Ravens draft preview: specialists

April 25, 2012|By Jeff Zrebiec

With the draft starting tomorrow night, today will be the final day of The Sun’s position-by-look at the Ravens. Today, we’ll examine the specialists:

Current specialists under contract: Kicker: Billy Cundiff; Punter: Sam Koch; Long snapper: Morgan Cox; Returners: Lardarius Webb, David Reed, Philip Livas.  

Chances that the Ravens draft a specialist in first three rounds: As much of a priority as the Ravens have made upgrading their special teams, which struggled last season, they are not going to be spend an early pick in the draft on it exclusively. However, it’s fair to say that special teams will undoubtedly be kept in mind throughout the draft. There’s also a good chance that if the Ravens use a third or fourth-round pick on a wide receiver or running back, that player will have some background as a return man. The Ravens have made it clear that they want to come out of the draft with an explosive return man, something that they lacked last season. The Ravens are set at punter and long snapper and while they plan to bring in competition for Cundiff, that will come in the form of a veteran free agent or an un-drafted free agent.  

Kick returners possibly on Ravens’ radar: Joe Adams (Arkansas), Brandon Boykin (Georgia), T.Y. Hilton (Florida International), Buddy Jackson (Pittsburgh), Chris Rainey (Florida).  

Outlook: The Ravens have identified a handful of prospects that they feel will be able to jump start their stagnant return game and they’ll undoubtedly try to come out of the draft, or the un-drafted free agent period that follows with one of them. NFL draft guru and Baltimore native Mel Kiper Jr. said that he feels that both Adams or Hilton would be really good fits for the Ravens possibly with their third-round picks. Adams had four punt return touchdowns last season for Arkansas, though he didn’t return kicks. Of the Ravens’ primary kick returners this past season, David Reed, who sustained a season-ending knee injury last season, is not certain to be ready for the start of the season. Tom Zbikowski left in free agency. Primary punt returner Lardarius Webb just got a five-year, $50 million contract extension and team officials would prefer that the Ravens’ top cornerback isn’t in harm’s way more than necessary. Webb, however, has expressed a willingness to remain in that spot.

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