The first round of the NFL draft will start Thursday night at 8 p.m. For the next 36 hours, there will be an avalanche of speculation about which prospects are rising or falling, what teams are looking to move up or back and who will go where. By now, everybody knows the Ravens needs and their potential options with pick No. 26 in the first round. Below are several questions that could impact their selection.
When will the run on cornerbacks start?
This question is especially pertinent for the Ravens, who still have a need for a cornerback even after signing Jimmy Smith to a contract extension this week. Michigan State's Trae Waynes, the draft's top-rated corner, will almost certainly be gone within the first 15 picks. However, there's really been no consensus as to when the other top-graded corners will come off the board. But with so many teams looking for quality cover guys, the sense is that there could be a run on them in the first round. Wake Forest's Kevin Johnson (River Hill), Washington's Marcus Peters, Connecticut's Byron Jones and Florida State's P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby have all been mentioned as potential first-round picks. Teams may have to act fast to grab the corner that they covet.
How many receivers go in the first round?
Again, the Ravens will certainly be interested to see how this plays out. Alabama's Amari Cooper and West Virginia's Kevin White are viewed as top-10 picks. Louisville's DeVante Parker should go in the top half of the first round as well, and Central Florida speedster Breshad Perriman has generated a lot of buzz lately as a mid-1st round pick. And then, there's still Arizona State's Jaelen Strong, USC's Nelson Agholor, Miami's Phillip Dorsett, Ohio State's Devin Smith and then the ultimate wild card, Missouri's Dorial Green-Beckham. Nine receivers almost certainly won't go in the first round, but it's not out of the question – in fact, it may be probable – that six or seven will. It's a deep receiving class, so some teams might be willing to wait it out at the position. However, there's a lot of talented pass catchers that should be available later in the first round.
How many offensive linemen get picked?
This is considered a pretty deep draft for offensive linemen, but there remains some uncertainty as to how many are first-round quality. Iowa guard-tackle Brandon Scherff, Florida State center Cameron Erving, Stanford tackle Andrus Peat and Miami tackle Ereck Flowers seem to be near first-round locks. But a couple of other tackles, like Oregon's Jake Fisher, LSU's La'el Collins, Florida's D.J. Humphries and Pittsburgh's T.J. Clemmings have all been mentioned as potential first-round candidates as well. If there is a run on offensive tackles within the first 25 picks, that would significantly increase the odds of a player that the Ravens covet falling to them without them having to trade up. The Ravens really don't have a significant need for an offensive lineman, so in their eyes, the more of them picked early, the better.
How far will Gregory and Ray fall?
When the draft season began, outside linebackers Randy Gregory (Nebraska) and Shane Ray (Missouri) were both being discussed as top-10 picks. However, injuries or off-the-field factors have both spiraling down draft boards or off of them altogether. Gregory tested positive for marijuana usage at the NFL scouting combine and he later admitted to the NFL Network that he failed multiple drug tests while in college. Meanwhile, Ray was pulled over and cited for marijuana possession this week and is also dealing with a foot/toe injury that has some teams concerned. Gregory and Ray are among the top pass rushers in the draft, so teams might be able to overlook some of the red flags. But there's mounting evidence that both might be in for a longer wait to hear their names called Thursday than they originally expected. It will certainly be tempting for the teams in the 15-to-25 range if an impact pass rusher is still available, warts and all. And how would the Ravens react? They met with both Gregory and Ray in the predraft process and owner Steve Bisciotti has already said that he'd love to get a pass rusher with the team's first pick.