Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti made it no secret at last month's NFL meetings that he wants to add pass rushers to the roster. Bisciotti called himself a "pass-rush guy," and pointed to Denver's Super Bowl run as evidence of what a premiere pass rush can do.
Baltimore's No. 6 pick could be the logical place to find a pass rusher – especially if Ohio State's Joey Bosa or Oregon's DeForest Buckner are there – but the Ravens also believe they could find a pass-rushing threat on the draft's second or third day.
"I think you can find value in the later rounds, if you don't strike early," Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said at this week's pre-draft press conference.
The Ravens are looking for pass rushers of all shapes and sizes. They could use another outside edge rusher to complement veterans Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. They could also benefit from adding a big defensive end like Buckner who can provide interior rush.
By looking for players at both of those positions, the Ravens have some flexibility. They also have a solid track record of finishing quality pass rushers after the first round, like Paul Kruger (second round), Pernell McPhee (fifth round) and Adalius Thomas (sixth round).
"I think there's some depth at that position, especially when you look at it, there's pass rushers as five-techniques, and there's pass rushers as outside linebackers," Hortiz said.
The comments from Hortiz mesh with what NFL's draft expert Daniel Jeremiah has also said about this year's class. In a national conference call last week, Jeremiah pointed to a handful of pass-rushing prospects from small programs who have strong upside:
Kamalei Correa, Boise State*6-foot-3, 243 pounds; 36 tackles, 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles *
"Correa is one of my favorite players, the ideal outside linebacker can really rush. He's got a great motor. He's been very productive. He's one to keep an eye on." – Jeremiah
Victor Ochi, Stony Brook6-1, 246 pounds; 16.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks
"Ochi from Stony Brook is a fun player to watch. He's kind of got that same height and frame as Dwight Freeney. He doesn't have that same juice, but, man, he knows how to rush the passer." – Jeremiah
Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky6-2, 251 pounds, 63 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
"Noah Spence, he's technically the smaller school at EKU, but obviously the Ohio State transfer is somebody else that it will be fascinating to watch him. On tape he plays like a mid to late first-round pick. He did not test out very well, and that spooked some teams and obviously you have the off the field trouble. These guys are probably going to land late one, early two. If I had to bet, I'd probably say he goes in the second round." – Jeremiah
A possibility is that the Ravens use some of their fourth-round picks to find a developmental pass rusher, like they did last year by selecting Za'Darius Smith. Baltimore has four fourth-round picks and NFL Network's Charles Davis thinks this class has some interesting prospects in the mid-round range.
Virginia Tech's Dadi Nicolas, Maryland's Yannick Ngakoue and Oklahoma's Eric Striker all have a knack for getting after quarterbacks, but their full skillset is not as refined as prospects at the top of the class. They are also somewhat undersized, which creates questions about how they will transition to the professional game.
"You're going to have some guys that you've got to figure out what to do and their specialty is rushing the passer," Davis said. "We'll see how it all turns out for these guys."