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2013 Ravens draft needs: Champs look to rejuvenate roster with young blood

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LAST SEASONRush Offense - 118.8 ypg (11th)
Pass Offense - 233.7 ypg (15th)
Total Offense - 352.5 ypg (16th)
Scoring Offense - 24.9 ppg (10th)
Rush Defense - 122.8 ypg (20th)
Pass Defense - 228.1 ypg (17th)
Total Defense - 350.9 ypg (17th)
Scoring Defense - 21.5 ppg (tied 12th)
MOST PRESSING NEEDSOffense: Decisions on Anquan Boldin and Bryant McKinnie and offensive line depth.
Defense: Linebacker and secondary depth

QUARTERBACK

That Joe Flacco guy turned out alright after all, huh?  He'll sign a big deal in the offseason and be the Ravens starter for the next 8-10 years at a minimum.  As such, this shouldn't be much of a priority in the offseason, well, other than finding all the money it's going to take to sign Flacco.

RUNNING BACK

Ray Rice is back. Backup Bernard Pierce had a solid rookie season. Vonta Leach continues to lead the way at fullback. Next question.

WIDE RECEIVERThe Draft Board

4th roundChris Harper, Kansas St. (6-1, 228)6th roundMarcus Davis, Virginia Tech (6-3, 230)7th roundRodney Smith, Florida St. (6-5, 220)

Anquan Boldin was magnificent in the playoffs for the Ravens. Even though Jacoby Jones became the nation's darling, Boldin was the main reason the Ravens' passing game climbed to new heights, but Baltimore will have to determine how much it wants to pay for Boldin's production. Boldin, Jones, Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss are all returning at receiver, which should keep the Ravens out of the receiver business this offseason. But, if Boldin is lost, wide receiver becomes more of a priority during the draft.

What makes Boldin so great is his ability to stay strong and fight for the football, so the Ravens will likely look for Ravens who fit that mold. Chris Harper is one of my favorite in this class and he's a find late in the fourth round.

TIGHT END

Here's where it gets a little bit interesting for the Ravens. Both Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson are restricted free agents, which complicates life in Baltimore. Pitta is a must-have for the Ravens and for Flacco as he's truly come into his own as a future star in the league. He had 61 catches last year and was second on the team behind Smith with seven receiving touchdowns. Dickson wasn't as productive in 2012, until the Super Bowl where he had two key receptions. Dickson had a strong 2011 season, while Pitta had the better 2012.  Neither should cost the Ravens a ton of money. As such, for now, tight end won't be a high priority position, given the other needs for the reigning champs.

OFFENSIVE LINEThe Draft Board

2nd roundC Barrett Jones, Alabama (6-3, 305)
T Dallas Thomas, Tennessee (6-5, 308)
T Kyle Long, Oregon (6-6, 304)3rd roundC Travis Frederick, Wisconsin (6-4, 338)
C Brian Schwenke, Cal (6-3, 307)
T Menelik Watson, Florida St. (6-5, 320)4th roundT Brennan Williams, UNC (6-7, 315)
T Jordan Mills, La. Tech (6-5, 318)
T David Quessenberry, SJSU (6-5, 294)6th roundT Braden Brown, BYU (6-6, 305)7th roundC Patrick Lewis, Texas A&M (6-1, 309)
T Tanner Hawkinson, Kansas (6-5, 304)

The Ravens' perimeter player decisions are fairly clear cut. The offensive line?  A completely different story. What makes these decisions more difficult is that the offensive line truly rounded into shape when they inserted 33-year-old Bryant McKinnie at left tackle for the first game of the playoffs. Where it looked like the Ravens would have to find a left tackle in the offseason, they might now have one that they can no longer afford. McKinnie wants to remain in Baltimore, but his performance in the playoffs could trigger offers from teams desperate for a veteran left tackle.  Center Matt Birk hasn't decided whether he's coming back for another season, although the Ravens feel strongly about his backup Gino Gradkowski, a 2012 fourth round selection.

If McKinnie does leave, the Ravens' left tackle issues become a full-blown problem as starting left tackles will be off the board well before the Ravens select at No. 32. Menelik Watson is another prospect who hasn't played a ton of football due to his basketball background, but he's more right tackle currently than left. But, with more snaps and experience, who knows? If Birk does retire, Jones would push Gradkowski for that spot in the middle.

