Feb 21, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Missouri defensive lineman Shane Ray talks to the media at the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
More so than any year in the past, the Baltimore Ravens have a ton of options with their first-round pick. They are fortunate that the talent in this draft (deep group of receivers, pass rushers, running backs, corners) matches up with their needs.
With so many options, let’s try to make sense of it. Here are the possibilities for the Ravens in the first round.
Running backs: Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley
I’d be absolutely stunned if the Ravens take a running back in the first round, but I think Melvin Gordon would be a worthy choice. His vision is as good as it gets, and he has great burst and power as well.
Todd Gurley, on the other hand, is a true tackle-breaker. I have questions about his ability in the zone blocking scheme and his health, though. Consider both of these guys unlikely, with Gordon being the only realistic first-round running back.
Wide Receiver: DeVante Parker, Jaelen Strong, Devin Funchess, Sammie Coates, Devin Smith
Let’s start with DeVante Parker, who makes some of the most breathtaking plays of any receiver in this class. Separation or not, DeVante Parker can catch anything. He is the best jump ball receiver in this class, and if he is available, the Ravens should sprint to the podium to get him.
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Jaelen Strong blew up the Combine with a 42 inch vertical, and like Parker, he can be a great jump ball threat. Strong needs to be more aggressive chasing the ball, but his route running is surprisingly savvy. All things considered, Strong is a pretty likely choice.
Devin Funchess is a conundrum, not fast enough to get separation but not a great jump ball threat either. He plays a bit like a slower Marlon Brown, which isn’t a good thing for a 6’5″ receiver. Brown plays like a slot receiver in a big body, and so does Funchess.
In terms of physical skills, few are better than Sammie Coates, who ran a 4.43, jumped 41 inches in the vertical and repped 225 23 times. Coates is a big play threat, but not a polished receiver by any means. He will probably go in the first round or early second, but I don’t think the Ravens should take him in the first.
Devin Smith is a bit like DeVante Parker, in that he has one overwhelmingly incredible skill that should translate to the NFL level. In Smith’s case, that’s the deep ball. Few adjust to the ball better than Smith, and he can win jump balls more than his 6′ frame would suggest. If Smith miraculously falls to the second round, he’d be a no brainer. He could still be a solid first rounder.
Tight Ends: Maxx Williams
The only tight end who has a chance to go in the first round is Maxx Williams. Williams is a high effort player with a world of upside. He is a surprisingly good blocker who only needs to learn leverage to become one of the better blocking tight ends in the game. As a receiver, Williams is a natural, with soft hands and fluid athleticism. He is a blast to watch on film and would be a great first-round pick.
Pass Rushers: Randy Gregory, Shane Ray, Dante Fowler Jr., Vic Beasley, Bud Dupree
Randy Gregory is most like a top-five pick, but after measuring just 235 pounds at the Combine, Gregory could fall. He uses his hands extremely well, showing surprising violence for a guy with so little sand in his pants. Paired with his tremendous athleticism, Gregory should be a star.
Shane Ray doesn’t quite have Gregory’s immense physical tools, but his first step is just as good. He is also more raw than Gregory, but that raw talent cannot be denied. Ray will probably go too high for the Ravens.
Dante Fowler is much the same, a guy very likely to go before the Ravens pick. They’ll do their due diligence, though, and find another guy with an elite first step.
Finally, Bud Dupree is a relative unknown, albeit one with a lot of potential. Like Beasley, he blew up the Combine, showing incredible quick twitch athleticism. Whether that is enough to justify a first-round pick remains to be seen.
Cornerbacks: Trae Waynes, Marcus Peters, Jalen Collins
Trae Waynes will go too early after running a 4.31 at the Combine, which is a shame, because he’s the most natural cover corner in this draft class. Few cornerbacks have Waynes’ ability to shadow receivers and track the ball.
Marcus Peters has not impressed me aside from his ability in press coverage. His jam is awe inspiring. Aside from that, Peters is honestly a marginal prospect with slow instincts in off coverage.
Jalen Collins is as raw as it gets, with length, speed and not much else. Ball skills and actual coverage ability is questionable, but he is getting first-round hype.
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