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Ravens Break Down 7 Key Draft Needs


Head Coach John Harbaugh said it's important to add a running back, offensive lineman, wide receiver, tight end, quarterback, safety, cornerback and defensive tackle.

But some of those positions are of higher need than others.

Here's the Ravens' take on some of the key positions in this year's draft:

Wide Receiver

Even though the Ravens added wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr., and re-signed Jacoby Jones, they're still in the wide receiver draft market.

That's in part because this year's draft class has such a good pool of players that teams can't pass up.

"I think wideout is very deep," Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said. "You've got a lot of really good players, probably 15 receivers that I think are very, very good players.

"If you need a receiver, this is your year. You can get one receiver, two receivers [add], three receivers in this draft and they're all probably going to be pretty good. … I would say that's a position where you could probably draft a player in any of the seven rounds, and I think our board stacks that way."

Considering there are so many good receivers and the Ravens don't have a pressing need, they could wait. But there is also about seven receivers projected to possibly go in the first round.

Those receivers are Clemson's Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M's Mike Evans, LSU's Odell Beckham Jr., Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, Southern Carolina's Marquise Lee, Indiana's Cody Latimer and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin.

Could Baltimore still pluck one of them?

"It depends on who that player is," DeCosta said. "There are some, we think, elite, skill-set players in this draft at tight end, at wide receiver. If one of those guys is there and he's the best guy, we'll take him for sure."

Offensive Tackle

The Ravens don't seem to be in a big rush to add an offensive lineman, and may be positioned too late in the draft to get a top-notch tackle.

Last week, ESPN's Mel Kiper said he feels like the draft's top four tackles – Auburn's Greg Robinson, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, Michigan's Taylor Lewan and Notre Dame's Zack Martin – will all be picked before No. 17.

DeCosta agrees.

"I think tackle is good," DeCosta said. "You have the top four guys that are going to be high picks. Most likely all four of those guys are going to be gone before we pick."

The Ravens are comfortable with the flexibility on the offensive line that they have right now. That doesn't mean they won't draft a lineman, but they won't force a pick.

"We like [Rick] Wagner, who we drafted last year, but 'K.O.' [Kelechi Osemele] started the first 16 games for us at tackle. So, we have some versatility there already between Wagner and 'K.O.' having the ability to go back to right tackle," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said.

"If we don't come out with [a tackle] in the first three or four rounds, we still feel like we could line up and play."

Running Back

The Ravens have wanted to add depth at running back, and have a good chance to do so.

DeCosta said running back has some good players throughout most of the draft, although he doesn't envision one being picked in the first round.

"[Bishop] Sankey is a good player; [Tre] Mason is a good player from Auburn. I think Carlos Hyde is a good player. Jeremy Hill is a good player," DeCosta said.

"So, you've got guys in that second-round, third-round area. You've got some good later-round picks, too – [Lorenzo] Taliaferro from Coastal Carolina is a good player, saw him at the Senior Bowl. I think the draft is such at that position where you can get a guy in any round – second through seventh – that can help you play some good football."

Free Safety

The Ravens aren't looking for a specific type of safety.

While many pundits have said Baltimore wants a free safety to move Matt Elam to strong safety, the Ravens are looking for somebody that is interchangeable.

DeCosta said Louisville's Calvin Pryor and Washington State's Deone Bucannon can play deep in coverage or near the line of scrimmage. Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was more of the traditional free safety in college.

DeCosta said there will be some players drafted at the end of the first or early second round, and then other options in the middle rounds.

"If you look at the safety position overall, you look for versatility from guys that are good tacklers, sound tacklers – not hard hitters but guys that get them down in space – have some coverage skills and just general instincts and football knowledge on the back end," Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said.

"I'd say as a whole, the class is pretty solid."

Inside Linebacker

Inside linebacker isn't the greatest need position with Daryl Smith re-signed and the team looking for second-year player Arthur Brown to step up as a starter.

But DeCosta said inside linebacker is still a priority.

"There are some good players. Obviously, [C.J.] Mosley from Alabama is a really good player, a highly-rated prospect. [Ryan] Shazier from Ohio State is a really good prospect as well," DeCosta said.

"We're going to draft the best available player. We're going to rank every player."

The Ravens are looking to improve an offense that ranked 29th in the NFL last year, but also won't forget about the defensive side of the ball.

"There are a lot of good players at linebacker, outside linebacker, all over the defense in this year's draft," DeCosta said. "We hope to get a few defensive players in here this year if we can, and linebacker will certainly be a big part of that, for sure."


Count the Ravens among the believers that you can't have too many cornerbacks considering it's such a passing league.

Baltimore lost Corey Graham to Buffalo in free agency, and currently have Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson battling for the third spot. They would at least like to add more depth and competition in that battle.

It would be a surprise to see Baltimore take one at No. 17, but it's not out of the question.

"[Cornerbacks] go off the board fast every year. We'll see about 12 that go in the first three rounds," Hortiz said. "The top guys like Darqueze Dennard, [Justin] Gilbert, [Bradley] Roby, [Kyle] Fuller, [Jason] Verrett, they're probably going to go early.

"The question will be whether they're going to be the highest guy when we're up. Obviously, we like corners and we're not afraid to take them. If there is one sitting there and we've got him ranked high, we'll take him."


Head Coach John Harbaugh previously said the Ravens are looking to add a backup quarterback.

Newsome expounded on the reason for that during the pre-draft press conference, saying it's more about finding a long-term backup than somebody to replace Tyrod Taylor. The Ravens have carried just two quarterbacks the past couple years, but could keep three this season.

"This is Tyrod's fourth year. He'll be a free agent. If the opportunity presents itself that Tyrod gets a chance to play because of an injury, then it would be hard to retain him because this is a quarterback-driven league, and other teams would be attracted to him," Newsome said.

"For those reasons, we also need to be looking at bringing in another quarterback so we can have someone that is capable of going into the game as we move forward in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 in case we can't keep Tyrod, that we have someone who can go and win games for us if Joe gets hurt."

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