DEFENSIVE LINEThe Draft Board

4th roundDE William Gholston, Michigan St. (6-6, 275)5th roundNT Kwame Geathers, Georgia (6-5, 355)
DE Quinton Dial, Alabama (6-5, 318)6th roundDT/NT Brandon Moore, Texas (6-5, 320)
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, Notre Dame (6-4, 306)

Arthur Jones is a restricted free agent and the Ravens should bring him back as he gave them great snaps at key moments during the season. But, the biggest question is the depth with Ma'ake Kemoeatu and Ryan McBean as unrestricted free agents. Kemoeatu's comeback was amazing, but he's now 34 and a decision looms for the Ravens' brass. Either way, finding depth in the defensive line in later rounds is a must.

William Gholston has no business falling to the fourth round, but he didn't play up to the lofty expectations many of us had for him this past season. He's blessed with every physical attribute an NFL player could ask for and the Ravens are notorious for finding players in later rounds like Gholston. Given the opportunity to be a back up at one of the defensive end spots, he'd have time to sit, learn and eventually contribute.

LINEBACKERThe Draft Board

1st roundILB Kevin Minter, LSU (6-1, 246)
ILB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame (6-2, 250)2nd roundOLB Corey Lemonier, Auburn (6-4, 246)
OLB Chase Thomas, Stanford (6-1, 240)
OLB John Simon, Ohio St. (6-2, 256)
ILB/OLB Sio Moore, U Conn (6-1, 240)3rd roundOLB Brandon Jenkins, Florida St. (6-3, 260)
OLB Jamie Collins, Southern Miss (6-3, 245)4th roundILB Jon Bostic, Florida (6-1, 240)
OLB Keith Pough, Howard (6-2, 241)

Now, the truly difficult questions begin. If you've been around the last two months, you may not know that Ray Lewis is retiring, leaving a hole at inside linebacker.  But, for as good as Lewis was throughout his 17 years in the league, it was clear that the baton had been passed to Dannell Ellerbe as the true face of the defense. Luckily, Ellerbe plays ILB and not left tackle or quarterback, so he won't break the bank and it's imperative that the Ravens bring him back. At outside linebacker, Paul Kruger is a unrestricted free agent who'll probably leave Baltimore to get a shot to start somewhere else and, well, make a lot of money in the process. After the season and postseason the talented pass rusher has had, he deserves money wherever he gets it.

Kevin Minter has Raven written all over him and he'd form a strong inside linebacker duo with Ellerbe, if he's brought back. The former LSU star has great football instincts and doesn't miss a ball carrier when he strikes. Manti Te'o can still play, let's make that clear. He may have been exposed in the national championship game or could've had a rough night, or a mix of both, but he'll still fit well in Baltimore, even as a two-down ILB.

SECONDARYThe Draft Board

1st roundCB Desmond Trufant, Wash. (5-11, 190)
CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida St. (6-2, 216)
CB Johnthan Banks, Miss. St. (6-1, 185)2nd roundS Eric Reid, LSU (6-2, 212)
S Phillip Thomas, Fresno St. (6-1, 212)3rd roundCB Jamar Taylor, Boise St. (5-11, 192)
CB Darius Slay, Mississippi St. (6-1, 190)
CB Leon McFadden, SDSU (5-10, 193)
S Bacarri Rambo, Georgia (6-1, 215)4th roundCB Nickell Robey, USC (5-8, 168)6th roundCB Johnny Adams, Michigan St. (5-11, 178)7th roundCB D.J Hayden, Houston (6-0, 190)
CB Aaron Hester, UCLA (6-1, 203)

A starting cornerback is coming off of an ACL tear. The other starting cornerback is an unrestricted free agent. The free safety has threatened retirement in the past. Both safety backups are unrestricted free agents. With Ladarius Webb returning from injury and Cary Williams as an unrestricted free agent, the Ravens must be able to rely on Smith in 2013.

Then there is the question as to what they'll do with future Hall of Famer Ed Reed. Even if the Ravens bring him back, it won't be for more than a couple of years. Suffice to stay, both positions in the secondary will be a priority for the Ravens come April to hedge any and all risk the team faces with these secondary issues.

If Desmond Trufant and/or Xavier Rhodes fall to the bottom of the first round, the Ravens will jump on either. Rhodes is the biggest cornerback in this draft class and can match receivers with his strength in press man coverage. Trufant is the consummate cover corner and he dominated the Senior Bowl with his sublime cover skills.

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