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How Good Will 2016 Draft Class Be?


The Ravens know this year is a critical draft for the organization.

They are in a rare position to have a top-10 pick, which is their highest pick since selecting running back Jamal Lewis fifth-overall in 2000. The hope is to get an immediate playmaker with the No. 6 overall pick, and also to fill out the roster with quality players throughout the rest of draft weekend.

So how good is this year's class?

"It's a good, deep draft," Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said ahead of this week's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "In terms of depth, it's one of the deeper drafts in the last five years."

The quality of this year's class lies in having good players available in the mid-to-late rounds. The Ravens also believe it has premier playmakers at the top of the class that is comparable to other years.

The depth in this class was aided by the entry of 97 underclassmen who declared early.

"Every year there is a position where you see a hole at the top of the board, or there is a hole in the middle," Hortiz said. "And there really aren't a lot of holes on the board this year. The number of guys on the board tells you right then and there that it's going to be a good draft."

Hortiz broke down the strengths and weaknesses of this year's class, pointing to the men in the trenches as the high point. Both offensive line and defensive lines have highly graded players throughout the class.

A consensus among draft experts and NFL general managers is that the defensive line is a strength of this year's group. NFL Network's Mike Mayock called this group the "best interior defensive line I've seen maybe since I've started doing this."

The Ravens don't necessarily have a big need for a defensive lineman, particularly on the interior of the line where they already have Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan, but Williams will be an unrestricted free agent next year and Newsome is known for saying he can never have too many defensive linemen. If a high-quality defensive lineman is available in the early rounds, then that could be a dark-horse route for Baltimore to take.

Another critical piece in evaluating the class that ultimately ends up in Baltimore is that the Ravens need the draft to break in their favor.

"You still need it to fall for you the right way," Hortiz said. "There have been some years where we have a good, nice stacked board, and it's like the whole league is drafting off of our board. And there have been other years where we have a thin board and the league is not drafting off our board. You really don't know until the weekend gets here and whether it's going to fall your way or not.

"But you know the names and the numbers are up there."

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