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Ravens' focus turns to adding to pass rush in recent mock drafts

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun
In the most recent round of mock drafts, the Ravens focus on adding to their once-vaunted pass rush.

It’s likely no coincidence that the same week when the Denver Broncos’ pass rush effectively won them the Super Bowl, and many connected that to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti’s comments about the importance of the pass rush, several recent NFL mock drafts have the Ravens selecting a pass rusher.

In defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ system, that means an outside linebacker to complement veterans Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. Courtney Upshaw is a free agent, while Za’Darius Smith is envisioned as more of a hybrid rusher. It could also be as a 3-4 defensive end, a group that currently includes Chris Canty, Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore.

There have only been a few new mock drafts from national outlets I’ve seen, but both of them have the Ravens adding someone who will help them get after the quarterback.

* At USA Today, Nate Davis has the Ravens’ first pick being Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner, who is projected more as a defensive end but has plenty of pass-rush ability. The reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year had a league-high 10.5 sacks, along with 17 tackles for loss.

“You can bet they'll take the top player on their board, and in this scenario, that could very well mean Buckner,” Davis wrote. “Buckner's ability to solidly defend the run and pass would make him a welcome addition, especially by veteran pass rushers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil.”

ANALYSIS: I might get hung up on the defensive end-outside linebacker designation, but it’s not likely the Ravens will. Even as more of a hand-on-the-ground pass rusher, there’s a place for a pass rusher who can be on the field at the same time as Suggs and Dumervil and perhaps take some attention from them.

Good luck to the offensive line who has to block what would essentially be a five-man front of Dumervil, Timmy Jernigan, Brandon Williams, Buckner and Suggs. He could also have an impact in their sub defensive packages, lining up on the interior as one of two down-linemen alongside the likes of Jernigan and Smith.

* Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke also has the Ravens taking a pass rusher, Senior Bowl standout Noah Spence from Eastern Kentucky. The former Ohio State star was dismissed from OSU for off-field reasons, but starred at the FCS school last year with 11.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss.

“A post on the Ravens’ website last week speculated that Spence could fall into Round 2,” Burke wrote. “Forget it. But Baltimore could grab the edge-rushing dynamo here. Spence starred during Senior Bowl week, consistently beating tackles around the bend. Teams will have to dig into his character, but the talent is there to justify a top-10 spot.”

In his second-round mock draft, Burke has the Ravens selecting Pitt wide receiver Tyler Boyd as the 36th overall pick.

ANALYSIS: Spence, a former five-star recruit, washed out of Ohio State for a pair of failed drug tests. If the Ravens are convinced that is behind him — and they have a pretty good track record of sifting through such personal histories — then there’s a lot of upside here. Even better for their purposes, he’ll have something to prove.

This might, positionally, make a little more sense than a defensive end because Spence would be able to be part of a rotation with Suggs, Dumervil and Smith, and can be moved to different spots during third-down situations. The Ravens are so diverse with how they use outside linebackers that he can likely fit in anywhere, if they’re convinced of his quality and makeup.

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