Thursday, April 26, 2012

2012 NFL Draft

The 2012 NFL Draft starts tonight with Round 1. Personally I hate the new format with Round 1 on Thursday, 2-3 on Friday night, and 4-7 on Saturday. I get the business decision behind it, but it used to be a lot more fun to have it on two days (early rounds on Friday, mid- to late-rounds on Saturday). Plus, there is a chance now that your team doesn't even have a pick on the first night when all the big names go (like the Falcons this year or teams like the Patriots who like to trade out and gobble up other teams' picks).

That being said, I'm a big fan of the draft because 1) it gives you a chance to see if your team can pull in the missing pieces to get you to a Super Bowl victory 2) if you're a college football fan, then you get to see where your favorite players are going to end up playing on Sundays next fall 3) wheeling and dealing and gamesmanship is awesome 4) it's a great excuse for a drinking game (we'll get to that later).

I was toying with the idea of doing a mock draft, but there are so many mocks out there and I probably don't have anything new to say and am about as likely as being right as everyone else (I'm pretty sure it's harder to mock a draft 100% right than it is to have a perfect NCAA Tournament bracket). Instead I'm going to do a 7-round mock of what I think my team, the Ravens, could do as well as an expert's picks from fellow Spider Todd McShay:

Baltimore Ravens 2012 Mock Draft
Round 1- Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
Round 2 - Mychal Kendricks, ILB, California
Round 3 - Joe Looney, G, Wake Forest
Round 4 - Ben Jones, C, Georgia
Round 5 - Chris Rainey, RB, Florida
Round 5 - Janzen Jackson, S, McNeese State
Round 6 - Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State
Round 7 - Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M

Round 1
Disclaimer: I really do not know what the Ravens are going to do with their first round pick this year. The organization is one that tends to draft the "best player available," regardless of where that position is on their needs list. Peter Konz, the Center from Wisconsin, has been tied to the Ravens for weeks, but word is that Baltimore isn't totally enamored with him, and while he might fit a need (interior offensive lineman), he might not offer great value with the 29th pick.

I see this the Ravens first round breaking down one of two ways tonight: a highly rated player on their board drops to them (perhaps Upshaw; ILB Donta Hightower, Bama; or G/T Cordy Glenn, Georgia), or they trade out of the first with someone picking early in the second round for extra picks. Konz or someone like Notre Dame Safety Harrison Smith would offer great value early in the second.

McShay's Pick: Upshaw. Not surprising. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome is a former Bama player and Upshaw fills a hole left by the departure of Jarrett Johnson.

Round 2
As much as I want to believe that Ray Lewis in going to play forever, the Ravens need to find an Inside Linebacker to become his heir apparent. Mychal Kendricks has good speed and is a solid tackler, but might be a bit undersized. Sound like anyone we know? If Hightower doesn't drop to them in the first, Kendricks could become their guy.

McShay's Pick: Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma St. I'll be honest, I liked his pick better when it was Safety Brandon Taylor from LSU (looks like his picks or fluid, so they might change again by the time this is published), but you can't fault him for looking out for Baltimore's back end.

Round 3
The offensive line has been a liability at times for Baltimore ever since the retirement of the great Jonathan Ogden. While they would love to upgrade at Offensive Tackle, the loss of Ben Grubbs in free agency (and their inability to replace him) makes the interior O-Line probably the biggest focus of the Ravens during the draft. They need someone who can step in at Guard and be productive right away. I think Looney, a four-year starter at Wake Forest, could be the solution. Current Pro-Bowl G Marshall Yanda was taken in the 3rd back in 2007.

McShay's Pick: Looney. I swear I had this one pegged weeks ago.

Round 4
Another O-Lineman? Yup. Jones is the second-rated center in the draft and could be a target of the Ravens if they pass on Peter Konz early. Matt Birk signed a three-year contract during the off-season, but he's expressed interest in grooming his eventual replacement. Jones would be able to sit and learn behind Birk for a year, which would be a plus. [Note: This is a compensatory pick; the Ravens traded their 4th Round pick last year for Lee Evans *gulp*]

McShay's Pick: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers. Joe Flacco needs more weapons. Give him more weapons. I'm not sure Sanu is the right guy, but I'm not paid to be a talent evaluator.

Round 5
Baltimore gets two picks in Round 5, thanks to a compensatory pick, the first of which might be used to select Running Back Chris Rainey out of Florida. The Ravens need depth behind star Ray Rice, but I expect them to try and fill that with a free agent after the draft (Tim Hightower?). Rainey is going to be selected because of what he offers as a diverse offensive weapon and in the return game. Safety Janzen Jackson would be going higher if it weren't for "character issues" and his somewhat strange departure from Tennessee last summer (he played at McNeese State in 2011). Could be a ball-hawking safety that would benefit from the tutelage of Ed Reed.

McShay's Pick: Michael Smith, RB, Utah State; Malik Jackson, DE, Tennessee. I really think the Ravens can wait a year to draft a backup for Rice and should look to free agency (Hightower!) and Michael Smith doesn't offer as much versatility as Rainey. Malik Jackson would add depth to the D-Line but it's not thought that he could make the transition to OLB

Round 6
Burfict was tied to Baltimore's 1st Round pick for a long time, but the Inside Linebacker from Arizona State took a plummet after a terrible combine showing compounded the concerns about his character issues (he's considered a "violent" and "dirty" player by many). If Burfict comes out with a chip on his shoulder, then he could be punishing RBs and QBs for years to come. If he doesn't pan out, well, how many 6th Round picks do? [How dare you mention Tom Brady in my presence.]

McShay's Pick: Janzen Jackson. I took him a round earlier, but I might be too high on him. Added depth at safety after taking Martin in the 2nd. Having two former UT players on the Ravens might make my girlfriend happy though (shout out!).

Round 7
Joe Flacco needs more passing weapons around him and there doesn't appear to be a solid number three receiver currently on the roster to work in sets with Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, preferably a big body that can help stretch the field and go up for jump balls. After the free agent busts that were T.J. Housh[yourmamma] and Lee Evans, Baltimore stayed away from receivers in free agency this year and could add one or possibly more in the draft. Fuller has good size and could be an interesting late round option for the Ravens if they don't pursue the likes of Tommy Streeter (Miami) or possibly Dwight Jones (UNC) in an earlier round. There is also talk that Fuller could add some weight to move to Tight End, so he could be an interesting receiving option.

McShay's Pick: Ronald Leary, G, Memphis. Added O-Line depth.

Overall I think I prefer my mock draft to McShay's, but I'm a biased fan and don't spend time watching film the way he does (or at all) and I hate when people get so opinionated about picks and players when they should stick to their day jobs. This was all in good fun. The Draft starts in almost 8 hours, so we'll find out how things shake out soon enough.