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Five Things We Learned from the NFL scouting combine, including rise of Ravens targets

From the eye-catching performance of would-be Ravens targets to the emergence of a dark-horse first-round pick, here are five things we learned from the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

1. Some prospects rose out of the Ravens’ first-round range ...

Mock drafts amount to inexact estimates of team needs and prospect fits. They are imperfect but still useful. Before the NFL scouting combine, it wasn’t hard to find Mississippi wide receiver D.K. Metcalf or Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat lasting into the late teens of projected first rounds, maybe the early 20s. Both were within reach of the Ravens.

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Now, if you are to believe those same mock drafts, it would be a surprise if either lasted past the first half of the first round. Both might go in the top 10. In mock drafts posted Monday by CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and The Draft Network, Metcalf didn’t fall below No. 9; Sweat, meanwhile, was a top-10 pick in two and lasted only until No. 16 in another.

The Ravens were able to snag offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. in the third round last year after a disappointing combine performance. Now the pendulum has swung the other way. It’s unclear how high up the Ravens’ draft board Metcalf and Sweat are. But after their incredible displays of strength — Metcalf tied for first in bench-press repetitions among wide receivers — and speed — Sweat set the modern record in the 40-yard dash for defensive linemen — it’s unlikely that the Ravens will get the chance to decide whether they want either at No. 22 overall.

2. … while others might have entered the Ravens’ radar.

OK, so Metcalf might not be Baltimore bound. But a homegrown wide receiver could intrigue the Ravens.

Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler already had the stats (60 catches for 1,318 yards and nine touchdowns last season) and the size (6 feet 5 3/8). Then the Baltimore native showed the speed, running the 40-yard dash in under 4.5 seconds. There are concerns about his hands, a frightening thought for those who remember former first-round pick Breshad Perriman’s inconsistent ball skills.

But Butler, with a solid Pro Day showing, could be worth serious consideration at No. 22, and certainly lower if the Ravens trade down. Fellow wide receivers N’Keal Harry of Arizona State and A.J. Brown of Mississippi also ran the 40 in under 4.5 seconds, which should allay some worries about whether they have the speed to earn deep-ball respect from NFL cornerbacks.

3. The Ravens might have an easy fix at a position of need.

The offense needs improved play at center. That was apparent in the Ravens’ season-ending playoff loss to the Chargers. That was apparent in Matt Skura’s various analyst grades. And that was apparent in general manager Eric DeCosta and offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s stated desire for a physically dominant offensive line.

The Ravens have been linked to wide receivers, edge rushers, safeties, offensive tackles and guards at No. 22 overall. After their week in Indianapolis, center should join the mix. One center in particular.

As the reigning Rimington Award winner, North Carolina State’s Garrett Bradbury was already considered the best center in college football. He only helped his draft stock with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl. In Indianapolis, he showed his strength and athleticism were already NFL-ready: 34 reps on the bench press, an impressive 1.74-second 10-yard split in the 40 and smooth feet in positional drills.

While centers are not immune to the difficulties of transitioning to the professional ranks, Bradbury’s prior experience at guard means he’d be versatile enough to play anywhere along the Ravens’ interior line.

4. The Ravens’ draft evaluations are far from complete.

Like every team, the Ravens are allowed to have formal meetings with up to 30 prospects and host a local Pro Day for those who played at nearby college or high school programs. There are tens of hours of film to evaluate. They have interviews with teammates and coaches to conduct.

But players and fall rise at the combine for a reason, and a number of potential top Ravens targets weren’t able to showcase their offseason gains.

Oklahoma wide receiver Marquise Brown will have to wear a walking boot for another three or four weeks as he recovers from foot surgery for a Lisfranc injury.

Alabama running back Josh Jacobs sat out combine drills after suffering a minor groin injury the week before.

Delaware’s Nasir Adderley was sidelined by a lingering high-ankle sprain, while fellow safety Deionte Thompson of Alabama is still recovering from wrist surgery after a “freak” weightlifting accident.

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Louisiana Tech edge rusher Jaylon Ferguson was allowed to participate in limited interviews and medical evaluations but, after failing a background check, could not participate in drills or testing.

All but Brown should be ready to perform at their respective Pro Days.

5. Darnell Savage could be another first-round pick out of Maryland.

On Monday morning, the Terps’ last first-round pick tweeted at possibly their next one.

"Day to Showout," Carolina Panthers wide receiver DJ Moore wrote to Darnell Savage.

The Maryland safety’s speed surpassed even Moore’s, with with the second-best 40 time (4.36 seconds) among players at the position. He also finished in the top six in vertical jump, broad jump and 20-yard shuttle.

With no clear-cut favorite in the safety class, Savage could sneak into the back end of the first round and is unlikely to last into the third round. The Delaware native and second-team All-Big Ten selection does not have prototypical size, but he did not disappoint with his measurements, either: 5-10 6/8 and 198 pounds.

Savage had 10 pass breakups and seven interceptions over his final two seasons in College Park, but teams will have to decide where in the defensive backfield he fits best. One unnamed former scout told NFL.com that Savage compares to the Los Angeles Rams’ Lamarcus Joyner, who started his NFL career as a slot cornerback before transitioning to free safety.

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