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NFL draft questions: Will Ravens find next Ray Lewis?

With the 2013 NFL Draft only weeks away, Around the League will examine one big question facing all 32 teams. Next up: The Baltimore Ravens.

Will the Ravens find a successor to Ray Lewis?


Entering the offseason, the front office viewed a new contract for Dannell Ellerbe as their top priority. One scout told NFL.com's Ian Rapoport that Ellerbe had emerged as the Ravens' best defensive player, stepping up his game when Ray Lewis went down with a torn triceps in October.

The Ravens badly wanted to keep Ellerbe in place as Lewis' heir, but threw up their hands in frustration when the Miami Dolphins offered $35 million for a player with 14 starts in four seasons.

While veteran options such as Karlos Dansby remain unsigned, the Ravens currently have untested Albert McClellan and injured Jameel McClain atop the depth chart at inside linebacker.

The Ravens have been popularly "mocked" to Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, LSU's Kevin Minter, Kansas State's Arthur Brown and Georgia's Alec Ogletree with the 32nd pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. The problem is that several teams drafting from Nos. 19 to 31, including the New York Giants, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings, have a need at inside or middle linebacker.

We can expect Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome to enter the draft with a "best player available" approach, but he can't ignore his roster needs if it's a close call on a pair of prospects. Should one of the top inside linebackers fall in Newsome's lap, there's a good chance he will pull the trigger on a player to fill Lewis' rather wide shoes.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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