Baltimore Ravens 2014 Mock Draft: Who Is the Ideal Pick in Every Round?
That certainly includes the Baltimore Ravens, who missed the playoffs this year with an 8-8 record after a Super Bowl victory the previous season.
And while the club will continue to develop some of its young talent and survey the external market for free agents, the upcoming NFL draft will be a prime opportunity to restock the roster.
The following slides outline potential options for Baltimore at some of their most needed positions. The rationale for each pick also takes into account decisions that should be made regarding the team's 21 free agents.
You can review a previous article outlining whether the Ravens should keep, let walk or franchise tag each free agent.
In addition to these parameters, we are also predicting that Baltimore will receive compensatory draft picks due to free-agent departures from last year.
That helps fill in a fourth- and fifth-round draft pick that general manager Ozzie Newsome traded for left tackle Eugene Monroe, a free agent the Ravens must target to bring back.
It also accounts for another late-round pick traded away for Bryant McKinnie.
With final confirmation of compensatory draft picks yet to be announced, we've simply slotted a player for each round, which starts at either No. 16 or 17 overall, depending on a coin flip with the Dallas Cowboys at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Ready? Let's get mocking.
All statistics courtesy of Sports-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.
Round 1: WR Marqise Lee, USC
With the potential loss of Jacoby Jones in free agency, the Ravens would get even thinner at wide receiver since trading Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers at the end of 2012.
Couple that with the fact that top receiver Torrey Smith becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2015, and it becomes clear that Baltimore needs to target a wideout in this year's draft.
One of the top options for Newsome to consider is junior standout Marqise Lee from USC.
Although only standing at 6'0" and 195 pounds, Lee distinguishes himself from other receivers with outstanding route-running skills and reliable hands. He displays good acceleration off the line and can play on the outside or in the slot.
During his time at USC, Lee collected 248 receptions for 3,655 yards and 29 touchdowns. He also returned 50 kickoffs for 1,305 yards and two touchdowns, which would provide the Ravens with an excellent replacement for Jones.
Round 2: OT Morgan Moses, Virginia
The decision to draft a wide receiver in the first round also operates under the assumption of re-signing left tackle Eugene Monroe.
However, that move doesn't include bringing back free agent Michael Oher, who has struggled for the Ravens the past two seasons.
Enter offensive tackle Morgan Moses from Virginia.
Moses is a towering figure at 6'6", 325 pounds and blends good foot work and balance with incredible force. For a Baltimore club that finished 30th in rushing yards and 28th in sacks allowed, he would be a welcomed addition to the team.
The only concern for Newsome may be whether Moses lasts into the middle of the second round.
If another team grabs the talented lineman, the Ravens could also consider either Antonio Richardson or Ja'Wuan James, the tackle duo from Tennessee.
Round 3: TE Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
The situation at tight end this past season was a disappointing affair. After Dennis Pitta dislocated his right hip in July, Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark combined for a lackluster showing in Baltimore.
A player like Notre Dame's Troy Niklas would partner well with Pitta, learning under one of Joe Flacco's favorite targets.
Niklas has excellent physical tools with a 6'6", 270-pound frame. He posted 32 receptions for 498 yards and five touchdowns in 2013.
Although Niklas could have benefited from another year in school to refine his game, the raw-talent prospect has great upside as a developmental project.
Round 4: DE Josh Mauro, Stanford
The Ravens defense was able to keep the team competitive in 2013 despite the departure of several key pieces from the team's Super Bowl run.
Stanford defensive end Josh Mauro would transition nicely into Baltimore's 3-4 defense, the same scheme used by the senior's alma mater.
Mauro had a very productive season in his final year of eligibility, recording 51 tackles (12.5 for loss), four sacks, two passes defended and an interception.
In addition to playing his primary position of defensive end, Mauro also lined up at nose tackle to stymie opposing offenses. The versatile defender operates with strong hands and sheds blocks easily to make plays on the ball-carrier.
Round 5: CB Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State
With a handful of Baltimore's top needs addressed, Newsome and the front office can add depth at cornerback in the fifth round.
Rashaad Reynolds provides a durable option for the Ravens, not missing a start for Oregon State in 25 straight games. He demonstrates hard work to his teammates, focusing on technique at the position.
Defensive coordinator Mark Banker had this to say about the senior corner, via Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune:
"He has been good with responsibility in coverage, playing within the scheme, playing with his eyes. He has a great work ethic and good football instincts, and he's a tough guy."
At 5'11" and 187 pounds, Reynolds collected 61 tackles (3.5 for loss), six interceptions and four passes defended last season. While he will need to continue to get stronger, Reynolds displays the right skill set and attitude to be successful in the NFL.
Round 6: OLB Devon Kennard, USC
Regardless of the future of outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, Baltimore should look to address the position in the draft.
Considering the approach outlined up to this point, Devon Kennard would be an ideal selection for the Ravens in the sixth round. The defender out of USC measures in at 6'3", 260 pounds and excels at stopping the run on the outside.
Kennard also brings a level of versatility, having played at inside linebacker and defensive end during his career. He recorded 60 tackles (13 for loss) and nine sacks for the Trojans last year.
The fifth-year senior missed the entire 2012 season with a torn pectoral muscle but rebounded nicely in his final year of eligibility. Look for Kennard's name to get called in the later rounds of the draft, with Baltimore as a great landing spot.
Round 7: FS Jemea Thomas, Georgia Tech
The final round of the draft generally provides teams with fringe players for the 53-man roster or potential contributors on the practice squad. But there's still a lot of talent available.
Georgia Tech's Jemea Thomas fits the bill as a hard-hitting defensive back who can play in multiple positions in the secondary. That bodes well for the Ravens, who could fit him into either safety position depending on how the roster shakes out.
Thomas had a productive year as a fifth-year senior, recording 88 tackles (6.5 for loss), eight passes defended, three sacks and two interceptions.
At 5'10", 195 pounds, the former Yellow Jacket displays strong tackling skills and athleticism in coverage. Thomas would be a great way for the Ravens to round out the 2014 NFL draft.
Matthew Stensrud is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+.
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