Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome last week rattled off four positions that the Ravens could address with the sixth overall pick in April's draft. But the way ESPN guru Mel Kiper Jr. sees it at this early stage, the Ravens' choice could come down to taking the draft's second-best left tackle or the second-rated cornerback.
Kiper's first mock draft, released Thursday, has the Ravens taking Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who is the second-rated player at his position behind Mississippi's Laremy Tunsil. Kiper also listed Florida's cornerback Vernon Hargreaves as a legitimate possibility, assuming that Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey is not available.
Kiper said that he expects some teams to have Ramsey, who can also play safety, either first or second on their draft boards, so it is a long shot that the Ravens will have a chance to select him unless they trade up in the first round.
"Stanley fills that void at left tackle," Kiper said in a conference call Thursday. "If you want a corner, you can take Ramsey if he's there. That would be a great pick. I have him going to Jacksonville one pick earlier. Vernon Hargreaves would be in the discussion. I have him going to Tampa Bay at nine, or … if the highest rated player is not attractive enough there, move down. They're going to have a lot of options."
The Ravens have significant questions at wide receiver, left tackle and cornerback, and Newsome and Ravens coach John Harbaugh have discussed the importance of adding a couple of pass rushers this offseason. Kiper originally felt that Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith would be a nice fit for the Ravens at six, but he tore up his knee in the Fighting Irish's bowl loss to Ohio State.
With Smith facing what might amount to a redshirt year as an NFL rookie, there's no "outside linebacker-type" that would make sense to take at pick No. 6, according to Kiper.
Kiper, a Baltimore native, also said that six would be too early to draft a wide receiver. He, however, projects former Mississippi star Laquon Treadwell to go to the San Francisco 49ers at seven.
"He's got tremendous hands, huge hands, great size," Kiper said of Treadwell. "The comparisons to [Chicago Bears wide receivere] Alshon Jeffery are accurate but Alshon Jeffery was a second-round pick. You're talking about a top-10 pick here. He's got to run well enough to warrant being that high of a pick. It's just a so-so wide receiver group this year, but I think that's a little high for Treadwell at six."
If the Ravens stay at six, it would mark the earliest that they have drafted in the first round since taking running back Jamal Lewis fifth overall in 2000 with a pick that originally belonged to the Atlanta Falcons.
Kiper emphasized that at this juncture in the draft process – the NFL scouting combine is still over a month away and the draft is 3 ½ months away – it's far too early to have a good idea what the teams in front of the Ravens will do.
Kiper currently has the Tennessee Titans taking Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa with the first-overall pick, followed by the Cleveland Browns taking California quarterback Jared Goff at two, the San Diego Chargers selecting Tunsil at three, the Dallas Cowboys drafting Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner at four and the Jaguars nabbing Ramsey at five.
If that's how it plays out, Kiper indicated that Stanley would be the most logical fit for the Ravens, given the offensive lineman's upside. Stanley is 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds, and was a three-year starter at Notre Dame.
Ravens starting left tackle Eugene Monroe missed 10 games last year with an injury and he could be released. Kelechi Osemele, who was moved from guard to left tackle late in the season, is a pending free agent.
"He's not what Tunsil is as far as knowing exactly what you're getting but I think Stanley shows a lot of talent," Kiper said. "Week-to-week, you see the feet, the exceptional athletic ability that he brings to the position. … He needs to round off from the consistency standpoint. He had some errors here and there, some penalties, just concentration issues. But he's a big-time talent. I don't think he's quite as good as Tunsil. I'm not going to rate him ahead of Tunsil. Tunsil's clearly my best left tackle. But if you're looking for the second-best tackle who has a ton of upside, it would be Ronnie Stanley."