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.
The Baltimore Sun has examined 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, which begins tonight, with 10 picks: one in each of the first, second, third and sixth rounds, and three each in the fourth and fifth rounds.
Defensive backs under contract: Cornerbacks — Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb, Asa Jackson, Rashaan Melvin, Chris Greenwood, Tramain Jacobs, Quinton Pointer; Safeties — Will Hill, Kendrick Lewis, Matt Elam, Anthony Levine, Terrence Brooks, Brynden Trawick
Chances the Ravens draft a defensive back in first three rounds: High for cornerbacks, low for safeties. Team officials have expressed confidence in the returning cornerbacks and downplayed the position as a glaring need. But after the group's issues with injuries and poor play last season, and the team's failure to add a proven cornerback in free agency, an injection of youth and talent at is clearly needed. The Ravens need a safety, but it's a weak class. They have also drafted safeties early in the past two drafts and have yet to see those moves pay dividends.
Possibly on Ravens' radar: Cornerbacks — Jalen Collins (LSU), Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (Oregon), Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest), Byron Jones (Connecticut), Marcus Peters (Washington); Safeties — Adrian Amos (Penn State), Anthony Harris (Virginia), Damarious Randall (Arizona State), Quinten Rollins (Miami University), Eric Rowe (Utah)
Outlook: Signing Smith to a contract extension last week, and reworking Webb's deal earlier this offseason, were key first steps, and perhaps those moves make drafting a cornerback in the first round less of a priority. However, after last year, the Ravens know that they can't count on everybody staying healthy and teams need four or five quality corners in the pass-happy NFL, anyway.
Michigan State's Trae Waynes, the draft's top cornerback, won't be available for the Ravens, but there's a chance that Peters, who has some character questions, will be. Johnson (River Hill) and Jones could be available with the 26th overall pick, as well. Given their history, the Ravens won't overdraft a cornerback just because it's a big need.
The same holds true for safety. The Ravens may very well draft one, but it's not being viewed as a priority with the return of Hill and the signing of Lewis. However, reinforcements at both spots would go a long way toward settling one of the team's biggest question marks.