Pick Six: Intriguing Prospects for the Ravens At The 17th PickPosted on April 08, 2014 by Tim Horsey
Before I begin this post, I just wanted to shoot a quick thank you to Phil, Lindsey, Adam, and the rest of the Purple Reign and Ball Hogs teams for letting me ride their coattails onto the Ball Hogs Radio Network. I’ve been a part of it for six weeks now and have already gotten the impression that these guys and gals give their all to give you, the listeners and readers, the best product available. I, whether you agree or (more likely) disagree with my views, will do my very best to take our content to the next level.
But enough of the touchy feely crap. Let’s talk football.
This is the first installment of a new series on the Purple Reign Show website called “Pick Six.” Every week, I will delve into a Ravens-related topic and rank the six best possible options for said topic. Because, come on, who doesn’t love looking at and completely ripping apart someone else’s list?
If you’ve heard me on the last three Purple Reign Shows (if not, I’ll shamelessly plug our latest podcast RIGHT HERE), you know that I am a massive draft nerd. Seriously, my first child may or may not be named Mel or Ozzie. And with the draft just over a month away, I decided to take a look at some prospects that would be very tempting for the Ravens at number 17.
One quick note before we get on to the list: I will not include anyone who will almost certainly be off the board at this point in the draft. You will not see Jadeveon Clowney, Greg Robinson, or Mike Evans (keep dreaming, Ravens fans) on this list.
Now, let’s get to the prospects.
SIX PLAYERS THE RAVENS WOULD HAVE A TOUGH TIME PASSING UP AT PICK 17:
6. Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota - One of the more glaring holes in the Ravens roster that is not being talked about is defensive tackle depth. Arthur Jones reunited with Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis in free agency. Chris Canty is on the wrong side of 30, and Haloti Ngata loves to frequent the injured list at this point in his career. There is some youth in players like Brandon Williams and DeAngelo Tyson that the Ravens seem to like, but even with the re-signing of Terrance Cody, Baltimore simply needs more on the line. Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald may be the best defensive tackle in this draft, but his size limits him to a 3-technique role in a 4-3, making him a less than ideal fit for the Ravens. Louis Nix III of Notre Dame may be the best pure nose tackle in the class, but his lack of versatility is a turn off.
That leaves Ra’Shede Hageman of Minnesota and Timmy Jernigan of Florida State. For the Ravens scheme, I’ll take the former Golden Gopher. At 6’6” 310 pounds, Hageman is as imposing a player as there is in the draft. He is also extremely athletic, has a basketball background, and has a quick short burst that is valuable on the defensive line. With the right coaching, he possesses the talent to be an absolutely dominant player at the next level, and was compared to new Redskin Jason Hatcher by draft expert Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (Yes, I have my problems with Bleacher Report too, but they bought out his draft website to bring him in. He knows his stuff). Like Hatcher, Hageman is a very good pass rusher who can play against the run. His size and versatility are what separate him from the 6’2” Jernigan. Hageman can play all over the line on a 3-4 front, from the 5-technique tackle position recent vacated by Arthur Jones to a lighter nose tackle on passing situations or in times when Haloti Ngata needs to be spelled. Some scouts have questioned Hageman’s motor, and because he is so tall, he tends to lose some leverage against the run. In his case however, his potential and athleticism out way all of these issues. I would not be upset to see Ra’Shede Hageman in the purple and black.
5. Eric Ebron, TE, University of North Carolina - With the recent addition of Owen Daniels, the need for another tight end on the roster seems a little greedy. This is the main reason that this former Tar Heel is not higher on the list. The 6’4”, 250-pound Ebron is a match up nightmare for opposing defenses. He’s an advanced route runner, is incredibly athletic, and has great hands. Having another weapon for Mr. Flacco can only provide positive outcomes for the offense.
Some may say that there is no way to get all of these playmakers on the field at the same time, but let’s not forget: Daniels has only played 54 of 80 regular season games in the last five years, including only five in last year’s dumpster fire of a season for Houston. Plus, the Ravens have a history of drafting a tight end in the first round when they already had an established starter (or, in today’s pass-heavy NFL, 2 starters). Coming off the team’s first Super Bowl win, Baltimore had Hall-of-Famer Shannon Sharpe firmly cemented as their starting tight end. Even so, the Ravens spent the 31st overall pick on Todd Heap, who obviously went on to have an illustrious ten-year career with the Ravens. Bringing in Ebron would allow him to learn under Dennis Pitta and Daniels (who only signed a one-year deal) and move into a more prominent role in year two.
4. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State - Corner is a need that has talked about even less than defensive tackle. In my opinion, it’s a bigger need. In today’s pass happy NFL, three durable and reliable cornerbacks is essential for success. Corey Graham is gone, leaving Chykie Brown as the Ravens de facto third corner, something that should worry Baltimore and their fans.
