Ravens Potential First Round Targets

Baltimore Ravens NFL Draft
Jonathan Cyprien

With the 2013 NFL Draft just four days away, it is time to look at some potential first round targets for the Baltimore Ravens at pick number 32.

Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
For our first prospect, we may as well look at Minter who Fanspeak’s draft expert, Steve Shoup, has the Ravens taking in his final mock draft. Minter is linked to the Ravens for obvious reasons, as the Ravens have lost their two starting inside linebackers from their Super Bowl winning team in Ray Lewis (retirement) and Dannell Ellerbe (free agency).  Minter started 11 games in 2011 as a sophomore and all 13 games this year recording 191 tackles, including 18.5 for a loss, and 5 sacks in these two seasons.  He is considered a good run defender but needs work in pass coverage.

If Minter is available at the Ravens first round pick, I’m not sure that they would take him.  If the Ravens were to take an inside linebacker in the first round, I think there are two better ones that could be available.  I’m not knocking Minter, I just don’t think he will be graded by the Ravens as high as some of the other inside linebackers.  If the Ravens were to trade out of the first round though, then Minter would become a possibility.

Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State
Staying at ILB, Brown has been rising fast over the last couple of weeks and is the certain player I was just talking about.  He started his college career at the University of Miami but transferred to Kansas State after two seasons.  In his two seasons at Kansas State, Brown started every game and was a team captain while amassing 201 tackles, with 16.5 for a loss, and had interceptions against current Redskins QB Robert Griffin III and this draft’s top QB prospect Geno Smith.  Brown is considered a good run defender and one of the better linebackers in pass coverage in this year’s draft.  There are two knocks on him though.  The first is that Brown is considered a little undersized to play ILB in a 3-4 defense but, many teams are starting to go smaller here due to the NFL becoming a pass happy league.  The other knock on Brown is a shoulder injury that stopped him from working out at the combine.  This shouldn’t impact the 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year too much though as he has good gametape.

Brown is one of my favorite linebackers in this whole draft as he is a complete prospect who can stop the run and drop back in pass coverage. While many mock drafts have him going before the Ravens pick, I think there is a chance that he falls to the Ravens.  If this does occur, the Ravens will most likely draft him as he should be the best player available and he would fill a need at inside linebacker.

Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
Now for the last of the inside linebackers in Manti Te’o.  When the college football season ended, it looked like Te’o would be a very high draft pick.  In fact, ESPN’s Mel Kiper mocked him to the Kansas City Chiefs with the 1st overall pick.  With the whole fake girlfriend story and a deeper look into film, his stock his if falling.  However, Kiper also recently said that Te’o won’t make it to the Ravens pick and I have reason to believe that.  We will still talk about Te’o though as the Ravens could trade up for him and he has been a popular pick for the Ravens in mock drafts.

In four years at Notre Dame, Te’o had 437 tackles, 34 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, and 7 interceptions (all this season).  Te’o turned those 7 interceptions and an undefeated regular season for Notre Dame into a Heisman Trophy bid.  While he finished second in the voting to Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel, it is still impressive for a defensive player to even be in consideration for the award.

Te’o is considered to be a good run defender but he does come with some negatives.  He isn’t as good of an athlete as some of the other linebacker prospects.  Also, despite all of his interceptions, his pass coverage could use some work.  Lastly, when he faced Alabama in the National Championship Games, his play was awful as Alabama rolled over the Fighting Irish.

If Te’o does make it to the Ravens pick, which I consider unlikely, I’m torn on whether the Ravens will draft him.  The Ravens need someone to replace Lewis at linebacker and Te’o would be a good fit.  They don’t seem to be worried about his off the field situation but, head coach John Harbaugh wasn’t impressed with Teo’s 40 yard dash at the combine (video here).  With the news that the Ravens are comfortable with his character, this pick seems more likely then earlier in the week, if he is still on the board.

Jonathan Cyprien

Florida International S Jonathan Cyprien is a possibility for the Baltimore Ravens with their first round pick.

Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International
Moving away from linebackers, lets look at another need on defense, safety.  The first is Jonathan Cyprien out of Florida International.  Recently, there has been a lot of buzz about Cyprien.  Since he didn’t go to a big school, the buzz is just coming now instead of earlier in the process.  Cyprien started seven games as a true freshman and never looked back. This year, as a senior, he recorded 93 tackles, 5 pass breakups, 4 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble.

In the NFL, Cyprien looks to be able to play both safety positions but is probably better suited to play strong safety.  He is a hard hitter who can play in the box against the run and is athletic enough to play as a deep safety.  He is considered to be a good blitzer on both run and pass plays.  On the negative side, Cyprien can be too aggressive in pass coverage and can be caught out of position.  This can become evident on play-action passes.

The Ravens will be in the market for a safety in this draft as they lost future Hall-of-Fame free safety in Ed Reed and starting strong safety in Bernard Pollard.  While they signed free safety Michael Huff in free agency, they still need a strong safety.

