NFL draft position-by-position breakdown: Running backs

The Ravens' insistence on taking the best player rather than targeting their biggest need adds to the shroud of mystery that annually surrounds the organization heading into the NFL draft.

While draft pundits have been consistent in projecting the Ravens to use their 26th overall pick on either a wide receiver or a cornerback, general manager Ozzie Newsome has shown that he's not afraid to do the unexpected.


It would be foolish to dismiss the possibility that Newsome will use the pick to further bolster a position of perceived strength or even trade it to add to the team's middle-round draft haul.

Until April 30, the first round of the 2015 NFL draft, The Baltimore Sun will examine the Ravens' depth at each position, the potential of them adding to that spot early in the draft and some of the players who they could target.

The Ravens will enter the three-day draft with 10 picks: one in each of the first, second, third and sixth rounds, and three each in the fourth and fifth rounds.

We've already looked at quarterbacks. Today we'll examine running backs:

Running backs under contract: Justin Forsett, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Tauren Poole; Fullbacks: Kyle Juszczyk, Kiero Small

Chances that the Ravens draft a running back in first three rounds: Decent. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has said he wants more depth at the position after the arrest and release of Bernard Pierce.

Some mock drafts have projected the Ravens to take a running back — either Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon or Georgia's Todd Gurley — in the first round, even though they haven't gone that route since taking Jamal Lewis fifth overall in 2000.

Running back isn't close to the Ravens' biggest need, but they could select one early behind the "best-player available" philosophy.

Possibly on Ravens' radar: Jay Ajayi (Boise State), David Cobb (Minnesota), Tevin Coleman (Indiana), Gordon, Gurley, David Johnson (Northern Iowa), Duke Johnson (Miami), T.J. Yeldon (Alabama)

Outlook: There are a ton of talented running backs available and the Ravens have done their homework on all of them. The question is not whether the Ravens will draft a back, it's more a matter of when they'll take one.

The best guess, given the Ravens' history and their other needs, is somewhere between the third and fifth rounds, but it would be foolish to dismiss the idea that they could draft one even earlier. A run on ball callers between the second and third rounds could force the Ravens' hand.

The Ravens will have to weigh taking a top back with the fact that their cupboard isn't exactly bare at the position. Forsett is the undisputed starter after re-signing following his career year. Taliaferro, a fourth-round pick last year, also showed some promise before suffering a season-ending foot injury.