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Saturday, 4 April 2015

Predicting Each Baltimore Ravens 2015 Draft Pick

2014 was a year of surprises for the Baltimore Ravens. Nobody could have predicted Justin Forsett to rush for over 1000 yards, good enough for 5th around the league, nor the blockbuster trade that sent pro bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to the Detroit Lions. Nevertheless, John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco managed to take their team to the playoffs and should find themselves back again if they can secure some key pieces through the draft, maintain their defensive scheme, and replicate their offensive efficiency.

So far the team has only welcomed two new free agents: Matt Schaub will serve as Flacco's backup after a year in Oakland while safety Kendrick Lewis will provide some much needed consistency in the secondary. With Ngata being the biggest name to leave Baltimore, linebacker Pernell McPhee will also leave a big hole in the vicious front seven that provided the 3rd best run defense in the league Offensively, Joe Flacco loses his deep threat target in Torrey Smith who had an underwhelming 2014 but still accounted for 11 touchdown catches.

In the upcoming draft, Baltimore will have a pick in the first six rounds including a pair in the fourth. With their playoff run, their first round selection will later at No. 26, which will be the 6th time in 8 years the team picks at 25 or later. They've also used 6 of those 8 picks on defensive players. Without further ado, let's take a look at how the draft might play out for them.

Round 1, Devin Funchess, WR/TE, Michigan

Raven's owner Steve Bisciotti publicly stated that he thought the team did not need a wide receiver but rather a tight end (having lost Owen Daniels to Denver) but Funchess is a guy who has the size and speed to play both positions making him an intriguing pick here. Any tape of him will immediately highlight the smoothness in his routes and soft hands. His skill set could extremely useful for Joe Flacco's efficient passing style and would remove some weight from Steve Smith's aging shoulders.

Round 2, Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State

A subpar combine performance has McKinney falling in mock drafts but the Ravens would be lucky for him to fall here. An imposing force at 6'4", he could be a versatile tool in Baltimore's aggressive defensive scheme. A pure run stopper with excellent downhill pursuit and strong point of attack, McKinney would work to replace McPhee who presents a fairly similar athletic comparison. Combined with Courtney Upshaw and last years first round choice CJ Mosley, the line backing core would be young and fierce.

Round 3, Duke Johnson, RB, Miami

While Forsett was doing his thing on the field, the other Ravens backs were doing their thing off the field. The Ray Rice fiasco was followed up by disappointing stories from Lorenzo Taliaferro and Bernard Pierce, two young and talented backs who might have done great things in Baltimore with their acts together. With Pierce now in Jacksonville and Taliaferro's future in question, the Ravens would be smart to take one of the many skilled ball carriers in this running back heavy class. It will be interesting to see how Forsett will encore his incredible season but having Johnson will help regardless. A small but explosive back, Johnson compares well to Forsett with a bit more balance and elusiveness.

4th round (2 picks), Christian Covington, DT, Rice + Tyler Lockett, WR,

Kansas State Timmy Jernigan proved to be an excellent choice in last years draft as a big bodied gap plugger with gap presence but the loss of Ngata will make pass rushing a priority. Although an injury history clouds a bit of predictability, Covington is a long linemen shows exceptional quickness out of stance. Lockett addresses some receiver issues but could also replace Jacoby Jones as a special teamer returning kicks and punts as Jones makes his way to San Diego. Agility and quickness allowed Lockett set school records in receptions, yards, and touchdowns and could end up in the fourth round due to the deep talent at the wide receiver position.

5th round, Charles Gaines, CB, Louisville

As a converted receiver, Gaines' displays exceptional route recognition and defensive instincts that results in pro level patience. Quick recovery speed along with solid back pedal footwork and acceleration would make a solid addition to cornerback depth anchored by LaDarius Webb and hopefully a healthy Jimmy Smith.

6th round, Mycole Pruitt, TE, Southern Illinois

With their last selection look for the Ravens to secure a tight end. Funchess provides versatility while Pruitt brings a more stereotypical skill set to the position. A low motor compromises good ball skills and solid blocking technique but was still able to manage an extremely successful career. With the right coaching, Pruitt could be a late round contributor with consistent effort.


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