Ravens Can Fly In Several Directions
By Cian Fahey
Although it will feel like much longer as the week progresses, and even as the 31 other teams ahead of them pick, the NFL draft is just seven days away. The most exciting event of the off-season is almost upon us.
So, what exaclty is it that makes the draft so exciting? Simple: The opportunity for every team in the league to get significantly better. They can do that through picks or trades. Even though straight up selections are what franchises build their success on, everyone knows that blockbuster trades are what get the TV ratings going on draft day.
Over the last few years, the two trades that stand out are the Julio Jones trade between the Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns, as well as the Robert Griffin III trade between the Washington Redskins and St. Louis Rams. Even though the Redskins agreed to that trade long before the draft itself, the glamour of RG3 still made it a big draw on draft night.
Baltimore Ravens' fans most recent memory of the draft has them moving the other way. Last year, the Ravens traded out of the first round completely to select outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw. It definitely proved to be the right move for the franchise then, but this year moving in the opposite direction could be what Ozzie Newsome decides to do.
If Newsome sees the value, then these players could attract his attention early in the first round:
Brown has been a big favorite of the online draft community for some time. He hasn't received the same media praise as Alec Ogletree, or the same attention as Manti Te'o, but he is likely the best inside linebacker in this class. He is slightly undersized, but that is when you think in terms of the NFL of old. In today's NFL, he doesn't need to be huge in order to play on the inside of a front seven. Instead, he needs to be able to beat blockers, run in space and cover receivers or tight ends over the middle.
Unlike other prospects, Brown has every single one of those attributes.
Projections for Brown vary, as some see him going in the early-teens, while others have him falling out of the first round altogether. It's difficult to imagine a way that he finds his way past the Cincinnati Bengals and Chicago Bears in the first round, however. He is the perfect fit for what both their linebcaking corps need. If Newsome feels that he can find the value in this deep draft — or in other words, a buyer's market — he could jump up 10 places or so in the draft to grab Brown.
Kenny Vaccaro/Johnathan Cyprien
Cyprien and Vaccaro are being lumped together because they are the two top safeties who can offer the Ravens the same styles of play if asked. Cyprien and Vaccaro could both potentially play both free and strong safety, which is an aspect of defense today that every team craves. Vaccaro is the higher rated player and is exepceted to go within the first 15 picks or so. Cyprien's stock is less clear. He could fall out of the first round completely, giving the Ravens a chance to grab him at 32. But he could also quickly follow Vaccaro off the board.
This trade will happen only depending on how the Ravens read the other team's needs. That is presuming that they are interested in adding either safety.
There is little doubt as to who is the best fit at wide receiver for the Ravens' offense in this draft. Hopkins is a very similar receiver to what Anquan Boldin was when he came out of college and he is also one of the most pro-ready receiers playing the game. The only real knock on Hopkins is that he is in high demand. There is next to no chance that he falls to the Ravens where they currently stand.
Hopkins could go as high as the Pittsburgh Steelers at 17th overall, while there are a plethora of teams from there until pick 31 who will be tempted to pull the trigger on the very talented receiver. Newsome would likely have to give up too much for this to happen, but if he values that receiver spot as highly as it appeared to project on the offense during last year's playoff run, then he could make the move.