As the NFL Scouting Combine approaches - are we really just four days away from the first workouts? - I find a little easier to stomach talking about mock drafts and making projections for how teams will select in April's draft.
Having these discussions the week of the Super Bowl bugs me. Having them the week of the Combine is OK, I guess.
One guy that we'll hear from a lot in the next two months leading up to the draft is Mike Mayock of the NFL Network. Mayock is very well-respected in NFL circles, and personally, I think he's one of the better draft analysts out there.
Mayock, like myself, seems to think that finding a young, speedy receiver is something that is on the top of the Ravens' wish list as they prepare for this year's draft. With that in mind, he sees University of Maryland's Torrey Smith, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound burner, as a guy that the Ravens will target with the 26th overall pick.
"If you're talking about the Baltimore Ravens, they're looking for a vertical guy," Mayock said on a recent conference call. "They're looking for a guy that flies, and Torrey Smith fits that. He's a guy that's going to run 4.35 or 4.38 or something in there. You see vertical speed. You don't see him up against press. You just see him run vertical routes, crosses and bubbles, and he can do that. I mean, he's really special when it comes to those kind of routes."
The idea that Smith has trouble working against press coverage is one that he'll have a tough time shaking.
The perception among scouts is that Smith excels in space and is able to do damage when given a clean release off the line of scrimmage, but that he isn't quite tough enough to fight through bump-and-run coverage and create separation in his routes. His speed, big-play ability, and production at Maryland (67 receptions, 1,055 yards and 12 touchdowns last year) make him an intriguing prospect, however.
While Smith is a possibility late in the first round, the majority of mock drafts that I've seen to this point have the Ravens selecting a cornerback with their first-round pick. GM Ozzie Newsome tends to draft based on a best-player-available mindset, so anything is possible when the Ravens are on the clock, but I would be surprised to see the Ravens go corner at No. 26.
Mayock is of that mind as well, because there aren't many first-round caliber corners after Nebraska's Prince Amukamra (who I would take with the first pick in my Best Name mock draft) and LSU's Patrick Peterson. Both of those corners are projected as top-10 picks.
"After Amukamara and Patrick Peterson, there is a drop off," Mayock said. "I happen to think the kid from Miami (Brandon Harris) to me is a second or third round corner. He's not a first round corner. The kid from Texas, Aaron Williams, to me I'm still trying to figure him out. I've watched about three or four of his tapes, and he's the guy that could fit in at the end of the first round.
"I don't think there is a fit for the Ravens at corner at 26. I do think a receiver will be there, and I do know that some of those defensive linemen and linebacker types that they like will be there."