The 2014 NFL Draft starts on Thursday, May 8, and every team will look to infuse youth and talent into their rosters. This is the latest in our NFL Draft two-a-days that looks at each team and which potential first-round picks would be a good fit.
PICK NO. 17: BALTIMORE RAVENS
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2013 record: 8-8
Key offseason acquisitions: WR Steve Smith, SS Darian Stewart, C/G Jeremy Zuttah.
Key offseason departures: DE Arthur Jones, MLB Jameel McClain, CB Corey Graham, OT Michael Oher, SS James Ihedigbo, TE Ed Dickson.
Biggest holes: Offensive tackle, safety, defensive line.
The Ravens' offense struggled in 2013, and the key to fixing it could lie up front.
Joe Flacco didn't quite live up to his six-year, $120 million extension one year removed from being named Super Bowl MVP. His 4.5 adjusted net yards per pass attempt was third-worst in the NFL among qualifying QBs, and he had a career-high 3.6 percent interception rate. Why? Flacco was sacked a career-high 48 times last season. The running game wasn't much better for the Ravens, averaging a league-worst 3.1 yards per attempt. Both issues can be resolved by addressing the offensive line, where there is now a big hole at right tackle after Michael Oher's departure.
He may be off board at this point, but Taylor Lewan would be the ideal fit if he slipped this far. The Michigan senior played left tackle in college but is versatile enough to slide over to the right side. Lewan plays with a nasty streak and has the athleticism (4.79 40 time and 117-inch broad jump, were both Combine-bests) and technique to thrive at the next level. He does have off-field concerns that need to be looked into, however.
Notre Dame lineman Zack Martin would be a more realistic pick at 17. His calling card is his versatility - he can play any position along the line, meaning the Ravens could either stick him directly at right tackle or put him inside at left guard if they want to slide Kelechi Osmele back out on the edge. Martin's solid fundamentals, awareness and dependability make up for his lack of ideal size (6-4, 308) and short arms (32 7/8-inch arm length).
The Ravens also need a safety to pair with 2013 first-rounder Matt Elam. Elam played free safety in 2014, but he's really more of an in-the-box strong safety. He'll get to play that role in 2014 with James Ihedigbo gone, so it's not out of the question for the Ravens to make it two first-round safeties in two seasons, with this one being a rangy ball-hawk.
Unfortunately, the top free safety in this draft - Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix - likely will be gone at this stage, leaving Louisville safety Calvin Pryor as an option at 17. However, Pryor doesn't quite fit the mold of what the Ravens are looking for at the position. Although he does have experience as a single-high safety, he's more of a hard-hitter who will punish anyone that crosses over the middle. His toughness would fit well well in the Ravens' defense, but he's not quite the centerfielder the Ravens need.
If the Ravens were inclined to trade back into the later stages of the first round, they could get a safety who would fit the bill more than Pryor: Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward. Ward was listed as a strong safety on the Northern Illinois roster, but his range and speed are a better fit at free safety. He also can cover a slot receiver if needed. He's a little on the smaller side at 5-11 and 193 pounds, but he can diagnose a play very well, takes good angles to the ball, is quick enough to close in on the receiver and has good hands to make the interception.
Possible second-day and third-day options for the Ravens include Tennessee tackles Ja'Wuan James and Antonio Richardson, Miami tackle Seantrel Henderson, Wyoming safety Marqueston Huff, Vanderbilt safety Kenny Ladler and North Carolina safety Tre Boston.