Mel Kiper Doesn't See Ravens Picking a Cornerback at No. 14

FILE - In this Dec. 7, 2019, file photo, LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (24) intercepts a throw to Georgia wide receiver George Pickens (1) during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game in Atlanta. Stingley was selected to The Associated Press Preseason All-America first team defense, Monday Aug. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

The Ravens are expected to draft at least one cornerback in April, but ESPN analyst Mel Kiper doesn't believe it will happen with the 14th pick.

In his latest mock draft, Kiper has the Ravens taking Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum as a replacement for Bradley Bozeman, who signed with the Panthers last week.

However, cornerback is a potential first-round target for the Ravens, who place high value on that position. Starting corners Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters are coming off major injuries, Anthony Averett departed to the Raiders in free agency and top nickel corner Tavon Young was released.

Three cornerbacks have separated themselves from the pack during the pre-draft process and are potential top-10 picks – Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner of Cincinnati, Trent McDuffie of Washington and Derek Stingley Jr. of LSU. Kiper believes all three of those corners will be off the board earlier than the 14th pick. Kiper has them going back-to-back-to-back from Nos. 10 to 12.

Even if one of them falls, Kiper doubts Baltimore would take a cornerback at No. 14 after investing heavily in the position with Humphrey and Peters.

"They invest more money in defensive backs than just about any team in the NFL," Kiper said during a national conference call Wednesday. "They're in the top five in DB spending. To take another corner? In the first round, when you have all that investment in defensive backs?

"McDuffie's going to go around that (No. 12) area. If you want to say Stingley? If he gets there, would you take him? It'd be hard to pass him up, but you've got all that money invested in defensive backs."

With Baltimore signing right tackle Morgan Moses in free agency, Kiper views Linderbaum as the best choice for Baltimore to continue upgrading its offensive lin. Kiper could also see Baltimore targeting Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning.

"They need a center like Tyler Linderbaum," Kiper said. "They could certainly use, even though they brought in Moses, a guy like Trevor Penning. They could use a defensive lineman like Travon Walker, but he will certainly be gone by the time they pick. Jordan Davis doesn't give you enough pass rush in my opinion. Devante Wyatt, a little high for him out of Georgia. But I think Linderbaum."

The Ravens could face an interesting decision if one of the top three corners falls to them. They were decimated by injuries in the secondary in 2021, and General Manager Eric DeCosta wants to avoid that scenario next season.

"You need at least probably seven or eight really good defensive backs on the team that can play, and you probably need a strong eight offensive linemen," DeCosta said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "You know those guys are going to get hurt at some point. So the idea of having deep depth is critical, and that's just going to be a point of emphasis for us moving forward."

However, Kiper thinks the odds are against the Ravens choosing a corner in Round 1, when they also looking to strengthen their pass rush and defensive line.

"If they want to take a corner on grade, they could," Kiper said. "But I just don't know if you want to keep spending and keep doing all the things in the secondary when you've got to get after the quarterback."

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