Mel Kiper Expects WR Or CB For Ravens In First Round

ESPN draftnik and Maryland resident Mel Kiper Jr. is well aware of the Ravens' "best player available" draft mantra. 

Still, Kiper expects the Ravens to go in one of two directions with their first-round pick at No. 26.

"I would be really surprised if it wasn't a corner or a wide receiver at that point," Kiper said on a conference call Thursday afternoon.

The Ravens have needs at both positions, although it's debatable how big they are.

At wide receiver, starter Torrey Smith left via free agency for San Francisco and the other starter, Steve Smith Sr., turns 36 years old in mid-May.

At cornerback, starters Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith are both returning, but both have had injury troubles throughout their careers. The Ravens also could immediately use more options at the No. 3 corner spot, and may need long-term help with Smith entering the final year of his rookie contract.

So who does Kiper see as possibilities at No. 26?

At wide receiver, his top option is Arizona State's Jaelen Strong.

Strong has it all with big-time production (157 receptions, 2,287 yards, 17 touchdowns in two seasons) and size (6-foot-2, 217 pounds). He is strong going up for the ball and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds. His 42-inch vertical leap was the second-highest of his position group.

Outside of that, Kiper also pointed to USC's Nelson Agholor and Ohio State's Devin Smith as first-round possibilities. He expects Central Florida's Breshad Perriman to be gone after running a reported 4.25-second 40-yard dash at his pro day.

Smith is a burner prospect that has been talked about for some time as a first-rounder. Agholor is a name that hasn't been mentioned in the first round as often.

"Just an underrated player," Kiper said of Agholor. "Catches in traffic, run after the catch, explosive out of his break. Nelson Agholor, late first round, is going to deserve some consideration."

Kiper mentioned one other possibility at wide receiver: Missouri/Oklahoma's Dorial Green-Beckham. Beckham is considered by some to be a Calvin Johnson-like prospect with huge upside, but has had major off-the-field issues.

"If you want to roll the dice that the off-the-field issues won't continue, then you take him on ability," Kiper said. "If he's too much of a red flag, you pass on him."

At cornerback, Kiper sees three cornerbacks as options at No. 26: LSU's Jalen Collins, Wake Forest's Kevin Johnson and Washington's Marcus Peters.

Collins had just one season as a starter and recently underwent foot surgery, which knocked him out of his pro day. Johnson is more of an off-coverage cornerback than press, said Kiper. Peters got into trouble after blow-ups with his coaches.

Kiper also tossed out Miami (Ohio)'s Quinten Rollins as a possibility to slip into the first round.

"The ball skills are there, the production was there this past year, the toughness is there," Kiper said. "You coach him up, Quentin Rollins from Miami (Ohio) is a wild-card from that 25 to 40 range at the cornerback position."

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