Ravens' Top 3 Team Needs, 2014 Draft and Beyond
With a little over 1/4 of the season in the books, let's talk about the Ravens' team needs for 2014 and beyond.
To open the season I would have put WR front and center as the Ravens' top need. That's no longer the case IMO. Torrey Smith has been excellent and could be even better if used more creatively. Marlon Brown looks like he is rounding into a legit #2 NFL WR, and I would not bet against Deonte Thompson and especially a revitalized Tandon Doss. Aaron Mellette is also an intriguing prospect for the future.
Right now it looks obvious to me that TE is the top need. Let's call it #1a as the next need is probably just as dire from a pure performance standpoint, but the thing that really scares me about TE is that the Ravens have 0 of them under contract next year. Zero, zip, zilch, nada. Furstenburg is currently on the PS and could be cheaply signed, but he is nowhere near ready to be a #1 NFL TE. They could sign Pitta, but even then they still need a more complete TE that can play in-line and allow Pitta to move into the slot. My dream candidate is Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, but he'll probably go top 20, which will hopefully be outside the Ravens' reach.
#1b is interior OL. Gradkowski has been a disaster. He could always pull a John Sullivan and make a huge leap from year 1 to year 2, but I'm not betting on it, and even if he does neither KO nor Yanda have been anywhere near good enough this year. Yanda will be 30 to open the 2014 season, gets very expensive in the last 2 years of his deal, and could be breaking down physically as he's been hurt seemingly all of the last calendar year. KO might be better at RT than LG long-term and has injury concerns of his own. I think they could really use a versatile lineman to compete with Gino and/or replace one of the G positions short or long-term. The Ravens do have some depth here with Jah Reid and Ryan Jensen both under contract cheaply.
#3 is DB. Safety or CB, pick your poison, because the Ravens do not have a good numbers situation here. They have no FS to play next to Matt Elam, projected starter at SS, unless one of the depth/STs guys steps up. Ihedigbo had a hot start to the year but has been horribly exposed over the last few games, and I doubt he'll be re-signed. At CB, they only have 4 under contract and C. Brown and Smith will both be entering contract years. Unless Asa Jackson is ready to be a #3 CB--and never gets into any kind of substance trouble again--they'll be hurting for numbers at this position, too. I would love to see them look at a guy who could start at FS with a history of playing corner like Tre Boston out of North Carolina, a guy I like a lot who could be a 2nd or 3rd rounder if he keeps playing as well as he has.