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Ravens looking for a little bit of everything in next week's draft

The question was about the importance of the Ravens' adding a running back, but coach John Harbaugh used it as an opportunity to launch into his wish list for next week's NFL draft.

"I think it's important to add a running back, but we have some other spots, too," Harbaugh said. "It's important to add an offensive lineman, a wide receiver, a tight end and depth at quarterback. It's important to add a safety, corner, an inside [linebacker] and a defensive tackle. So, that's where I'm at right now."

Head coaches can be greedy at this time of year, and Harbaugh is no different, so his extensive wish list drew laughter from the three men seated to his left: Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, director of college scouting Joe Hortiz and assistant general manager Eric DeCosta.

However, to a man, the Ravens' top decision-makers acknowledged they would like to acquire more picks in next week's three-day draft, which starts with the first round next Thursday, continues with rounds two and three the following day and ends with rounds four through seven on May 10.

The Ravens currently possess eight picks, including No.17 overall, and four of the top 100 selections. They have one pick in each of the first, second, fifth and sixth rounds, and two each in the third and fourth rounds. Four of the picks are compensatory selections, meaning they can't be traded, which would hamper the Ravens' ability to package a couple of picks to move up in different rounds.

Moving back, however, remains a legitimate option and a means to get what Newsome and his staff covet: more draft picks. In one of the few disclosures at Wednesday's annual pre-draft luncheon, Newsome acknowledged that the Ravens have already had discussions with teams who are interested in moving up in the first round.

"I've already had some calls from clubs who said that if their guy gets to our spot, they might be willing to trade up, and we might see what the value is based on the players we still have left on our board," Newsome said. "If we move back four, five or six spots, we may still have the opportunity to get to one or two of those players [we want] and get the additional pick. That's kind of how we look at it."

The Ravens have never been shy about moving back or forward in the first round, though Newsome acknowledged that since four of the team's eight picks can't be traded, the team "lacks the ammunition" to move up in the draft. As far as moving back, the Ravens have moved back or out of the first round in three of the past six drafts.

This year, it could become an even more desirable option with so many different needs and so much talent expected to still be available in the middle rounds. DeCosta estimated that the Ravens have deemed approximately 180 players as draftable, when in past years, that number was closer to 140 or 150.

"We love picks. We've said that a bunch but I think it just depends on the trade itself, who's available and what can we get," DeCosta said, acknowledging that the team's improved draft positions from past years, when they were picking late in the first round, also plays a factor. "I'm excited because I see the quality of player that we can get and we haven't seen that type of player in a few years. So it's exciting, but we just can't miss the pick. We have to nail the pick. But it's exciting to even be in that discussion to get one of those [top] guys."

DeCosta admitted that the uncertainty of where the quarterbacks will go and how many will be taken in the first round has provided an interesting dynamic to forecasting what will be available when the Ravens are on the clock next Thursday night. Still, he and other team officials vowed the Ravens would stick to the philosophy they cite year after year: taking the best player available and staying true to their board.

"With any position — John talked about it — we want more players than we have picks," Hortiz said. "So, I think you just take the best player. You don't force yourself to take a D-lineman, you don't force yourself to take a safety, you don't force yourself to take a tackle because then you end up forcing a guy up the board and making a bad decision."

At certain positions, such as quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end, the Ravens have established starters but need depth and insurance. At others, such as right tackle and safety, the Ravens have much bigger question marks.

That's why many mock drafts have predicted they'll use their first-round pick to upgrade one of those two spots. However, the top players at those positions may be gone by the time the Ravens ponder their selection at 17.

DeCosta said the expectation is that the top four available tackles — Auburn's Greg Robinson, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Notre Dame's Zack Martin — will all be gone before 17. There's also no certainty that either of the top two safeties — Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Louisville's Calvin Pryor — will be available.

That could lead the Ravens to trade down or target another position, such as wide receiver or tight end. DeCosta mentioned that he thinks there are at least 15 receivers who will be "very, very good players." It's also not impossible that North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron could slip to where he's available at 17.

"There are some, we think, elite, skill-set players in this draft at tight end, at wide receiver," DeCosta said. "If one of those guys is there and he's the best guy, we'll take him for sure."

A reflective Newsome closed the news conference by praising his staff and expressing confidence that the Ravens will upgrade what was an 8-8 and non-playoff team last year by adding a few impact rookies. But he made clear that he's not viewing the draft as the be-all and end-all either.

This offseason, the Ravens have re-signed wide receiver Jacoby Jones, left tackle Eugene Monroe, middle linebacker Daryl Smith, nose tackle Terrence Cody and reserve safety and special teams ace Jeromy Miles. They also traded for center Jeremy Zuttah and signed running back Justin Forsett, wide receiver Steve Smith, tight end Owen Daniels and safety Darian Stewart.

"I think one of the most important things is [that] the draft is great, but we have 63 players right now on our roster, and if the commissioner asked us to play tomorrow, I think we can line up and play and be pretty good," Newsome said.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

twitter.com/JeffZrebiecSun

Ravens' draft order

1st round: 17th overall

2nd round: 48th

3rd round: 79th/ 99th*

4th round: 134th*/138th*

5th round: 175th*

6th round: 194th

*Compensatory picks (can't be traded)

 

Note: The Ravens traded fourth- and fifth-round picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars for offensive tackle Eugene Monroe in October and dealt a seventh-rounder to the Indianapolis Colts for guard A.Q. Shipley in May.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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