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Ravens Draft: Q & A with Matt DeLima

2013 RAVENS DRAFT Q & A with Matt De Lima

Each year we feature writer(s) from draft websites for some questions and answers. The past few years Matt De Lima, has been a supporter and participant to our site. We thank Matt  for taking time to answer our questions.

Matt De Lima is a recognized Fantasy sports writer. When he’s not busy talking in the third person, he is the Lead NFL Draft Editor at FFToolbox.com and contributes his Fantasy football insight to 4for4.com. His often-updated mock draft at FFToolbox has accumulated two million page views over the last three years. He was a finalist for the 2011 College Sports Writer of the Year, an award presented by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Follow him on Twitter @mattkdelima and Facebook at http://on.fb.me/mattkdelima

Q 1. Obviously, defense is going to be a high priority for Baltimore. GM Ozzie Newsome said, the team wants to get stronger in the middle of the defense. What are your thoughts on the Ravens coming away from the draft in order to strengthen their defense with this year’s prospects?

Matt DeLima:First, I’d like to say thank you for having me for a Q&A for the third straight year at Baltimore Gridiron Report. Always a pleasure to share my thoughts with NFL fans. Losing Ray Lewis is difficult to measure. He provided legendary leadership that will be sorely missed, but at the same time, he was simply not the same player he once was. He was solid run defender and had declined significantly in pass coverage. 

What isn’t talked about much is that having Lewis for so long, it allowed Baltimore to stockpile depth and luckily, they won’t fall off a cliff at the position. Retaining Dannell Ellerbe is important though, especially with Jameel McClain (hopefully) coming back from injury sooner rather than later. Ellerbe shined bright throughout the season and into the playoffs. 

Addressing nose tackle should also be a goal. Terrance Cody is still developing slowly and unfortunately, he remains a two-down player who must be used in a rotation. Adding a complementary backup in the later rounds or a first or second round stud NT would be ideal.”

 

Q2. In your latest mock draft, you have DT Jonathan Hankins, Ohio State and DE/OLB Alex Okafor, Texas, going to Baltimore in the first two rounds.  Tell fans what you like about them and the skills they brings to the NFL? 

Matt:  “Hankins is a big-bodied DT who could feasibly play in a couple spots for Baltimore. He can handle double-teams well and anchor down to occupy running lanes. The key here is that when paired with a talent like Haloti Ngata, he would really shine when facing blockers one-on-one. He lacks ideal pass-rushing talent, but most DTs aren’t asked for anything more than collapsing the pocket. He can certainly push the pile and blow up the running game though which would prevent blockers from getting to that second level to take on linebackers. The key here is he shows good stamina in the second half and could contribute on all three-downs.

 Okafor would be a nice value pick in the second round. He is powerful off the line and is already well-built. Most view him as a 4-3 DE, but I think he can develop into a OLB. His tweener size would also allow any defense to use his versatility at multiple spots. While he lacks that ideal elite speed, Okafor has a high ceiling because of his length. If the Ravens are looking for more athleticism and speed off the edge at OLB, he may not be the perfect fit.”

 

Q 3. Staying on the topic of linebackers, some “experts” have the Ravens selecting LB Manti Te’o and some think even the highly ranked Georgia LB Ogletree might fall late. What’s your assessment? Personally, I’m not sold on Te’o, I still have questions about his ability at the NFL level.  Enlighten me. 

Matt:  “Straight line speed is overrated for ILBs which addresses the latest critique to Te’o’s game. Not everyone can be Patrick Willis and cover guys like Jimmy Graham 25 yards downfield. That said, his athleticism (or lack thereof) is a legitimate concern, but there’s no need to exaggerate. The guy isn’t a draft bust and deserves to hear his name called early on Day 1. Whether someone likes him or not, he had one of the most impressive defensive seasons ever in college football ever. That’s a big statement, but it’s the truth. The NFL is chock full of characters, weird personalities and drama queens so his fake girlfriend controversy will eventually become a distant memory. He is still high character guy who can contribute as a starting caliber ILB for the next decade. Finally, I rank Ogletree a little higher as a prospect because of his speed and short-area explosion. I expect both to be mid-to-late first round picks.”

 

Q 4. It may be hard to re-sign Ed Reed this year and I have a sneaky suspicion he may retire, just a gut feeling, who knows with Reed.   Do you see any free safety with the talent to be a future starter in the NFL. Such as, D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina, or Eric Reid, LSU –or another prospect?

Matt:  “Letting Ed Reed walk via free agency would be a mistake and I’m of the opinion that they will find a way to retain him. If he does leave or retire, that’d obviously be a huge blow to Baltimore’s secondary with no proven backup. 

This is a pretty good safety class with a solid second-tier of player who I expect to be drafted in the middle rounds. One guy I really like is Florida’s Josh Evans. He is definitely under the radar compared to his former teammate Matt Elam. Just a natural athlete and intelligent football player who’s had experience all over the field. He ran pretty well at the combine and should be available in the later rounds.

Reid is being judged far too harshly by NFL draft gurus and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is drafted ahead of where many anticipate (I see him as an early second round prospect with many pushing him down into the third round). I prefer him over Swearinger as a true free safety. Swearinger is more of an “inside the box” type who would likely fit as a strong safety for most teams.”

 

Q 5. It looks like this draft is front loaded with defensive players, are there any offensive tackles you see falling to the Ravens? Late in round one or round two? 

Matt:  After Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, Lane Johnson and maybe D.J. Fluker come off the board in the first 20 picks or so, I think there is a reasonable drop-off in talent. FSU’s Menelik Watson could go next early in the second but he is a project and may not be ready as a rookie.  I have a gut feeling the Ravens might take a flier on Virginia Tech’s Vinston Painter. A very raw prospect who didn’t get enough playing time with the Hokies for whatever reason.

Baltimore has a history taking VT players and Painter is a late-round/UFA type that could slip through the cracks. Another guy receiving a ton of attention who is quickly rising up draft boards is Terron Armstead of Arkansas – Pine Bluff. He ran the fastest 40 time for an offensive lineman ever. That has to count for something. Long term, a lot of this draft’s second-tier players are projects who will need to grow into their positions which may not appeal to Baltimore if they’re looking for an immediate return from a first or second round pick.”

 

Q 6. The Ravens were quite fortunate to have a rookie class that made major contributions to the team’s Super Bowl run.  Next season Gino Gradkowski (4th round 2012), will compete for staring Center, since Matt Birk retired. I’m sure the Ravens bring in a veteran center to compete, but do you think Gradkowski can start in 2013? 

Matt:  Gradkowski should be good to go in 2013. He fared well in limited playing time and given that Baltimore has some nice pieces already in place upfront (Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele), they have a good foundation and supporting cast to give Gradkowski a shot. The thing to remember about him is that he really came out of left field late in the evaluation period and went from a UFA prospect to a mid-round pick very quickly. This tells me that the Baltimore’s personnel guys really liked him and Baltimore really saw something in him to reach for him.”


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