The Ravens believe they'll have their elite cornerback duo of Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters back on the field at the start of the 2022 season. Beyond that, Baltimore has a lot of gaps to fill at cornerback as it approaches the NFL Draft.
The Ravens could still add a veteran free agent, but as it stands now, Baltimore would need to draft an instant contributor at cornerback to field a winning defense, especially in the wide receiver-rich AFC North.
"I think we're definitely concerned," General Manager Eric DeCosta said when asked about the team's cornerback depth. "If you guys know us, we always want to have a strong secondary and as many corners as possible. We've referred to those guys as race cars in the past, and this year, we got decimated at that position across the board. We have outstanding players coming back, but again, until they come back it's a question mark.
"We feel like Marlon is going to come back with a vengeance. We feel like Marcus is going to come back with a vengeance. But we feel like behind those two guys, the depth is thin. There are opportunities for us in the first round, second round, third round. Coach [John Harbaugh] has been watching the corners. We feel like we have the opportunity to take one or two corners in the draft that can come in and contribute right away, we're excited about that."
The Ravens released veteran slot cornerback Tavon Young for salary-cap reasons. Anthony Averett signed with the Raiders and Chris Westry went to Carolina. Free agent Jimmy Smith may retire.
The top cornerbacks in this year's draft class are Cincinnati's Sauce Gardner, LSU's Derek Stingley, Washington's Trent McDuffie and Clemson's Andrew Booth. Gardner is widely projected to go in the top 10. Stingley is not far behind him and is often mocked to the Vikings at No. 12, two spots ahead of Baltimore. McDuffie is mostly mocked in the teens and Booth in the back half of the first round.
"Stingley and McDuffie are different body types, one's almost 6-foot-2 (Stingley) and the other guy (McDuffie) is around 5-11. They're both good in what they do well," Ravens Director of Player Personnel Joe Hortiz said.
"They both play outside, occasionally come inside. They actually used McDuffie outside more than Stingley if you watch them on film. Stingley had the injury to deal with this year, but he has a little less wear in terms of game play. Both talented, athletic guys who will challenge to start for their drafting teams."
LSU's Pro Day on Wednesday will be critical for Stingley, who has been cleared to participate in all the drills after his 2021 campaign was limited to just three games due to a Lisfranc (foot) injury. Stingley had a superb freshman season that made him one of the top prospects in college football, but injuries and inconsistencies the past two years have hurt his stock. Whether it has dropped him enough to get to No. 14 could partially depend on how he looks at LSU Wednesday.
McDuffie is considered one of the "cleanest" prospects in that he's very technically sound and fluid, but he doesn't have the size that the Ravens have traditionally gone for in with their first-round cornerbacks such as Chris McAlister, Smith and Humphrey.
Harbaugh spoke about how football players come in all shapes and sizes and with different strengths. Teams must decide what they're willing to live without.
"We like physical players. We like players that challenge people a little bit more, at corner especially," Harbaugh said. "So if he's a physical player, he's tough, he challenges people, he can play press, he's willing to tackle, we like those kind of guys. Ball skills are very important."
If the Ravens don't draft a cornerback in the first round, they could still get one (or two) in other early rounds. This year's class is generally viewed as one of the deepest positions in the draft.
"There are corners later in this draft, not just necessarily the top guys. If you look at college football over the years, it's become a passing game. You're always going to have wideouts, you're always going to have corners. And I think you're always going to have pass rushers," Hortiz said.
"I think the corner position for years to come will be a little more polished, guys who are a little more ready. I think you can get some guys in the third round that could contribute (right away)."