Ravens officials frequently call the draft the "lifeblood" of their organization and they put a tremendous amount of time and resources in preparing for it each year. They consistently downplay any outside attempt to place a greater importance on one draft compared to others.
However, as this year's version gets closer – the three-day draft will begin on April 27 – the Ravens have the same sense of urgency that presided over their aggressive start to free agency and what's been significant offseason roster turnover.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh has spoken confidently about his team returning to the playoffs after missing out three of the past four years, but a strong draft is seen as a must.
The Ravens have seven total picks, including the 16th overall selection in the first round, two in the third round and four of the first 78 selections. Their needs include a play-making wide receiver, one or two ready-to-play offensive linemen, an explosive edge rusher and depth along on the defensive front and in the secondary.
Until April 26, the day before the start of the three-day draft, The Baltimore Sun will look at the Ravens' depth chart at each position, the likelihood that they will add to it and who they possibly could target.
Today we'll examine running backs.
Current running backs under contract: Terrance West, Kenneth Dixon, Danny Woodhead, Buck Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Stephen Houston
Chances that the Ravens will draft a running back in first three rounds: Unlikely. There was a lot of talk earlier this offseason that the Ravens could use their first-round pick on a running back, but that momentum seems to have slowed with the Woodhead signing. The Ravens are believed to be intrigued by Louisiana State's Leonard Fournette. However, he'll likely be gone within the first dozen picks and the Ravens don't have a ton of inventory to move up. If the Ravens covet one of the draft's other top two backs, Stanford's Christian McCaffrey and Florida State's Dalvin Cook, they've done an extremely good job of hiding their interest.
Possibly on Ravens' radar: DeAngelo Henderson (Coastal Carolina), Brian Hill (Wyoming), T.J. Logan (North Carolina), Donnel Pumphrey (San Diego State), Joe Williams (Utah)
Outlook: The Ravens have taken a running back in the fourth round in three consecutive years, selecting Taliaferro in 2014, Allen in 2015 and Dixon last year. All remain on the roster. Even with Dixon due to sit the first four games because of a league suspension, the Ravens are content with their depth at the position and going into the year with a backfield headed by West and Woodhead. Fournette, the type of explosive and bruising runner that general manager Ozzie Newsome loves in AFC North play, is somebody the Ravens would have to think about if he inexplicably drops. Otherwise, the Ravens figure to take advantage of an extremely deep running back class and again grab a ball carrier in the middle rounds. The ideal fit would be a speed back who could be a change of pace to the downhill style of West and Dixon. Williams and Pumphrey certainly qualify.