Mink: I think the Ravens could very well go cornerback in the first round. Even with Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters returning from season-ending injuries, cornerback is always a need. I'd also throw Washington's Trent McDuffie into this mix. But if picking between Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner and Derek Stingley Jr., hit me with that Sauce. It's not an easy call for me, however.
Sauce's swagger reminds me a lot of Peters and I think the two could really hit it off. Obviously, his 6-foot-3, 200-pound size makes him a prototype sort of in the Jimmy Smith mold (though a little leaner). He's shown ball skills with three interceptions each of the past three seasons. The reason why I give him the edge is his physicality in press coverage and run support, two things the Ravens pride themselves and want from their outside corners.
Stingley is one heck of a player too. He also has elite athleticism and ball skills, evidenced by his six interceptions as a true freshman. But Stingley has dealt with injuries that limited him to just 10 games the past two years and some analysts have question marks about his run support and tackling. I saw some big-time hits on his highlights, but it's got to be there every snap.
With all that said, I do not think Sauce will be available at No. 14 for the Ravens. Meanwhile, NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah has Stingley to Baltimore in his latest mock draft, two picks after McDuffie. If that were to happen, I wouldn't be sad about it.
Downing: The NFL Scouting Combine is next week and this is typically when teams meet with agents over some St. Elmo shrimp cocktail to discuss pressing offseason business. Most of the contract extensions and cap cutting moves happen after agents and teams have met in Indianapolis. In addition to the player workout and interview portion of the Combine, the event essentially serves as an NFL convention for coaches, general managers, scouts, agents, media members and front-office personnel. Teams get a better sense of what players want in new contracts and what the free-agency market could ultimately look like. The new league year officially opens March 16, and I would expect most of cap-cutting moves to happen the week of March 7, once the teams return.
Mink: Eric DeCosta made a comment that got my attention in this regard a few weeks ago. When talking about offensive linemen, DeCosta said "if we're in the Draft and there's a guy there at [Pick] 14 and we like him, we'll take him. If we're comfortable trading back to [Pick] 20 thinking a guy might be there and he's an offensive lineman, then we'll take him."
Generally speaking, I think DeCosta was simply making a reference about maximizing value. But it also shows that he's never opposed to moving back if there's a cluster of players available that the Ravens really like and fit their needs. The Ravens could go in any number of directions in the first round. I think they could pick a first round offensive tackle, center, cornerback, defensive lineman, edge rusher, cornerback or safety. That's seven different positions. To me, that shows the Ravens have flexibility to potentially move back, pick up extra picks, and address one of those spots if the value still presents itself. If a player Baltimore has ranked really high falls to No. 14, they'll take him. If they don't have a trade partner, they'll make a pick. But if they can trade back and still get one of a handful of guys they like when they're on the clock at 14, they'll do it.
Downing: Absolutely. As I laid out in the answer above, the combine is the main destination for conversations to take place on topics like trades or other offseason moves. During the Combine, it's totally common to spot an NFL general manager or head coach in line at Dunkin for your morning coffee, or sharing a drink with a prominent media member in the lobby of a hotel bar. It's only natural for conversations to take place regarding potential trades. Something we've seen from Eric DeCosta as general manager is that he's not afraid to pull off a trade if it fits the "right player, right price" criteria. DeCosta will explore every avenue to improve the roster, and more trades could certainly be a topic of conversation at the Combine.