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Ravens Excited For Chance At Impact Player


Ask the Ravens where they'd like to be picking and they'll tell you No. 32 every time.

That draft spot was reserved for them last April when they were the Super Bowl champions. This year, it's a different story.

February wasn't as exciting as 2013, but May should be much more so.

After missing the playoffs for the first time in six years, the Ravens have the 17th overall pick in this year's NFL draft.

It's their highest draft pick since 2008, when they traded back from No. 8 (then back up) to grab quarterback Joe Flacco at No. 18.  The last time Baltimore actually made a pick higher than 17 was in 2006 with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (No. 12 overall).

Finally, it's the Ravens' shot to get a player that could be an immediate impact player, and perhaps soon a Pro Bowler. That opportunity has those in charge of the draft drooling.

"I'm excited because I see the quality of player that we can get and we haven't seen that type of player in a few years," Ravens Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said.

"It's exciting to even be in that discussion to get one of those guys."

The Ravens haven't selected a Pro Bowl player during the past five drafts. They're one of just four teams in that territory, joining the Jaguars, Jets and Raiders. It's foreign for a team with a storied draft history and 19 Pro Bowlers in its first 13 drafts.

Part of that can be attributed to picking near or at the end of each round.

The Ravens' highest pick since 2008 was 23rd, when they traded up three spots from No. 26 to get tackle Michael Oher. Baltimore traded out of the first round entirely in 2010 (Sergio Kindle), picked at No. 27 in 2011 (Jimmy Smith), moved out of the first round again in 2012 (Courtney Upshaw) and stayed put at No. 32 last year (Matt Elam).

Besides Kindle, who suited up for just three regular-season games after suffering a serious head injury, those players have all turned out to be key factors and at least part-time starters for the Ravens.

But with the No. 17 pick, Baltimore is hoping to get more this year.

Among the offensive skill players that could be available to the Ravens is the top tight end in the class, Eric Ebron, or the third-best wide receiver in Brandon Cooks, Marquise Lee, Odell Beckham or Kelvin Benjamin, depending on who you ask.

If the Ravens wanted to use the pick to stock up on defense, they could possibly get the top inside linebacker, C.J. Mosley, the best defensive tackle, Aaron Donald, the premier cornerback, Kyle Fuller or Darqueze Dennard, or the top safety, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor.

"We see some guys that we think can come in right away, we think, and help us," DeCosta said. "That does ramp up the pressure a little bit. But there's also that sense of excitement and opportunity to get a really good player.

"We just can't miss the pick. We have to nail the pick."

General Manager Ozzie Newsome has hit when given a shot at elite players before. He nabbed future Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden, linebacker Peter Boulware, cornerback Duane Starks, cornerback Chris McAlister, running back Jamal Lewis and linebacker Terrell Suggs all in the top 10.

With this year's draft class being touted as one of the best in league history, the Ravens could be choosing from similarly-talented players at No. 17.

"I don't know where this draft is going to stand in the 19 years that we've been doing this, but I do trust the information and the people that will be a part of the draft," Newsome said.

"And I think that when we finish up on Sunday afternoon with the undrafted college free agents, we will bring in some players who are going to impact our football team, not only this year, but in years to come."


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