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ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. on a deep receiver class, a potential center solution and the Ravens’ Day 1 options

With the NFL draft less than two months away, Mel Kiper Jr. is back in mock draft mode.

The ESPN analyst on Thursday released his second projection, which again had the Ravens taking LSU wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. at No. 27 overall. Kiper was asked about the pick, the team’s other first-round options and more during a teleconference Monday with reporters. Here’s what stood out.

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1. There’s impressive depth at wide receiver

Marshall had 48 catches for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns in seven Southeastern Conference games last season for LSU, meaning he was on pace for 1,250-plus yards over a typical 12-game schedule. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Marshall, who doesn’t turn 21 until June, was the fifth receiver taken in Kiper’s mock draft, behind Florida’s Kadarius Toney but ahead of other potential first-round picks like Purdue’s Rondale Moore and Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman.

The Ravens need a playmaking wide receiver opposite Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, and “I just thought a bigger receiver in Marshall would help out the situation there,” Kiper said Monday. “James Proche will be maybe looking to step in for Willie Snead. You’ve got [Devin] Duvernay. Height, length is what you’re lacking there, and I think Marshall would give you that ability. He was there with [Minnesota Vikings star] Justin Jefferson. He was there with [likely top-10 pick] Ja’Marr Chase. He was the third guy and still producing. So, to me, if he’s there at No. 27, that would be somebody to look at.”

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If the Ravens target another position on Day 1, Kiper’s optimistic they can find wide receiver help in the second round, where they have the No. 58 overall pick, or later. Michigan’s Nico Collins, Wake Forest’s Sage Surratt, Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace and Moore all rank between Nos. 50 and 70 on ESPN’s overall prospect rankings.

“There’s going to be a lot of depth at wide receiver all the way around,” Kiper said. “I like the wide receiver position a lot. It’s the strongest position overall in this draft.”

2. Another Alabama star could be headed to Baltimore

In Kiper’s mock draft, he had the Pittsburgh Steelers taking Alabama center Landon Dickerson at No. 24 overall. But Kiper mentioned Baltimore as another possible destination for the 6-6, 325-pound Dickerson, who also has starting experience at guard.

The Ravens have taken five Crimson Tide players over the past seven drafts, including first-round picks Marlon Humphrey (2017) and C.J. Mosley (2014), and they lacked consistency at center and right guard last season.

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“He has the attitude, approach — ‘Play like a Raven,’ he’s got that,” Kiper said. “They love Alabama players, so I would think if he doesn’t go to Pittsburgh at No. 24, maybe Landon Dickerson from Alabama would help that interior of the offensive line, which was a big problem last year.”

Dickerson had season-ending knee surgery late last season, the latest red flag in a checkered medical history. But his recovery has already produced one viral moment: a single-leg squat in which he showed the flexibility of a ballet dancer.

“Even though he’s going to be still working through the injury when the season begins, you put him on [the physically-unable-to-perform list], [he] comes back in the fourth, fifth week of the season, and you get a great player anchoring your line,” Kiper said.

3. The board could fall in the Ravens’ favor again

Last year, the Ravens didn’t need to move up to pick maybe the draft’s top inside linebacker prospect. LSU’s Patrick Queen fell to them at No. 28 overall, the third true inside linebacker off the board.

This year, the Ravens’ roster has more holes. But the front office could also have more high-value options late in the first round. The defense needs reinforcements at edge rusher, and Kiper said Penn State’s Jayson Oweh, Michigan’s Kwity Paye and Miami’s Jaelen Phillips could still be on the board at No. 27.

And if the Ravens acquire a first-round pick for right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. — Kiper said the team should ask for that and more in trade talks — they’ll have even more flexibility with their draft plan.

“They could be looking at center, a couple pass rushers and a wide receiver all there when they pick at 27,” Kiper said, “which would make it a pretty nice decision to have to make for Eric DeCosta.”

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