A player whose name has circulated around the Ravens with some regularity during the pre-draft process is pass rusher Noah Spence. The Eastern Kentucky product is viewed as one of the top pass rushers in the class, and the Ravens are in the market for that kind of player.
But Spence also has some serious off-the-field questions to answer from NFL decision makers.
He started his career at Ohio State, but was ultimately banned by the Big 10 after failing multiple drug tests for ecstasy. The Ravens may be interested in a player with Spence's talent, and they have spent the last few months doing their research on him.
"In Noah's case, we've interviewed him at length, we've studied him and we'll continue to do that up until the draft and make the best decisions we can for the team," Ravens Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said.
Spence did not fail any of his weekly drug tests last year after transferring to Eastern Kentucky, and he has been open about his issues during his media interviews leading up to the draft. He told reporters at the combine that his focus was to assure NFL teams that the drug use was behind him.
"With anybody with a substance abuse problem that they've had, I feel like they're pretty leery about it. But, if you can put it behind you, you can convince the team it's behind you," Spence said in February. "There's a group of people I can't hang with. I have to be more myself and stay away from that party scene."
DeCosta did not divulge exactly when and where the Ravens have met with Spence, but there have been plenty of opportunities to talk with him.
Spence attended the Senior Bowl and the combine, and the Ravens also have the ability to bring 30 players to Baltimore for pre-draft visits. Teams often use those visits as a much deeper interview for players who have any kind of red flags.
The Ravens also rely on the information their scouts and coaches gather from conversations with their contacts across the college football landscape.
"Everything a player does we consider, good or bad," DeCosta said. "Every player has a different story; every player has a different book. We talk to people. We trust people that we have built relationships with. That's a big thing that our area scouts and coaches do, is we build relationships over time. In some instances, especially with some of our coaches, they have 20, 25 years history with some of these coaches in college football and we talk to those people and we consider everything."
The predictions range on where Spence will land. He is considered by many draft analysts as a top-10 talent, but he others think the failed drug tests could drop him into the second round.
He clearly has ability – he racked up 22.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks last year – and the Ravens have to determine whether they will be comfortable spending a pick on him.
"We never make a decision in a vacuum," DeCosta said. "We look at everything, every piece of information that we get, good or bad. We have people here that help us make decisions, support staff here that can help us make decisions, as well. We consider everything differently."