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One of Ravens' Top Priorities Is Replacing 'Irreplaceable' Marshal Yanda

Marshal Yanda gives a pregame speech.
Marshal Yanda gives a pregame speech.

It's way more fun to upgrade a position group than replace a potential Hall of Famer because you know whoever you get to step into those big shoes probably won't be as good – at least not right away. That's especially the case with Marshal Yanda, who retired when he still had good years left.

Yet that doesn't mean the job is any less important. Head Coach John Harbaugh stressed that during Monday's pre-draft video conference call.

"He's irreplaceable – bottom line. You can't say you're going to plug in another Marshal Yanda. Probably the same thing applied to Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. He's in that category," Harbaugh said.

"We're going to have to really do a great job there. That's one of the biggest challenges. That's probably job No. 1 or 2. We've got to make sure we do a great job of making sure the interior offensive line is almost set."

The Ravens know their tackles are going to be Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. Bradley Bozeman had a standout season in his first year at left guard. Undrafted rookie Patrick Mekari stepped in well for injured center Matt Skura.

Rising sophomore Ben Powers, a fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma who played in one game, would be the top in-house option to step into Yanda's right guard spot, but the Ravens want to give him top-notch competition.

Last season, the Ravens' top-ranked offense led the league in rushing attempts by a wide margin and set the NFL team rushing yards record in the process. The offensive line cannot be a weak link.

"Our offensive line is very important. It's a very critical element of our team and our offense, always has been and I think even moreso now than ever the way we're built. We need to be great up front," Harbaugh said.

"Taking Marshal out of that equation is not just a one-guy deal. He's a force multiplier. He exponentially makes the offensive line better because he makes all the players around him so much better, including the quarterback and the rest of the offensive line."

Harbaugh alluded to the fact that the Ravens can think a little outside of the box with their offensive linemen than other teams. Since their offense is so unique with Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman's scheme and Lamar Jackson's one-of-a-kind style, Baltimore has unique kinds of players in mind.

"Somebody like Marshal would be great and we'll see what we can do to try to get as close as we can," Harbaugh said.

A few of this year's top prospects, according to the analysts, are Michigan's Cesar Ruiz, who could be a late-first or second-round pick, Fresno State's Netane Muti, Louisiana-Lafayette's Robert Hunt, Georgia's Solomon Kindley and LSU's Damien Lewis.

The Ravens have had success finding immediate difference-makers at guard, most recently with Kelechi Osemele in 2012. Asked whether the idea is to get one of those kinds of players on Day 1 or 2 of the draft, General Manager Eric DeCosta said "that's the plan."

"There are some tackles that we think can play inside at guard. There are some really good guards, centers in this draft," DeCosta said. "I think we've shown in the past that we can find guys in the second, third, fourth and fifth rounds at offensive line that can come in and play."

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