Top 5 Ravens' Targets to Watch at the CombinePosted on February 19, 2014 by Brenden McLaughlin
It's that magical time of year again, folks. You know, the time when fans everywhere become expert scouts only to be shot down by their buddy saying, "Who cares about the combine? They're not in pads, they're not being covered, and I don't want to watch a bunch of lineman run around in spandex. The combine means nothing." I, for one, am an "expert scout" and the combine matters to me, damn it. It's football, it matters, and it will give fans their first glimpse of next year's rookie class. Now, which players are the Ravens' going to watch closely? I don't know, I haven't talked to Ozzie about it yet. However, I can give some educated speculation, and the Ravens' have glaring needs in both the receiving core and offensive line, so here's the top five early round targets to pay attention to at this years' NFL Combine, in no particular order.
Recievers: With Ed Dickson and Jacoby Jones most likely leaving in free agency, Baltimore will look to replace at least one of them early in the draft. Both positions will likely be filled in the draft as they are both deep positions this year, but here's a look at some early round possibilities:
- Eric Ebron - Tight End, UNC
As the top ranked tight end in the 2014 draft class, Ebron is the sexy mock draft pick for Baltimore. He fits the modern prototypical athletic tight end and has great hands while catching away from his body. Ebron has good speed, should have a 40 time around 4.6, possesses a large frame for Flacco to target. His route running and blocking leave a little to be desired but he could be a popular target in the passing game right away, especially in the red zone.
- Mike Evans - Wide Receiver, Texas A&M
6'5" and 225 lbs. Big man. Evans dropping to the Ravens is a bit of a stretch, but a 4.58 40 yard time will seem very underwhelming for a top three receiver at the combine. Evans is sure to shine in the vertical jump and seeing a receiver of his size in person will leave scouts hopeful that his physical ways continue to work in the NFL.
- Jordan Matthews - Wide Receiver, Vanderbilt
Matthews, a second round possibility, is a big bodied receiver who is comfortable out wide and in the slot. His speed isn't where most would like it to be, so he could really benefit from a strong showing in the 40. Matthews is regarded as a sure handed receiver, but there were reports that he was disappointing in Senior Bowl practices and constantly dropped passes, so pay attention to his position drills as well. Lastly, be sure to check him out later tonight as he joins the Purple Reign podcast crew between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m.
Offensive Line: The Ravens had a hard time protecting Joe Flacco this year, so there will be a heavy emphasis on the o-line this off season. Michael Oher won't return at right tackle and there is still a need for upgrades at guard and center to sure up play in the trenches. There are a couple of tackles that the Ravens will surely be watching closely, but the addressing this offensive line will go beyond the first couple of rounds. At any rate, here's a couple of potential first rounders to pay attention to this weekend:
- Cyrus Kouandjio - Offensive Tackle, Alabama
Kouandijo is an explosive tackle that excels in run blocking. He's considered a potential Pro Bowl lineman and is comfortable lining up on either side of the ball. Be sure to pay attention to him during position drills, where scouts will be looking at his ability to burst off the line and guard against corner blitzers. By the way, Cyrus is from Hyattsville, it would be nice to bring him home.
- Taylor Lewan - Offensive Tackle, Michigan
Lewan is another big, physical lineman, though experts say he's a little raw. He has the size and athleticism to be an All-Pro, but has issues with instincts and reactions, probably because he didn't play o-line until his senior year in high school. Lewan's team interviews will be interesting. It could be said that he's had character issues in the past in the form of racial slurs on the field, allegedly threatening rape to a woman who claimed she was raped by another Michigan player, and most recently an altercation with an Ohio State fan at a bar.
Others to Watch:
- Marcus Martin - Center, USC: Top rated center and potential third round selection
- Zack Martin - Offensive Tackle, Notre Dame: Could be Baltimore's radar depending on the o-line carousel.Mike Mayock has said that Martin is versatile enough to play anywhere on the line, an invaluable asset, especially with the offensive line situation in Baltimore.
- Kelvin Benjamin - Wide Receiver, FSU: He can be careless with his hands and route running, but he's a huge, freak athlete that makes him an appealing talent to bring in and develop into an "elite" player
Now, enjoy some Eric Ebron highlights while you patiently wait for more football.