Eric DeCosta couldn't help himself this week when asked about the quality of the cornerback class in this year's draft. The Ravens assistant general manager joked that "last year we could have used about any corner in this draft."
Replenishing the secondary with some young talent could give the Ravens defense a significant boost after the corners were hit hard with injuries last season, and the draft may have plenty of options.
"We've looked at the corners, and we think it is a pretty good class," DeCosta said.
Cornerback is a position where the top players typically fly off the board early, and the Ravens expect that trend to continue this year.
"You're going to still, like every year, get a run on corners in the top three rounds," Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said. "We face that every year. No matter how many you have up there, you're probably going to lose about 12 guys in the first three or four rounds."
The consensus top cornerback in this year's class is Trae Waynes from Michigan State. Most draft analysts project him a top-10 pick, and DeCosta admitted that the Ravens aren't even holding out hope that they have a shot at him at No. 26.
"He's going to be a great pro," DeCosta said. "Whoever gets him – it won't be us – but whoever gets him is going to be lucky. They're getting a great football player."
The other corners who may be available to the Ravens are LSU's Jalen Collins, Wake Forest's Kevin Johnson, Florida State's Ronald Darby and P.J. Willliams, and Washington's Marcus Peters.
Johnson is particularly intriguing because he's a local prospect from River Hill High School, where he played with wide receiver Michael Campanaro. The two then went to Wake Forest together where they were* *roommates.
Johnson's stock has risen during the pre-draft process thanks to a strong showing at the combine.
"He's extremely athletic," DeCosta said. "Very, very good feet, sudden, great man-to-man skills, can play zone. I think he's a tough kid. He's played at a high level of football. He's a good prospect. He's probably a first-round guy, if not first-round, definitely a second-round prospect. Good player."
Peters also comes with plenty of interest, as he may have the most talent out of any corner in this year's class. He comes with off-the-field concerns, however, as he was kicked off his college team following arguments with the coaching staff.
The Ravens are doing their homework to determine if Peters would be a good fit, having him visit Baltimore for an official pre-draft visit.
If the Ravens decide to go a different direction in the first round, the team's front office believes they will still have good alternatives at the position later in the process.
"There are guys at each level of the first four rounds that we feel like we will have a chance to consider," Hortiz said.
The Raven downplayed the need at cornerback during Wednesday's press conference, citing Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb's expected returns at full strength from last year's injuries. Baltimore also has young players with potential in Asa Jackson and Rashaan Melvin.
The young core and the depth of the class gives the Ravens flexibility as they go through the process of building their roster.
"We want guys that bring something to the table for us in Baltimore, and they've got to be fast, they've got to be tough, they've got to be coachable, smart, tough, disciplined and durable," DeCosta said. "Those [traits] are really what we look for."