A few hints on the Ravens' draft direction

OWINGS MILLS -- Beyond the slick hairspray, sunglasses and breathless hype of draft analyst Mel Kiper coupled with misinformation disseminated by NFL franchises, there is a touch of clarity to be found regarding the impending college draft. Searching for clues about which players or positions the Baltimore Ravens might be interested in? Well, here are a few tangible hints regarding what direction the Ravens are possibly headed.

With a full delegation of executives, scouts and coaches this week in sleepy Mobile, Ala., for the annual Senior Bowl, the Ravens have reportedly spent a lot of time interviewing offensive and defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs.

Wise choices.

It makes a lot of sense, considering deficiencies in the trenches and advancing age at middle linebacker and the secondary remain pressing issues for the team following a 6-10 campaign and its second consecutive absence from the postseason.

The Ravens appear to be sincerely interested in University of Maryland linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, a speedy prospect whose lack of size seems to be his only major drawback. Hmmm, sounds fairly similar to the initial scouting reports on future All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis coming out of the University of Miami.

The Ravens also have kept a close eye on highly regarded Iowa linebackers Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge along with Auburn linebacker Travis Williams.

Meanwhile, Georgia offensive guard Max Jean-Giles has drawn major interest because of his size at 358 pounds, quick hands, agility and nasty streak.

The Ravens have also been looking at Miami offensive tackle Eric Winston, Oklahoma lineman Davin Joseph, aggressive Ohio State center Ryan Mangold, New Mexico center Ryan Cook and Pitt's Charles Spencer. In particular, Winston has a lot of potential. However, he has struggled with his consistency and intensity.

Athletic North Carolina State defensive end Manny Lawson has been popular with several teams, including Baltimore. Lawson has demonstrated a quick burst in pass rushing drills and has a freakish 45-inch vertical leap. He might be interchangeable between end and outside linebacker.

Oklahoma defensive lineman Dusty Dvoracek, a gritty performer who has a history of off-field issues, also met with Baltimore officials.

South Florida running back Andre Hall, who's considered a late first-day pick, also apparently met with Ravens personnel along with Washington State running back Jerome Harrison.

Memphis running back DeAngelo Williams has apparently been skyrocketing up draft boards, as have Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler and Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle. In an NFL Network interview this week in Mobile, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, who played for the late, legendary Bear Bryant at Alabama, was complimentary of Croyle while not shedding much light on any other players or hot-button topics other than reiterating the organization's desire to create competition for embattled incumbent quarterback Kyle Boller through free agency or the draft.

Among the other athletes the Ravens spent time with in Mobile included: Syracuse defensive back Anthony Smith, Clemson cornerback Tye Hill, Nebraska safety Daniel Bullocks, Colorado fullback Lawrence Vickers and Michigan wide receiver Jason Avant.

If you watch Saturday's game, keep an eye on defensive linemen like Boston College's Mathias Kiwanuka (6-8, 261), Florida State's Broderick Bunkley, Miami's Orien Harris, Virginia Tech ‘tweener Darryl Tapp, Penn State's Tamba Hali, Michigan's Gabe Watson, a 330-pounder who carries the lazy but talented underachiever tag, and Texas offensive tackle Jonathan Scott.

The names might be unfamiliar to many readers now, but there's a strong chance that at least a few of the players mentioned in this space today will wind up wearing a Ravens uniform and contributing heavily next season as the team rebuilds its roster.


In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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