The Ravens weren't done improving their secondary in free agency. They did so once again with a first-round pick Thursday night.
Baltimore selected ultra-talented cornerback Marlon Humphrey out of Alabama with the 16th pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Humphrey has the size (6-foot-0, 197 pounds), athleticism (40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds), physicality and tenacity the Ravens covet in their cornerbacks. He's fluid and aggressive, especially in press coverage on the outside.
The Ravens signed safety Tony Jefferson and cornerback Brandon Carr this offseason. The addition of Humphrey gives them another top-flight cornerback to plug into a stacked defensive backfield.
"It was an opportunity for us to continue to put some strength into our secondary," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Now we feel like we have four really good corners."
Baltimore knows all too well how important a deep and talented cornerbacks group is in today's NFL. Injuries at the position cost them in the 2014 playoffs. When Smith injured his ankle in Week 13 last season, it dramatically impacted what was a top-ranked defense down the stretch.
The Ravens hadn't drafted a cornerback in the first three rounds since 2011, when they took Smith at No. 27 overall. It was time for that to change. Cornerback wasn't an immediate need with three starters already on board, but the Ravens have learned they can never have too many.
"When you go through a season, you can't just have your starting 11," Newsome said. "You have to have good backups. Having depth at corner at huge."
Now Baltimore should have one of the best defensive backfields in the NFL. The Ravens already had the league's ninth-ranked pass defense last season.
"There's nothing wrong with making yourself really strong in one area of your football team," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "This is the strongest we've been in the secondary in a long time. I expect those guys to play great."
The Ravens have been high on Humphrey for a long time. When they went to Alabama scouting players years ago, they were told a "special" player was on the way. That was when Humphrey was still just a redshirt freshman.
Humphrey started the following two seasons in Alabama's stifling pro-style defense. Over that time, he made 81 tackles, five interceptions and knocked away 13 passes. He was named a first-team All-American.
Humphrey will get some criticism for allowing big plays, which Harbaugh said is the result of other teams simply making plays. That happens at cornerback. The seventh-overall pick in the draft, Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams, got overtop Humphrey in one instance. Humphrey said one of the things he's improved on most is getting over bad plays.
But for every difficult play, Humphrey has many more highlights on the field. He's still a young player after declaring early for the draft, and will continue to grow in his technique. And with talented cornerbacks around him, Humphrey doesn't have immediate pressure to start.
The Ravens are confident that Humphrey can grow into a top-notch cornerback. As Harbaugh said, "he has all the tools you want in a top corner."
"I came into this league with a guy that was big on size and speed at most positions. And one of the positions where that was of foremost [importance] was at the corner position," Newsome said. "That's what Marlon brings."
"One thing about Marlon that really stands out for me is his physicality as a player, his ability to make really critical tackles, his ability to come up and want to be the first guy to make the tackle," Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta added.
Humphrey was a state champion sprinter and hurdler coming out of Hoover High School. He also comes from an NFL bloodline. His father, Bobby Humphrey, was a star running back at Alabama. Bobby was drafted in the first round of the 1989 NFL Supplemental Draft and went to the Pro Bowl in 1990.
"He's prepared me for this process my whole life. Whether it's telling stories about experiences he's had or things like that, being smart, it's things that have been drummed in me."
Humphrey was surprised when he saw the Ravens call his cell phone. He said he wasn't paying attention after being surprised by some of the earlier picks, and wasn't sure where he would go.
He ended up being the first Alabama prospect off the board, one spot ahead of defensive end Jonathan Allen (Washington Redskins), three ahead of tight end O.J. Howard (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and 15 ahead of linebacker Reuben Foster (San Francisco 49ers).
"He was by far the best player that we were going to take," Newsome said.
Check out the Ravens' newest first-round pick from his college days at Alabama, where he won one national championship and played in two title games.