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Baltimore Ravens mock draft roundup: Analysts expect first-round pick to bolster defense

pennlive.com — Aaron Kasinitz pennlive.com

Feb. 14--Another week brought another batch of NFL writers predicting how the first round of the draft will unfold.

The scouting combine sits a little more than a week away, and then teams will continue to evaluate prospects while also tweaking their rosters when free agency opens in March. So much is sure to change before the NFL’s marquee offseason event begins in Las Vegas on April 23.

But for now, there seems to be a near consensus on how the Baltimore Ravens will use the No. 28 overall draft pick: Analyst after analyst has projected the team to select a player in the defensive front seven.

That trend shows up in our latest roundup of players mock drafters are projecting the Ravens to take in the first round...

Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner: Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin

Renner’s take: “The Ravens' defense blitzed more than any other in the league last season, and there is no better blitzing linebacker in this draft than Baun. That’s because he could legitimately play edge defender in the NFL the way he rushes the passer, but he has already stated he wants to play off-ball. Baun had a 91.0 pass-rushing grade and an 86.9 coverage grade this past season.”

My take: A few other writers have linked Baun to the Ravens, and it’s easy to see the connection, considering Baltimore’s style of play combined with its need to restock the linebacking corps with young talent. Baun doesn’t come without concerns, though. He wasn’t an impactful player until the senior season of his college career and he’ll need a strong showing at the combine to show he has the physical tools worthy of a first-round draft choice. Picking late in the first round, the Ravens won’t find a flawless option, so they can overlook some of the question marks surrounding Braun if they fall in love with his game tape from 2019.

CBS Sports’ Will Brinson: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU

Brinson’s take: "The Ravens bring in some pass rush help with several key defenders heading to free agency. Chaisson showed how much of an impact he can have as LSU marched to a national title.”

My take: A 2018 ACL tear interrupted Chaisson’s college career, and he totaled a modest 6.5 sacks upon his return to the field this past season. He’s a top-tier draft prospect because there’s nothing modest about his size (about 6 feet, 4 inches and 250 pounds), power and athleticism. If the 20-year-old Chaisson slips to near the backend of the first round, the Ravens would have to decide whether it’s worth gambling on a young player with scintillating potential who didn’t have the chance to put together a full college career.

SB Nation’s Dan Kadar: Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama

Kadar’s take: “As a hybrid pass rusher, Lewis is the perfect fit for Baltimore. Lewis is a long and fast pass rusher who could replace Matt Judon if he leaves in free agency.”

My take: Lewis is eerily similar to Chasisson in some ways. He’s an SEC edge rusher who’s oozing with physical talent but missed time in 2018 with an ACL tear and put together a good-but-not-great showing upon his return to the field. Chaisson has more upside than Lewis if both are on the board, but they sit together in the lump of edge rushers who are high-level prospects that might sink into the Ravens’ draft range.

PennLive’s Daniel Gallen: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

Gallen’s: “The Ravens defensive front and secondary are both strong, but the second level could use a boost. So Murray makes sense as a player who could clean things up and make plays, and he’s already a popular pick in other mock drafts.”

My take: My colleague Daniel is my favorite mock drafter, and Murray’s a pretty good mock draft choice, too. He’s an athletic and speedy inside linebacker who showed the ability to fly around the field in the middle of the Sooners’ defense. He might not fit as a prototypical MIKE linebacker, and the Ravens would be hesitant to spend a first-round pick on Murray if they feel he’s more suited as an athletic role player rather than every-down linchpin. Still, they could just plug a young talent like Murray into the heart of their defense and figure things out from there.

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