Mel Kiper's Surprise First-Round Ravens Pick


ESPN draftnik Mel Kiper Jr. stated last week that he would be "really surprised" if the Ravens don't draft a wide receiver or cornerback in the first round this year.

But what if they went in another direction? What one player or position could make them deviate?

"Running back could go – you never know," Kiper said.

"Even though [Justin] Forsett came back, [Bernard] Pierce is gone, [Lorenzo] Taliaferro had flashes last year but had the fumble, which got him into the doghouse there. I think you look at maybe a running back."

The Ravens have shown interest in adding another running back this offseason. At the NFL Owners Meetings, Head Coach John Harbaugh expressed he wants more depth. When the Ravens re-signed Forsett, General Manager Ozzie Newsome said part of the reason is because Forsett's a tremendous leader and mentor, perhaps for a younger back.

If the Ravens are going to take a running back in the first round, there are two possibilities: Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and Georgia's Todd Gurley.

Although Kiper is generally against drafting a running back in the first round because of their short shelf-life and positional value, he said both Gordon and Gurley are "worthy based on their ability." They're widely considered two of the best running back prospects to come out in years.

Gurley tore his ACL during his junior season and had surgery on Nov. 25. He looked to be on track for a monster season, as he already posted 911 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in six games. He was averaging a whopping 7.4 yards per carry.

The 6-foot-1, 236-pound bruiser has a ferocious running style similar to that of Seattle's Marshawn Lynch. He's incredibly difficult to bring down with a combination of power, size and explosion.

But after the knee injury, and with such a physical running style, there are questions about his NFL longevity.

"Todd Gurley would have been a top-10 to top-15 running back had he not gotten hurt. He's elite," Kiper said. "He's got a chance to be a great player in this league if he can stay healthy.

"He's coming off that injury, so how much production are you going to get out of him as a rookie? Are you willing to maybe redshirt him or know you're not going to get him at his best. It will be maybe Year 2 when you see him at 100 percent."

Gordon is a faster running back more adept at beating defenders to the edge. He still has good size at 6-foot-1, 213 pounds, but adds breakaway speed and nimble feet.

Gordon averaged 7.8 yards per carry during his four college years. He put up 2,587 rushing yards and 29 rushing touchdowns in his final season, including a record-breaking game against Nebraska with 408 rushing yards.

The knock on Gordon is he hasn't shown as much in the passing attack as the bigger Gurley. Gordon caught just three passes in his first three years, then had 19 receptions for 153 yards and three scores last season.

"I think he goes in the first, but late," Kiper said of Gordon. "But he could drop into the second because there's mixed opinion on whether he can be [like Kansas City's] Jamaal Charles, or close enough to that."

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