Ravens January Mock Draft

Baltimore Ravens NFL Draft
Eric Ebron

The Baltimore Ravens season is over so it is time to look ahead to free agency and the draft. Each month I will post a Ravens’ mock draft using Fanspeak’s On the Clock Mock Draft Simulator. If you want to see how the rest of the draft turned out, click here.

Please note that while the Ravens only have four picks here, they are likely to get a few compensatory picks from free agency losses last offseason. Also, they will be getting a draft pick from the Miami Dolphins from the Bryant McKinnie trade, but this pick hasn’t been announced yet. This is likely to be a sixth or seventh-round pick.

First Round: Eric Ebron, Tight End, University of North Carolina
The number of the Ravens’ first round pick is either going to be the 16th or 17th overall, but this has yet to be determined as they will have to flip a coin with the Dallas Cowboys at the NFL Combine in late February. With the Ravens first round pick, I took Ebron, a 6’4″, 245 pound tight end out of the University of North Carolina.

Eric Ebron

Courtesy of ICON SMI

A junior, he has already declared for the draft (the deadline is Jan. 15). After a good sophomore season with 40 catches for 625 yards, he had a breakout season this year for the Tar Heels. He recorded 65 catches for 973 yards and four touchdowns. His best game came against the University of Miami (FL) when he had eight catches for a career-high 199 yards. In his bowl game — the Belk Bowl vs the University of Cincinnati — he impressed with seven catches for 78 yards.

His size creates major mismatches for defenses as he is too big to be covered by a defensive back, yet to fast for a linebacker. This athletic ability is what sets him apart from other tight ends in the draft. Players like this have become more and more popular in the NFL today. He has shown the ability to run a variety of routes including the popular seam route for tight ends. His blocking needs work like almost all college tight ends, but he has potential and would be a decent blocker from the outset.

For the Ravens this pick would make sense as they have no tight ends under contract for next season. While it is likely that Dennis Pitta — the starter and quarterback Joe Flacco’s favorite target — will return, the Ravens need weapons for Flacco and two tight end sets are very effective. The Ravens tried to do this with Pitta and Ed Dickson, but Dickson’s inconsistent play saw the end of the effectiveness of this. Adding Ebron would allow the Ravens to start to use these formations more effectively and would give Flacco another player to throw to — something that has to be a priority for the Ravens this offseason.

Second Round: Kelvin Benjamin, Wide Receiver, Florida State University  
In the second round, I continued to add to the offense by taking Benjamin, who like Ebron, can create mismatches for Flacco as a receiver. He is only a redshirt sophomore, so he might not declare for the draft, but since he will be 23-years old in February, it is likely that he will declare for the draft this year, especially after his big year.

For the number one ranked Seminoles, he has caught 50 passes for 957 yards and 14 touchdowns. As a redshirt freshman he caught 30 passes for 495 yards and four touchdowns. His best game of the season came against the University of Florida when he caught nine passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns helping Florida State blowout their in-state rival. He has yet to play his bowl game as the Seminoles face the Auburn Tigers in the National Championship Game on Monday Night. Be sure to watch for him (number one is his jersey number).

He creates massive mismatches via his size. At 6’5″ and 234 pounds, he has the size of Calvin Johnson — the best receiver in the NFL right now. Benjamin is an absolute handful for a cornerback to cover as no cornerback can match this size. While he isn’t fast, he is great at coming up with jump balls and is a major weapon in the red zone. He is a raw prospect, but he has the body and potential to become a great receiver in the NFL.

After giving Flacco a $120.6 million contract in the offseason last year, the Ravens need to provide him with weapons on offense to help him succeed. The lack of playmakers on the offense was evident this season, so adding players like Ebron and Benjamin is a must in the offseason. Adding Benjamin would give the Ravens a receiving corps of Torrey Smith and Benjamin on the outside with Marlon Brown in the slot. It would also make the Ravens a very tough team to guard in the red zone as they would now have Benjamin and Brown as big receivers for jump balls and Pitta has shown an ability on these passes as well.

Third Round: Calvin Pryor, Free Safety, University of Louisville
With receivers for Flacco taken care of with the first two picks, Pryor would be a good addition in the third round as the Ravens are lacking a true free safety.

A junior who has already declared for the draft, he had 75 tackles, three interceptions and two forced fumbles this season with six tackles in the Russell Athletic Bowl in the Cardinals 36-9 dismantling of the University of Miami (FL). A three-year starter, he has seven career interceptions and eight career forced fumbles. At 6’2″ and 208 pounds he has the size to play safety effectively in the NFL.

He has the ability to play as both a deep safety in coverage in come up into the box and defend against the run. This is important in the Ravens’ defense as they run many different schemes. His best ability is in coverage as he good speed and ability to read-and-react when the ball is in the air. This allows him to effectively play as a single-high safety and makes him a weapon in two-deep coverages.

This coverage ability is something that the Ravens’ defense lacked this season. With Matt Elam at free safety and James Ihedigbo at strong safety, they were really playing to strong safeties. This left the Ravens exposed on the backend. With Ihedigbo a free agent and Elam the Ravens first-round pick last year, it is likely that the Ravens will let Ihedigbo walk in free agency and search for a free safety to play next to Elam. By taking Pryor, this would round out the Ravens secondary, as free safety is their biggest need, and would provide the Ravens with a great, complimentary safety combination.

Fourth Round
This pick was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars for left tackle Eugene Monroe during the season.

Fifth Round
This pick was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars for Monroe during the season.

Sixth Round: Wesley Johnson, Offensive Tackle, Vanderbilt University
With the Ravens final draft pick in this mock draft, the Ravens take Johnson a redshirt senior offensive tackle from Vanderbilt.

A four-year starter, he has only been called for two holding penalties in his career. He has also allowed just 7.5 sacks. At 6’5″ he has the height of a NFL tackle, but weighing 295 pounds, he needs to add some weight. In his time at Vanderbilt, he has started at all positions on the offensive line expect left guard, while spending most of his time at left tackle. Today he will play in his final collegiate game, the BBVA Compass Bowl against the University of Houston (number 67 is his jersey number). This game will be his 51st consecutive start — more than any active player in the SEC.

As a team leader, he is sure to interest the Ravens who have shown that they like to draft players like this. He also looks to be a good fit in a zone-blocking scheme due to his athleticism, another thing that would make him a good fit in Baltimore. Under head coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens have also shown a likely towards offensive linemen who can play multiple positions.

The Ravens’ offensive line needs help and they likely won’t wait until the sixth round to address it. However, with no compensatory picks included in this mock, this is the first lineman they take. With right tackle Michael Oher expected to depart in free agency, Johnson could come in and compete with Ricky Wagner, a fifth-round pick last year, for the starting job. Depth is also a need and a good backup can play multiple positions and Johnson has that ability.

Seventh Round
This pick was traded to the Indianapolis Colts for center A.Q. Shipley before the start of the season.

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