The Ravens added an interesting developmental defensive back in the third round Friday, selecting Brandon Stephens of Southern Methodist University (SMU) with the 104th pick.
Stephens converted from running back to cornerback just two years ago when he transferred from UCLA to SMU. Despite being new to the position, he registered 23 pass breakups and showed a quick understanding of the position's concepts.
The Ravens already have a loaded cornerbacks room with Pro Bowlers Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, as well as Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young and Anthony Averett.
Stephens has the physical attributes (he ran a 4.44 40-yard dash), attitude (team captain), and competitiveness to develop as an NFL defensive back. Now he'll have the chance to come in and learn from the Ravens' veterans and coaches to sharpen his skills.
He provides position flexibility and could play at free safety or nickel, and Stephens will surely be viewed as a core special teams prospect.
Size: 6-foot-1, 215 pounds
2020 stats: 10 games, 43 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 11 passes defensed, 1 interception
2019 stats: 13 games, 49 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 12 passes defensed
Why he fits the Ravens: Baltimore operates under the mantra that it can never have too many cornerbacks. Plus, the Ravens have a need for more depth at safety. Stephens checks both boxes, as General Manager Eric DeCosta said he believes Stephens could "end up being a really, really good free safety."
How the pick went down: There was a run on cornerbacks at the end of the third round as four flew off the board in consecutive picks: Nahshon Wright (Dallas), Elijah Moden (Tennessee), Ifeatu Melifonwu (Detroit) and Ambry Thomas (San Francisco). DeCosta said Stephens was a player the Ravens identified early in the day that they would like to land.
Scouting report: "Stephens is big, strong and athletic and his position switch from running back to cornerback two years ago means he should keep improving at his craft. He flashes, but he is still in the very early stages of learning the position. The basic fundamentals of press, route recognition and finding positioning will take time to develop, but his traits make him an intriguing draft and stash developmental prospect. He has special teams coverage potential to help him play right away. – Lance Zierlein, NFL Media
Background: When Brandon Stephens decided he was going to stop being a UCLA running back and transfer to become a cornerback, there were a lot of doubters. Stephens was a big-time running back recruit who had offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Florida, Stanford and others. He chose UCLA, a prestigious school for running backs. But after two years and not much production (277 rushing yards), he decided to transfer to SMU, which gave him the opportunity to play a position he grew fond of in high school in Texas.
What the Ravens said: "[Our scouts] identified him early on as a developmental corner who played running back at UCLA. The thing about him is he wanted to play corner. That's what drove his transfer. Over two years of playing corner, he had 21 PBUs. He's a big, physical, athletic kid. He got his hands on a lot of balls. You see a lot of raw talent and you really saw him get better throughout the season when you watch his tape in chronological order." – Director of Player Personnel Joe Hortiz
What Stephens said: "I've always had a love for defense and playing DB. I played it a little bit in high school, so that's where my love for the position really started. I just felt like it was the better option for me. I felt like that's where my head was at and where my passion was at. … There was a lot of doubters when I made the move. Some people didn't understand why I was making the move, but I did. This just goes to prove what I saw and what my vision was going forward."