In comes Gilbert. The former Oklahoma State corner possesses elite speed for the position to go along with prototypical size (at 6’0” 200 lbs, he is 2 inches shorter and only five pounds lighter than Jimmy Smith, who is one of the bigger corners in the NFL). His speed, size, and freakish athletic ability allow Gilbert to excel in man coverage, and he has a knack for making the big play, notching 12 interceptions in his four years in college (he was a part time player his freshman season). He has long arms that give quarterbacks fits and rarely resorts to bring a “grabber,” showing that he has confidence in his ability to cover his man without risking a penalty. He also was a very reliable return man in college, with six return touchdowns during his tenure as a Cowboy.
Gilbert does struggle in zone coverage (he rarely played it at Oklahoma State), has a hard time changing direction on a dime once he makes his initial move, and has a total disregard for playing any sort of run defense. If selected by the Ravens, he would move to the outside opposite Jimmy Smith in three-receiver sets, freeing up Lardarius Webb to move inside to nickel corner, where he excels in coverage and on free blitzes to the passer.
3. Calvin Pryor, S, University of Louisville - This is the one prospect that I am falling in love with more and more as we move closer to May 8th, the first day of the draft. Pryor is an aggressive player and lights out hitter who is willing to sacrifice his body to eliminate the runner. More importantly, from a Ravens prospective, are Pryor’s cover skills. He is rangy enough to play the centerfield role, and has the instincts and smarts to make pre and post-snap adjustments. At 5’11”, 207, he has prototypical safety size.
Many will argue that the Ravens should not draft a safety in the first round of the draft two seasons in a row. The problem with this argument is that even with the addition of Matt Elam (a player who I am very high on) last season, free safety is arguably the biggest need for the Ravens at this point in time. Elam is not a centerfielder-type, Darian Stewart is much more of an in-the-box safety, and Jeromy Miles and Brynden Trawick are simply not starters. A free safety like Pryor would significantly upgrade a defensive backfield that struggled with the deep ball.
2. Taylor Lewan, OT, University of Michigan - Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews will most likely be off the board when the Ravens presumably pick at number 17. For my money, Taylor Lewan is the next best player at the position in this year’s draft. He was a four-year starter at a big time program in Michigan, has quick feet and possesses the lateral quickness to be a good pass protector. This lateral quickness also helps him to maintain the edge in run blocking situations.
There are two big problems with Lewan, one on field and the other off. Some scouting personnel in the NFL recently questioned the former Wolverine's toughness, and every scouting report you read cites this as well. He can often be over powered in one-on-one run blocking because of this. The other, and more widely reported, issue with Lewan is some of his off the field issues. Lewan will be charged with “one count of aggravated assault and two counts of assault or assault and battery in a Dec. 1, 2013, incident” according to a report from ESPN.com. The Ravens have already had some noted off field issues this offseason and may not want to risk adding another possible hazard. With all of this being said, I believe that Lewan would provide great competition for Ricky Wagner at the right tackle position should he be available when Baltimore goes to the podium.
1. HaHa Clinton-Dix, S, University of Alabama - Coming out at numero uno, the man whose name is the best President Slick Willie joke of all time. Kidding aside, this move almost makes too much sense should he fall into Baltimore’s lap at 17. For my money, with all of the free agent re-signings and additions made by Baltimore so far, free safety is the biggest need for the team. Clinton-Dix is the best safety in this draft, a guy who I am hoping and praying slips down to the Ravens pick. He has been compared to Seahawks safety extraordinaire Earl Thomas by the guys at CBSSports.com and SBNation.com.
Clinton-Dix has incredible speed, allowing him to play a centerfield role, is a bit rangier in coverage than Calvin Pryor, but also possesses the size and skill to match up with tight ends and slot receivers in man coverage, something that is key in today’s game. He makes quick, instinctive decisions (thank you, Nick Saban), and is a very sure tackler in the open field, something the Ravens desperately need as well. He has great ball skills and will make some high-flying interceptions that will have visions of Ed Reed dance in Ravens fans’ heads. He sometimes is not the best in run support, but a box safety like Matt Elam will eliminate those concerns. Remember, Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome loves his Alabama guys, and Clinton-Dix gives him no reason to change that way of thinking. I know Baltimore will be laughing if HaHa somehow falls into their laps (I’ll see myself out).
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): Kyle Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech), Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State), Odell Beckham Jr. (WR, LSU), Marqise Lee (WR, USC), Jimmie Ward (S, Northern Illinois), Zack Martin (T/G, Notre Dame)
Okay, now that my opinions are out there, let me know what you think. Should Ozzie hire me as a scout or have I completely lost my mind? Also, be sure to let me know of any suggestions you have for future “Pick Six” installments. These can range from on field topics to fan-related things, like best Ravens bars or the best ways to insult Steelers fans. And as always, as many likes and shares as possible are always appreciated.