Carroll County Times

Could Ravens take a cornerback early in draft?

The Baltimore Ravens have far bigger concerns than at cornerback.

Actually, to most, cornerback is among the deepest groups on the Ravens' defense.

But don't be surprised if Baltimore looks to add to the position through this week's NFL draft, possibly even at some point during the first few rounds.

"We won't pass up a good corner," Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said at the Ravens' pre-draft luncheon last week. "You don't ever have enough good corners."

Baltimore is deep at corner, yes.

And yes, it has bigger needs.

But starting cornerback Cary Williams left as a free-agent. Top cornerback Lardarius Webb is coming off of major knee injury. Corey Graham, for as impressive as he was when pressed into action last season, is considered by most pundits to be a serviceable but unspectacular starter. And 2011 first-round pick Jimmy Smith is yet to establish himself as a viable starter.

It would still be a surprise to most if Baltimore took a cornerback early on in the draft, but David Amerson (North Carolina St.) is one of several cornerbacks that may still interest the Ravens as early as the second round.

Amerson struggled mightily as a junior this past season, but he has great size for the position (6-foot-1, 205 pounds), is an impressive athlete (4.44 40-yard dash), plays physical and is a proven playmaker. He had 18 interceptions during his final two seasons with the Wolfpack, including 13 as a sophomore in 2011, which is tied for the second-most in NCAA history.

Amerson's also interesting because, if he doesn't work out at cornerback, many feel he has the skill set to successfully make the move to free safety. The Ravens are a team in the market for a safety even after signing Michael Huff and said as recently as last week that they're likely to add at least one safety through the draft.

Other cornerbacks that could be of interest to Baltimore as early as the first few rounds include Darius Slay (Mississippi State), a projected second-round pick, and projected third-rounder Robert Alford (Southeastern Louisiana).

Slay has good height (6-foot, 192 pounds) and ran the fastest 40-yard dash (4.36) among cornerbacks at the combine. He was just a one-year starter in college, but he had five interceptions as a senior last season and was selected second-team All-SEC.

Alford played against a lower level of competition (FCS), but he earned strong reviews at the Senior Bowl in January and ranked among the top cornerbacks at the combine in the 40-yard dash (4.39), the bench press (17 repetitions of 225 pounds), the vertical jump (40 inches) and the broad jump (11-0).

But this year's draft class is deep at cornerback. grades five cornerbacks as first-round talents and 13 others as being worthy of selection during the first four rounds.