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Ravens See Golden Opportunity to Beef Up Interior O-Line


When talking about potentially drafting interior offensive linemen at Tuesday's pre-draft press conference, Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta harkened back to 2007.

That year, the Ravens drafted guard Ben Grubbs in the first round (No. 29 overall) and guard/tackle Marshal Yanda in the third. Not surprisingly, it was met with yawns and questions from some local media, DeCosta recalled.

"Both guys became Pro Bowl players and really helped our team," DeCosta said. "It was the right thing to do at the time."

Now the Ravens are again in a situation where they could load up with offensive line picks – and potentially early.

Baltimore is set with starting tackles Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr., but could upgrade at guard and center as they continue to build around quarterback Lamar Jackson and a run-heavy offense.

ESPN's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay released a dual mock draft Wednesday, and both have the Ravens taking a center at No. 22. Kiper has Texas center/guard Erik McCoy and McShay has N.C. State center Garrett Bradbury.

The Ravens haven't taken a true interior offensive lineman in the first three rounds since that 2007 draft. They've never drafted a center in the first round, and only took one in the first three rounds (Casey Rabach in 2001).

Since 2012, when veteran Matt Birk helped anchor an offensive line that paved the way to a Super Bowl XLVII win, the Ravens' centers have been Gino Gradkowski, Jeremy Zuttah, Ryan Jensen and Matt Skura. Except for Zuttah, all were developmental prospects who eventually grew into starting roles.

DeCosta said that's not because they don't value drafting centers early, but rather that college supply hasn't met demand. Typically, there is only one (or zero) centers drafted in the first round each year.

"I think it's a really important position," DeCosta said. "That being said, there is always a very small amount of names on the draft board at that position – top guys – every single year. … Now, this year, it's a little different. I can think of three or four centers in the draft that have a chance to be first-round, second-round picks. So, we'll see."

The names are Bradbury, McCoy, Mississippi State's Elgton Jenkins and perhaps Ohio State's Michael Jordan, who moved to center for his junior season. If the Ravens are looking to grab a potential immediate impact starter at center, this may be the year.

"Every one of those guys that you look at on film, they get after it," said Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz. "They're smart, intelligent, physical football players that are very, very competitive. Different athletic skillsets, different strengths, different weaknesses, but the thing you can hang your hat on the top centers in the draft this year is they are smart and competitive."

The Ravens could draft a center early, but they could also go with a guard (or two). James Hurst and Alex Lewis split the role last season. With Yanda likely nearing the end of his career, the Ravens could use a young, starting-caliber guard for the present and future.

DeCosta brought up Boston College's Chris Lindstrom, calling him an "outstanding player." Other top options include Oklahoma mauler Cody Ford, who has been projected to the Ravens in multiple mock drafts, Kansas State's Dalton Risner and Wisconsin's Michael Deiter.

"The guard position is critical," DeCosta said. "We see that as an opportunity for us to improve and there are some really good guards in this draft. … There are probably four or five guards that have a chance to be first- or second-round picks in this draft class."

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