Safety is arguably the biggest position of need for the Ravens and there are fortunately a plethora of options for Ravens general manager and the rest of his draft brain-trust to select from. It's not a matter of if the Ravens will take a safety — it's when.
Last year's first-round pick, Matt Elam, put together a solid rookie campaign; however, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has made it clear he would like to move Elam from free to strong safety, which is a better fit for his strong-suits on the football field. Elam is slated to replace James Ihedigbo, who signed with the Detroit Lions as a free agent after the Ravens clearly had decided to move on.
At the annual pre-draft luncheon, Director of College Scouting, Joe Hortiz, spoke about some options for the franchise, making it seem like they're looking for a dynamic player like Elam was in college to play alongside the former Florida Gator.
Hortiz spoke about a few players in particular, most notably Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
"Ha Ha is more of a traditional free safety by the way [Alabama] used him," Hortiz said. "But again, the safety position has become interchangeable, and we do a lot of that here as well."
Calvin Pryor and Deone Bucannon were also mentioned by Hortiz as potential targets for their versatility in the secondary. Pryor (Louisville) may likely be gone by the 17th overall pick, but Bucannon (Washington State) is a second-to-third round projection.
"You'll see them both down low in the box and on the back end," he said.
What was made clear by Hortiz is that the Ravens are looking for a certain mold of player for their next safety, not like some of the players the Ravens have had previously based off of reading in-between the lines from his comments.
Most of the comments seemed to be based around playing styles of former safety Bernard Pollard, who struggled with tackling and drawing penalties for aggressive hits.
"If you look at the safety position overall, you look for versatility from guys who are good tacklers, sound tacklers — not hard hitters, but guys that get down in space — who have some coverage skill and just general instincts and football knowledge on the back end."
"I'd say as a whole, the class is pretty solid," Hortiz said.
What the Ravens will ultimately do in the first-round remains to be seen, and will likely depend on how many quarterbacks are selected before they go on the clock with the 17th overall selection. If a run happens on quarterbacks, other areas of need such as wide receiver or offensive line may take precedence.