Mike Preston: To NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., Ravens can fill their needs with just five picks

Mike Preston, Baltimore Sun on

Published in Football

BALTIMORE — ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has never hidden his affection for his hometown Ravens, and sometimes he can go overboard in showing favor.

But deep down inside, there is always that nugget of truth that sums up his evaluation of the team heading into the NFL draft, which begins April 27 in Kansas City.

“They should have beaten, could have beaten, Cincinnati easily with a beat-up, banged-up Tyler Huntley and no Lamar Jackson,” Kiper said of the Ravens’ quarterback situation in a 24-17 loss in the AFC wild-card round. “Physically, I thought they had them beaten had they not had the freakish play [Huntley’s goal-line fumble returned 98 yards for a touchdown] which resulted in the 14-point swing.”

When it comes to the draft, the positions the Ravens need to target are obvious to the Calvert Hall graduate, who has been covering the annual event for ESPN since 1984.

“The bottom line is they need one or two corners, they need one or two receivers and I think a defensive lineman,” Kiper said.

Even though the Ravens have only five picks — Nos. 22 (first round), 86 (third round), 124 (fourth round), 157 (fifth round) and 199 (sixth round) — Kiper believes they can still fill their needs. He said this wide receiver class is weaker than some recent years, but the two strongest positions are cornerback and tight end.


He also rates the quarterback position near the top, but then there is a drop-off. So while the Ravens and Jackson sit and wait to see who blinks first during contract negotiations, Baltimore needs to come away with a quarterback in the draft.

It probably won’t be either Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, who is expected to go No. 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers, or Alabama’s Bryce Young, projected as the No. 2 pick to the Houston Texans.

But the Indianapolis Colts might be willing to send their No. 4 pick to the Ravens in a deal for Jackson, putting Baltimore in position to draft Florida’s Anthony Richardson or Kentucky’s Will Levis.

“The most NFL-ready, right now, would be Stroud and Young,” Kiper said. “Levis played in two NFL systems with college coordinators. If you wanted to go to [new Ravens offensive coordinator] Todd Monken, you’d have to ask, what kind of quarterback you want?


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