Every weekday until tomorrow, the day before the first round of the NFL draft, The Sun will examine where the Ravens stand at each position, the likelihood that they will address that spot early in the draft and some of the prospects that they may consider.
Today, we'll examine the defensive backs:
Current defensive backs under contract: Corners – Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams, Jimmy Smith, Corey Graham, Chykie Brown, Danny Gorrer; Safeties – Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard, Sean Considine, Emanuel Cook.
Chances that the Ravens draft a defensive back in first three rounds: Virtually none for cornerback, decent chance for safety. After drafting Smith in the first round last season and agreeing to a long-term deal with Webb and with Williams also expected to return, the Ravens are pretty set at cornerback. They have four safeties on the roster, but Cook and Considine are expected to occupy bigger roles on special teams than on defense and Ravens coach John Harbaugh has made it clear that the team needs to add another. The move would not only be aimed at the present, but the future. Nobody knows when veteran safety Ed Reed will retire, but he's hinted at it on numerous occasions. Fellow safety Bernard Pollard, a big free agent pickup last offseason, has one year remaining on his contract. So the position is obviously a big need, though the draft's safety class is really weak. Assuming Alabama's Mark Barron doesn't last to pick 29, there really isn't another safety projected as a first rounder. Notre Dame's Harrison Smith is a good player, but he's considered more of a second-round player and the Ravens traditionally don't reach on players to fill needs. One interesting possibility could arise if Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick falls to 29. He's considered one of the top cornerbacks in the draft, but some people think he'd be a good safety in the pros. The Ravens love Alabama players and they did host Kirkpatrick for a visit.
Defensive backs possibly on Ravens' radar: Corners – Ron Brooks (LSU), Brandon Hardin (Oregon State), Buddy Jackson (Pittsburgh), Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama), Josh Robinson (Central Florida); Safeties – Antonio Allen (South Carolina), Markelle Martin (Oklahoma State) Trenton Robinson (Michigan State), Harrison Smith (Notre Dame), Brandon Taylor (LSU), Phillip Thomas (Syracuse).
Outlook: There's no question that the Ravens need another safety, but it's going to be tough to get one early in the draft due to a week class. It seems more likely that the Ravens wait until the middle rounds and see what falls to them. Robinson is a solid cover safety and is also considered a very good special teams player. Hardin is also considered a good coverage good and his reputation as a big hitter would play well in the Ravens' secondary. After losing Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski in free agency, the Ravens ideally would add a young safety who could play on special teams and in certain packages right away. That player would be groomed to take on a bigger role in future seasons. As for cornerback, the Ravens have brought in a couple for pre-draft visits, including Jackson and Brooks. However, both of those guys are accomplished special teams players and that's probably why the Ravens are interested. The Ravens know that you can never have enough cornerbacks, but they seem fairly set at the position.