Welcome to draft day, folks.
After all the film sessions, spandex workouts and mock drafts (none of which will end up being anywhere near correct, by the way), we’re finally ready for commissioner Roger Goodell to step to the podium and kick off the 2011 NFL draft.
The first round of the draft is tonight, and the Ravens will enter the proceedings with the 26th overall pick. But they won’t necessarily stay there. As I’ve mentioned, the Ravens are known for their willingness to move around on Day One, and with a number of teams reportedly looking to move back into the later portion of the first round, there’s a decent chance that, for the second straight year, general manager Ozzie Newsome trades down and doesn’t make a pick on the draft’s opening night.
If the Ravens do end up picking tonight - and I’m sure many of you hope they do, so you don’t end up wasting an entire night waiting for some action - here are five players who they might consider.
Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
I’ll say it right off the bat - I don’t think Smith will be on the board by the time the Ravens are on the clock; that is, if they stay at No. 26. Smith’s stock has risen and the concern about his off-the-field issues has seemingly decreased, and if he gets to the Eagles at 23, I think they’ll snatch him up. But Smith has a ton of talent and could be a nice fit in Baltimore. He’s long, athletic and has great ball skills, and with guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed in the Ravens’ locker room, Smith would have a lot of guys trying to keep him in check outside of the white lines. Again, I don’t expect him to be around at 26, but that doesn’t mean the Ravens wouldn’t move up a few spots to snag him.
Muhammad Wilkerson, DL, Temple
Wilkerson has great size (6-foot-4, 315 lbs.) and could be a perfect 5-technique in the Ravens’ system. He can fill a need for an athletic defensive end that can set the edge, and as his 9.5 sacks last year prove, he can get after the quarterback as well. Wilkerson has been projected by some as a mid-first-round pick, but others feel he could be a candidate to slide down the board a bit. If he’s available when the Ravens are picking at 26, there’s a good chance he’ll be Newsome’s pick. The Ravens like this guy.
Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
There’s a cluster of offensive tackles that are projected to go in the mid-to-late portion of the first round, and I think Sherrod is the one most likely to be around when the 26th pick comes up. Sherrod is massive (6-foot-5, 321 lbs.), has very long arms and is considered a mature, centered prospect. He isn’t quite as physical as a few of the other offensive tackles projected to go in this range, but that’s why those guys (Anthony Castonzo, Gabe Carimi and Nate Solder) will probably go before Sherrod. The former Bulldog is still a good prospect, however, and could give the Ravens solid support at the right tackle position.
Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
Personally, I’m not enamored with the idea of the Ravens taking Heyward at 26, just because I don’t think he’s enough of a playmaker to warrant a first-round selection. That said, when I asked Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz about Heyward recently, Hortiz’ eyes lit up and he had very positive things to say. The son of former NFL running back Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, Cameron only posted 15.5 sacks in his four-year career at Ohio State, but he’s considered a good teammate, is incredibly tough and is sound against the run. If the Ravens really like Heyward, my bet is they could trade down and grab him toward the beginning of the second round.
Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona
This is my outside-the-box guy in the group. Reed hasn’t gotten a lot of love as a first-rounder by mock draft gurus, but I see him as a guy that fits the Ravens’ mold. He has great pass rush skills, plays incredibly hard and takes the game seriously. Reed has been compared to Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, but as Hortiz says, that’s probably just because he has long blonde hair, played in the Pac-10 and flies around the field. Maybe Reed doesn’t possess the athleticism that Matthews does, but he can set the edge and could give the Ravens a big boost in the pass rush department, something they certainly need.