Pre-Draft Needs: LG, OLB, WR, DE, OT, C, RB, S
Round 2-Courtney Upshaw/LB
Round 2-Kelechi Osemele/G
Round 3-Bernard Pierce/RB
Round 4-Gino Gradkowski/C-G
Round 4-Christian Thompson/S
Round 5-Asa Jackson/CB
Round 6-Tommy Streeter/WR
Round 7-DeAngelo Tyson/DT
OLB, WR, DE, OT
The Ravens, after a quiet free agency period, attempted to address a lot of their remaining needs in the draft.
There’s no question that outside linebacker was a top need, so it was addressed with the selection of Courtney Upshaw with the first of two second-round picks. And the team learned after the draft that starting OLB Terrell Suggs will miss significant time due to an Achilles injury, so the selection of Upshaw takes on an added importance going forward. Upshaw a lot of time at end in college, so he’ll have to make quick transition to standing up more at the NFL level. According to a personnel source, there was a lingering concern about Upshaw’s weight before the draft, which could explain why he dropped out of the first round.
Fellow second-rounder Kelechi Osemele will get a chance to start immediately at LG. The rookie will get a chance to compete against recently signed veteran Bobbie Williams and second-year OL Jah Reid, who might be better off at tackle rather than at guard. Osemele, because of his long arms and big body, could play guard or right tackle at the NFL level.
The Ravens needed to add depth behind starting RB Ray Rice, so they grabbed RB Bernard Pierce in the third round. If Rice plays only on his franchise tender this season, he could leave via free agency next year, which makes Pierce’s selection an interesting one. Pierce, according to a personnel source, projects well to a two-back system, where he would share touches with another back. It remains to be seen, if Rice couldn’t play, whether he could handle a full-time role.
The Ravens addressed the future of the center position with the selection of Gino Gradkowski in the fourth round. Gradkowski is capable of playing either guard position or center, but is projected to be the eventual replacement for veteran C Matt Birk. Gradkowski, a favorite of the scouting community because of his athleticism and intelligence, could have easily been selected a round higher based on his upside. Fellow fourth-rounder S Christian Thompson, like Gradkowski, looks like he was drafted in the hope that he’ll eventually replace a veteran. And with starting FS Ed Reed turning 34 in September, Thompson’s role could increase over the next few seasons.
Fifth-round pick CB Asa Jackson is a true developmental defensive back. Jackson, out of Cal-Poly, didn’t face the greatest competition in the world, which could explain why he lasted to the last day of the draft. However, he’s known in scouting circles for his tremendous athleticism. Jackson, who played quarterback in high school, will challenge for the fifth CB job.
Perhaps the most intriguing pick for the Ravens was sixth-round pick WR Tommy Streeter. The rookie has tremendous size for the position and had a knack for making contested in traffic, a trait which scouts love. The knock on Streeter is that he lacked good route running and was just a straight line speed receiver. Still, his size will come in handy at the NFL level. He absolutely should not only make the roster this season, but should be one of the team’s top-four receivers once the regular season starts.
Seventh-round pick DT DeAngelo Tyson faces an uphill battle to make the team as a rookie. It will come down to how many defensive linemen the team wants to keep on its roster. However, he offers enough upside to wind up being a fifth DL for the long haul.
Overall, general manager &executive vice president Ozzie Newsome continued his trend of building his roster through the draft and supplementing it through free agency. In this particular draft, he addressed various needs from both sides of the ball, but there’s still some work to be done as far as depth is concerned.