sides.

If the Ravens are unable to snag one of Kiper's top left tackles, then they could still likely get a quality offensive lineman later in the round. They have their highest draft pick since 2008, which puts them in a position to potentially get a franchise tackle.

Other potential first-round targets are Notre Dame's Zack Martin, Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio and Tennessee's Antonio Richardson.

"There could be as many as six offensive tackles that could go in round one," Kiper said.

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