I think Cyprien would be a perfect fit for the Ravens.  He seems to play with a bit of swagger, something the Ravens defenses always seem to have.  He would complement Huff perfectly and would allow defensive coordinator Dean Pees to get more creative with his defensive schemes.  The only problem that I can see between the Ravens and Cyprien, is if he will be around when the Ravens pick.

Many teams that pick in front of the Ravens need a safety so they could take Cyprien. Fellow safety, Kenny Vaccaro (Texas) will be the first safety off the board, and where he goes, could determine whether the Ravens will have the chance to draft Cyprien.  If Cyprien is still available when the Ravens pick, don’t be surprised if he is the pick.

Matt Elam, S, Florida
For the last of the safeties, we need to look at Matt Elam out of the University of Florida.  Elam’s older brother, Abram, has played with the Kansas CIty Chiefs last year.  Like Cyprien, Matt Elam played a lot as a true freshman.  Elam was a key special teamer and was the nickel defensive back for the Gators.  This year, as a junior, Elam had 76 tackles, 4 interceptions, 2 sacks, and 1 forced fumble.

The main thing that Elam is known for is his big hits.  As a strong safety, Elam is a physical guy, which leads to the big hits.  He is considered a prototypical strong safety as he is a big hitter and plays good in the box.  He is a skilled blitzer and can stop the run.  In pass coverage, Elam is ok but, teams could be worried about Elam’s height.  Since he is only 5’10”, most receivers that he will have to cover will be bigger than him. This could be a problem as the receivers will have the advantage even before the snap.

Just like Cyprien, Elam would be a good fit for the Ravens he can easily take over for Pollard.  In fact, Elam is better in coverage so you could argue he would be an upgrade for the Ravens.

Elam is considered to be a fringe prospect, as people are split between whether he should be a first or second round pick.  Since, the Ravens have the last pick in the first round, it is the perfect spot for Elam value wise.  I wouldn’t expect the Ravens to take Elam at 32 but, if they trade down a few spots, I can see them targeting Elam.  This would be just like last year where the Ravens picked Courtney Upshaw in the early second round after trading down.

Keenan Allen, WR, California
Moving to the offensive side of the ball, there are two players that the Ravens could look at with their first round pick.  The first of these, is Keenan Allen.

With the Ravens trading away starting wide receiver Anquan Boldin in a salary cap move, the Ravens will be in the market for a receiver as they lack depth there.

Allen had an amazing sophomore season with 98 catches and 1,343 yards.  This year wasn’t nearly as good though, due to inconsistent quarterback play and a few injuries.  He only had 61 catches for 737 yards.

Before the season started, Allen had ankle surgery which caused him to miss spring practices.  In season, he injured his knee which caused him to the last three games of the season.  This knee injury also stopped him from participating in the NFL Combine.

While he wasn’t able to workout at the combine, he was able to workout at his pro day.  In the forty yard dash, he ran a 4.71 and a 4.75, both slow times for a receiver.  His knee injured probably had a little influence on that but it is still cause for concern.

Allen is considered to be a legitimate number one receiver prospect.  He seems to have all the talent to be a number one in the league.  The only negatives on him are big ones.  The first is the forty yard dash time, as already said.  The other, is that Allen is reported to have been flagged for a positive drug test at the combine.  The report says he was flagged for having “suspiciously high levels of water in his system.”

I think Allen would be the perfect receiver for the Ravens.  He could instantly take over Boldin’s spot in the starting lineup, and would be a great compliment to speedy receiver Torrey Smith.  I don’t think the slow forty time will impact Allen’s grade with the Ravens as Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome is on record saying that passing on a receiver because he had a 4.7 forty was his biggest mistake as a GM.  That receiver just happens to be Anquan Boldin.  I doubt Newsome would make that mistake again.

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
The last player to look at is wide receiver DeAndre “Nuke” Hopkins out of Clemson.

Hopkins, a junior, had 82 catches for 1,405 yards, and 18 touchdowns this season.  He and teammate Sammy Watkins formed an explosive receiving tandem at Clemson.

At 6’1″, Hopkins is one inch shorter than Allen but is still a good receiver.  Hopkins is a good route runner who creates separation and can run all of the routes.  He displayed this talent in his last game for the Tigers, against LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.  He torched the talented LSU secondary for 191 yards on 13 catches with 2 touchdowns.

The only negative for Hopkins is from the combine.  While at the combine, the hotel room that he and Rutgers WR Mark Harrison (late round prospect) shared, was trashed.  Hopkins has denied this claim, saying he left the room early, before it was trashed.  Either way, it isn’t good to have your name connected to this.

Like Allen, if Hopkins is available when the Ravens pick, I can see them taking him.  He is a very talented receiver who can make plays and should also compliment Torrey Smith well.  If Hopkins and Allen are both still on the board, I don’t know who the Ravens would prefer.  In fact, I could actually see them trading down a few spots to acquire another pick and still get the guy that they want.

These are seven potential first round picks for the Ravens.  I didn’t include possible trades up or down as that would be too many players to do.  Since the Ravens have twelve picks, they will likely be moving around a lot this year during the draft.  The Ravens have other needs than ILB, S, and WR but, there just isn’t the right talent around pick 32 to address these positions like LT and NT.

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