The Ravens are in the market for somebody who can get after quarterbacks.
Terrell Suggs is 34 years old and heading into his 15th NFL season. Elvis Dumervil was released last month. Timmy Jernigan was dealt to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Having quality pass rushers is a necessity in today's pass-happy game, and the draft is typically the best place to find them. As the Ravens examine the prospects in this year's class, Tennessee's Derek Barnett is a likely first-round candidate if he's available when they are on the clock at No. 16.
The 6-foot-3, 259-pound defender has been a highly productive player the last three years for the Vols, and he's coming off his best season yet, putting up 13 sacks and 19 tackles for loss.
"When you study the tape and watch him, I think he's one of the top-15 players in this draft class," NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah said.
[Note: An interview with Jeremiah will be featured on next week's episode ofThe Lounge podcast.]
Pass rushers come at a premium in the draft, but Jeremiah thinks Barnett could fall to the Ravens because of concerns about his combine performance. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.88 seconds and was in the middle of the pack for most of the on-field drills. That led to some hesitation about this athleticism and explosiveness, which may force him to slide down draft boards.
The Ravens have been down that road before, most notably with Suggs in 2003. Suggs was regarded as one of the best players in that draft – he set the NCAA record with 24 sacks – but his time of 4.84 seconds in the 40-yard dash scared off some teams.
Baltimore ended up drafting Suggs with the 10th-overall pick, and he's been one of the best players in franchise history.
"I was around Terrell Suggs a little bit with the Ravens, who is another guy that didn't test all that well," said Jeremiah, a former Ravens scout.
"Man, he was plenty fast enough when you got on the football field. I think you see some of those same things with Barnett. I don't think he's quite at that Suggs level, but I think he's got a chance to be a double-digit sack guy at the next level, and I'd be shocked if he's not off the board by the 20th pick."
In his latest mock draft, Jeremiah has the Ravens selecting Barnett at No. 16. Some teams value raw speed and athleticism, but Jeremiah knows the Ravens put a premium on game tape, more so than how players perform in shorts at the combine or their pro days.
"I think that some of the knocks that other teams will have on him, I don't think the Ravens will quite get caught up in that," Jeremiah said.
If the Ravens ended up drafting Barnett, the expectation for him would be to make an immediate impact opposite of Suggs. He was a difference maker from the first day he arrived on campus in Knoxville, and he became the first true freshman to ever start on the Volunteers' defensive line.
He recorded nine sacks as a freshman and went on to gather 32 in his college career.
The Ravens are searching for players who can make an immediate impact, and Barnett appears to be someone who could do just that.
"The guy just plays like a warrior," Jeremiah said. "He plays hard. He fits what they look for in their guys."