*With the NFL Draft coming up in late April, BaltimoreRavens.com takes a sweep around the web to look at what others are saying about the Ravens' chances with the 26th pick. *
Keep in mind that things will change as free agency begins Thursday at midnight, and teams will most-certainly try to trade picks, players and money to move up or down in the first round, but here is an early look at what the pundits think:
Don Banks, NFL scribe for SI.com, thinks the Ravens will go for a cornerback, namely Sean Smith from Utah. Smith is a 6-foot-3 playmaker that offers unusual height for a corner.
Steve Smith, CB, Utah -"I'm just playing a hunch here, but the Ravens are in the market for a cornerback to take over Chris McAlister's vacated slot, and Baltimore has always liked its pass defenders to have some size. Smith is taller than the likes of Vanderbilt's D.J. Moore, Connecticut's Darius Butler and Wake Forest's Alphonso Smith, so I'm going with him for now."
There are a lot of other draft gurus that also have the Ravens seeking help in the absence of McAlister. That goes for NFL.com's Pat Kirwan, whose pick is Connecticut prospect Darius Butler.
Darius Butler, CB, UConn - "The Ravens may want another corner, but for now the UConn corner gets the call. Some of the other corners are in the 5-foot-8 range and the Ravens may be looking for someone a bit taller. Butler measured in at 5-foot-10 3/8 and was impressive in his interviews."
Butler would certainly be interesting, considering he is Willis McGahee's cousin and speaks to him regularly.
But Steve Wyche from NFL.com opts for Alphonso Smith, the playmaking corner from Wake Forest. Smith may not be the most talked-about draftee, but his numbers at the college level are eye-popping.
Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest - "The Ravens love playmakers, and Smith's 21 interceptions in college and his penchant to hit offset his lack of height (5-foot-9)."
Lou Pickney of DraftKing.com has Baltimore selecting Illinois’ standout Vontae Davis, bit that might be a reach. Not many expect Davis to last past the first 20 picks, perhaps not even past the top 15.
Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois -"The Ravens cut longtime CB Chris McAlister earlier this month, and a logical progression for the Ravens would be to bring in a young player like Davis who, in time, could develop into a great pro cornerback. At 6'0" 205 Davis has average height for the position, but it's his speed and knack for breaking up passing plays that makes him look so good as a pro prospect."
There was also this from Michal Abramowitz of TheFootballExpert.com regarding a cornerback:
D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt -"Darrius Heyward-Bey's recent 40 time probably made it impossible for him to get to Baltimore at 26. Instead the Ravens go to a position they need a lot of help at, especially after the release of former Pro Bowler Chris McAlister. After the aging Samari Rolle, the Ravens have former 1st round bust Fabian Washington. The Ravens should have their choice between Moore and Alphonso Smith. Both are great playmakers, but both are under 5-10. For now, they go with the Vandy star."
Speaking of Heyward-Bey, however, Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com is leaning towards the Maryland receiver at No. 26.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland -"Perhaps the most exciting aspect of rookie QB Joe Flacco's development last season was his big arm downfield. With teams forced to attack the line of scrimmage due to Baltimore's running game and the precise route-running from Derrick Mason, the speedy Heyward-Bey would be a nice fit."
The same goes for College Football News, who have Heyward-Bey falling in the Ravens’ laps.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland -"The Ravens have never had a game-breaking receiver who can hit the home run from anywhere on the field. The 4.3 torn off by Heyward-Bey is enough to make Joe Flacco drool."
Wideout is a position of need for the Ravens, and there are others that could be available at 26 beside Heyward-Bey. One intriguing player is Hakeem Nicks of North Carolina.
That is who Chad Reuter from NFLDraftScout.com thinks Baltimore will select.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, UNC -"QB Joe Flacco needs more than Derrick Mason on the outside to succeed, and Nicks can provide the help. Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle are getting older, too, so a corner like Alphonso Smith might fit the bill."
Hakeem Nicks, WR, UNC -"Nicks just exploded this year. Very talented, and hugely productive catching 68 passes for 1,222 receiving yards and 12 TDs. He ran a 4.49 at the scouting combine."
Switching gears, Chris Steuber is leaning towards a linebacker going to Baltimore. According to Steuber, USC's Clay Matthews could be that man.
Clay Matthews, LB, USC -"The Ravens are a defensive team and will always add talent to that side of the ball. Matthews has great upside and is a demon on special teams."
Finally, the NFL Network weighed in and Jamie Dukes and Charles Davis **have the Ravens picking Ohio State’s James Laurinaitis***andLSU’s Darry Beckwith, respectively*.
James Laurinaitis, LB, OSU - "Speed issues have dropped a top-10 football player into the bottom of the first round."
Darry Beckwith, LB, LSU -"The Ravens have a lot of uncertainty right now in their LB corps. Beckwith is a natural ILB."