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Which Top-Tier Player Could Slip to the Ravens?

Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa works against Southern California offensive tackle.
Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa works against Southern California offensive tackle.

For a team picking at No. 28 in the first round, sometimes it's better to see some of the top prospects stub their toe a bit during the pre-draft process.

That's what led to Terrell Suggs wearing purple and black. It's also what led Orlando Brown Jr. to fall to the third round.

So when looking at this year's draft class, who could be the top player who slips down the board and falls in Baltimore's lap?

Iowa's A.J. Epenesa could be that guy after a sup-bar Combine in which he ran the 40-yard dash in over five seconds and didn't look quite as nimble as his peers.

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. said on "The Lounge" podcast that there are "mixed opinions" on Epenesa, who was once viewed as a top-15 prospect. Asked if Epenesa could slip to No. 28, Kiper said it's "borderline."

"He didn't test well, he's not real explosive," Kiper said. "He's just a guy who has great technique, can kick inside to defensive tackle on third down if you want, give you some options there."

Epenesa certainly has the size, standing in at a massive 6-foot-5, 275 pounds. That's nearly the same body type as Myles Garrett, who the Cleveland Browns took No. 1 overall in 2017.

Epenesa logged 26.5 sacks and 36 tackles for loss during his three years at Iowa – elite production for a player who wasn't a starter until his junior year.

He does it with a combination of size, power and technique – three good attributes for a mauling division like the AFC North. Epenesa also brings some position flexibility to play defensive end, outside linebacker or kick inside on the defensive line.

"On tape, he's a guy that's a power rusher, very very strong hands. His last game that he played was probably one of his best games against USC in the bowl game," General Manager Eric DeCosta said.

"He's a guy that has the size you want for the position. He's physical, he can set the edge. We know a lot about Iowa players because of our relationship with Kirk Ferentz and Chris Doyle, their strength coach, who does a great job working with teams."

DeCosta said the Combine is "always something that you've got to weigh," but said the Ravens have been "fortunate over the years" to land some players who others discounted too much based off their showing in Indianapolis.

"I go back to a guy like Terrell Suggs, I go back to a guy like Orlando Brown Jr. Those guys didn't have great Combine workouts but they were great football players," DeCosta said.

"All and all, you've got to really assess the tape and how does the guy fit with you. If you have conviction, if your scouts have conviction, if your coaches have conviction that this is the right type of guy for your program. If you do, then I think the Combine isn't quite as valuable maybe as other people make it out to be."

Another possibility could be LSU pass rusher K'Lavon Chaisson, who struggled with injuries over his career and finished with just 9.5 sacks in three seasons. He has plenty of talent and came on strong last season, but some mock drafts have the athletic linebacker dropping into the mid-20s.

If it were up to Chaisson, he may land in Baltimore. He was seen recently working out in a Ravens T-shirt.

"His sack production came really late in the year, but he was coming back from the [torn ACL] injury," Kiper said. "So it took him a while. Once he got back to where he needed to be, he was really getting after quarterbacks."

Kiper said Chaisson could land in Atlanta (No. 16-overall pick), Dallas (No. 17), Miami (No. 18), Minnesota (No. 22) or Seattle (No. 27). The Seahawks are just one spot ahead of the Ravens, but Kiper doesn't think he would get past Seattle.

"I don't think Chaisson will be there [at 28] just for the demand for pass rushers," Kiper said.

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