The Ravens have made it no secret that they want more picks in what's shaping up as a deep draft, which they could achieve by maneuvering backward in the first round.
In the opinion of NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, a trade-back scenario is probable for the Ravens -- especially if many of their coveted prospects are already off the board by the time they are on the clock with the 17th pick.
"They're one of the best drafting teams in the NFL," Mayock said during a conference call Thursday. "You've got to give Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta and their staff a ton of credit. They rarely stay at their number. They're at 17 this year. Whether they move up or back, there's a pretty good possibility of that happening.
"If they have to squat at 17 and can't go anywhere, the first thing I look at is, is there a safety there that might make some sense that would complement Matt Elam? I think [Alabama safety] Ha Ha Clinton- Dix will be gone. I'm not sure [Louisville safety Calvin] Pryor is the complement to him. The way these guys look at the draft, they're at 17. They want a guy on their board who is 10, 11, 12, somewhere in there."
Mayock projects both of the top wide receivers, Clemson's Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M's Mike Evans, being off the board. He mentioned Oregon State's Brandin Cooks as a possibility for the Ravens.
Cooks met with the Ravens at the NFL scouting combine, where he ran the fastest time of any wide receiver with a 4.33-second 40-yard dash.
The Biletnikoff winner and consensus All-American caught 128 passes for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. As a sophomore, Cooks had 67 catches for 1,151 yards and five touchdowns.
Sharing the same opinion as DeCosta, the Ravens' assistant general manager, and ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr, Mayock says that the top four offensive tackles -- Greg Robinson (Auburn), Jake Matthews (Texas A&M), Taylor Lewan (Michigan) and Zack Martin (Notre Dame -- will be picked ahead of the Ravens' first selection.
"I think the tackle board is going to be decimated," Mayock said. "If you want a tackle, the next guy in line will be [Alabama offensive tackle] Cyrus Kouandjio. I think the tight end [Eric] Ebron is gone."
The Ravens brought in Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley for a visit, and Mayock says he could be of interest to them. Mosley would compete for a starting job immediately at inside linebacker.
If the Ravens move back four or five spots, it's possible Mosley would still be available, or Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier. They could also have a shot at wide receivers Marqise Lee of USC and Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State.
"Yeah, the way they approach this draft is they understand league value," Mayock said. "They're looking for clusters. If it approaches 17, there's three or four guys on their board they really like, any one of which they're happy with, they'll trade back in a heartbeat. If on the other hand there's one or two guys, you're at 14, 15, their guys are disappearing, that's when they get a little nervous.
"Is Mosley still there, the linebacker who a lot of people love, but inside linebacker is not a high priority for people" ... Yeah, I think they're opportunistic, and the odds of them sliding back typically are pretty high."
One interesting option Mayock referenced is what the Ravens might do if Pittsburgh All-American defensive tackle Aaron Donald is available. Donald is projected by most to go to the Chicago Bears or Dallas Cowboys. Donald is undersized for the Ravens' scheme at 6-foot-1, 285 pounds, but ran the 40-yard dash in 4.68 seconds at the combine.
He recorded 59 tackles, 28.5 for losses, 11 sacks and four forced fumbles last season and was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He won the Lombardi Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award and the Outland Trophy.
"Aaron Donald, I think I have No. 12 on my board, but it's hard to find a spot where he doesn't go," Mayock said. "If he doesn't go to Chicago or Dallas at 14 or 16, he could fly down in those areas."