Ravens hold final practice before heading south

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Ravens hold final practice before heading south

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) After one final practice at their own training facility, the Super Bowl-bound Baltimore Ravens packed their bags for a trip to New Orleans.

The Ravens had a light practice Saturday, their last of the season before heading to the Big Easy. The team is off Sunday and will head south Monday in anticipation of their matchup on Feb. 3 with the San Francisco 49ers.

After Saturday's session, coach John Harbaugh said, ``We've had a great week. We had an excellent practice. The guys are very sharp and they're excited. We'll have to go down there and do just as well and do better.''

Harbaugh called the 49ers ``a very well-coached football team.'' He said it with a grin, because San Francisco is coached by his little brother, Jim.

Why Ravens feel they made right call with Stanley over Tunsil

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Why Ravens feel they made right call with Stanley over Tunsil

Here are three reasons why drafting left tackle Ronnie Stanley with the No. 6 pick made sense for the Ravens:

1. They need a left tackle they can count on, and Eugene Monroe hasn’t been that guy. 

Monroe has been injury-prone the last two seasons, and it’s clear his future with the team is uncertain. Perhaps a healthy Monroe spends another season with the Ravens, and Stanley can play left guard if he struggles during offseason workouts and training camp. But the Ravens drafted Stanley with the intention of him being the starting left tackle. Listen to what coach John Harbaugh had to say when asked about Monroe, and the left tackle position.

“It pans out how it pans out,” Harbaugh said. “May the best man win. We’ll see who that is.” 

2. The Ravens believe they can trust Stanley, both on and off the field.

The Ravens couldn’t miss on this pick, which means they couldn’t risk someone who carries off-the-field baggage. That made the choice between Stanley and Mississipi left tackle Laremy Tunsil easier. Harbaugh is close friends with Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. Harbaugh and Hiestand had a long conversation about Stanley that helped sell Harbaugh.

“He couldn’t speak enough to his character, to his intelligence, to his toughness, and to what kind of football player he was going to be Harbaugh said. 

3. All the Ravens’ plans for next season go down the drain if Joe Flacco suffers another season-ending injury. 

“We just invested a lot in Joe (Flacco ) for the next six years,” said general manager Ozzie Newsome. “We feel like Ronnie comes in with an opportunity to compete, and at some point will be a starter and a starter for a long time for the Baltimore Ravens.”

MORE RAVENS: CHARLEY CASSERLY GIVES A REPORT ON STANLEY

Newsome on Stanley: He was our top-rated guy at time of pick

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Newsome on Stanley: He was our top-rated guy at time of pick

OWINGS MILLS -- After watching two of their top defensive targets go off the board – defensive end Joey Bosa to San Diego at No. 3 and defensive back Jalen Ramsey to Jacksonville at No. 5 – the Ravens went on the offensive, selecting Notre Dame tackle Ronnie Stanley with the sixth overall pick in the draft.

The move gives the Ravens a potential long-term anchor on Joe Flacco’s blind side, but in picking Stanley, the Ravens chose not to immediately address their defensive concerns, bypassing Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner – who went No. 7 overall to the 49ers — and also opted against Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil, who many considered a potential No. 1 overall pick.

General manager Ozzie Newsome said Stanley was the Ravens top-rated player when they picked and dismissed concerns about not drafting defense first.

“Well we got eight picks,” Newsome said, “and we got a good board.”

Assuming the Ravens do not trade back into the first round, the Ravens will next pick at No. 36 overall.

As for Tunsil, he became one of the stories of the draft when, minutes before the draft began, a video surfaced on his Twitter feed that appeared to show him wearing a gas mask and smoking something from a bong. The Twitter account was deleted. 

Tunsil fell out of the top 10 and was selected by the Dolphins at No. 13 overall.

Newsome implied the Ravens already had concerns about Tunsil.

“Our scouts get a lot of information and when things happen, a lot of times we’re not surprised,” Newsome said after the Ravens selected Stanley. “So, we took the best player, the player who was rated highest on the board at that point.”

MORE RAVENS: VIDEO POSTED MINUTES BEFORE DRAFT HURTS TUNSIL

Ravens get offensive - select Notre Dame tackle Ronnie Stanley

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Ravens get offensive - select Notre Dame tackle Ronnie Stanley

With the sixth pick in the draft, the Ravens selected left tackle Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame. Stanley will be expected to become a starter as a rookie, protecting quarterback Joe Flacco’s blind side. The addition of Stanley further clouds the Ravens future of left tackle Eugene Monroe, who has struggled to stay healthy the past two seasons.

Strengths: Stanley was an excellent pass blocker in college, and was improving as a run blocker. Scouts thought he was good enough to turn pro a year ago, but Stanley returned for his senior year. That should help him be NFL-ready by Week 1, and Stanley also impressed teams at the combine with his aptitude and demeanor during interviews.

Weaknesses: Stanley is not the most physical offensive lineman, and could be overpowered at times early in his career. If he has a rough day in training camp, or once the games start, does Stanley have a short enough memory to bounce back quickly?

Bottom line: This was a smart pick for the Ravens.  Stanley is a safer choice at left tackle than Tunsil, and all of the Ravens’ plans for next season go up in smoke again if Flacco suffers another serious injury. Taking a player who can help keep Flacco healthy next season and beyond, and is step toward the Ravens reestablishing themselves as consistent playoff contenders.