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Eric DeCosta Sees 2017 Class As A 'Defensive Draft'


Eric DeCosta likes to assign themes to every draft.

As the Ravens assistant general manager looks through the crop of prospects in this year's class, the point he's consistently noticed is that the group is loaded on the defensive side. 

"Every draft kind of takes on it's own personality, and this seems to be, at the outset, a very defensive draft," DeCosta said at the scouting combine in Indianapolis.

Having a draft class stacked with defensive talent is good news for the Ravens based on their positions of need. They want to add players at all levels of their defense – particularly cornerback, safety, pass rusher – and this year's prospects have the potential to re-stock the cupboard with dynamic playmakers.

"We see a lot of talent at corner, at safety," DeCosta said. "We see some talent at pass rush, whether they're 4-3 defensive ends, possible interior sub rushers, and then outside linebackers."

Head Coach John Harbaugh has stressed on multiple occasions this offseason the importance of adding players in the defensive backfield. He said Wednesday that "we're thin in the secondary across the board."

The Ravens haven't drafted a cornerback in the first three rounds since taking Jimmy Smith in the first round of the 2011 draft, but that's a trend that appears destined to change this season. The Ravens need to find a long-term solution on the opposite side of Smith, and the last few seasons have illustrated the importance of having a deep stable of quality corners.

Drafting a cornerback with the No. 16 pick is a definite possibility for the Ravens, and DeCosta also suggested they may consider a safety at that spot.

"Corners are typically like your real blue-chip stocks – the Apple, the Coca-Cola, things like that.[period] Safeties are more value driven," DeCosta said. "What's the value of the player? How good is he compared to the other safeties in the draft and when do you pounce?

"In this draft,[add] we think there might be two really, really good safeties that might have a chance to compete with the corners in the first round."

Most pundits name LSU's Jamal Adams and Ohio State's Malik Hooker as the top two safeties in this year's class. The top cornerbacks are generally regarded as Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore, Washington's Sidney Jones, Florida's Teez Tabor and Florida's Quincy Wilson.

Pass rusher is also in the first-round mix considering that outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are in the latter stages of their careers. Some of the top edge rushers are Texas A&M's Myles Garrett, Stanford's Solomon Thomas, Tennessee's Derek Barnett, UCLA's Takkarist McKinley, Michigan's Taco Charlton and Alabama's Tim Williams.

Regardless of what direction the Ravens go with their first-round pick, they'll still have a chance to nab defensive starters later in the draft. If they don't take the coveted cornerback or pass rusher at No. 16, they could likely still get in impact player at those spots in the second or third round.

"I think it's one of the best defensive drafts I've seen," NFL Network's Mike Mayock said during a pre-combine conference call. "I think one of the messages in this year's draft at edge, corner and safety is there is great quality at the top, but there is depth throughout."

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