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2017 NFL Draft: Best group of defensive backs ever?

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Cornerback Marshon Lattimore gets a lift from defensive end Sam Hubbard after a first-quarter interception against Tulsa. Joining the celebration is safety Malik Hooker.
JONATHAN QUILTER | DISPATCH

Most consider the 2014 receiver crop to be the best in history. Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, Marqise Lee, Jordan Matthews, Devante Adams, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, Donte Moncrief, John Brown, Martavis Bryant. The list of top flight playmakers goes on and on.

The 2017 crop of defensive backs is shaping up as the answer to defending all of these talented wide receivers.

The top dozen cornerbacks on early draft boards include a plethora of players with elite size, speed and experience. The Florida duo of Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson will vie to be the first corners to come off the board, both are press man specialists with great length. Marlon Humphrey of Alabama and Desmond King of Iowa are both well rounded corners who excel in coverage and run support.

Sidney Jones is poised to follow fellow Washington corner Marcus Peters’ footsteps as a bonafide ballhawk. Adoree’ Jackson is supreme athlete who is electric with the ball in his hands. Cordrea Tankersley from Clemson, Cameron Sutton from Tennessee and Marshon Lattimore from Ohio State are all lanky corners with strong man coverage skills. Another Buckeye, Gareon Conley, is a polished prospect with ideal size.

The draft class also provides a pair of top slot corners. Both Jourdon Lewis from Michigan and Tre’Davious White from LSU have extensive starting experience and refined technique. There is even more quality cornerback depth with Day 3 projections. Washington’s Kevin King, Michigan’s Channing Stribling, West Virginia’s Rasul Douglas and Minnesota’s Jalen Myrick each possess the tools to develop into NFL starters.

The secondary talent does not end at cornerback. The 2017 safety class is absolutely loaded. Ohio State’s Malik Hooker and LSU’s Jamal Adams could each claim to be the best safety prospect since Eric Berry. Jabrill Peppers from Michigan and Louisville’s Josh Harvey-Clemons project to the in vogue hybrid linebacker/safety position.

Utah’s Marcus Williams, Washington’s Budda Baker and Texas A&M’s Justin Evans are three more safeties with early round grades. Alabama’s Eddie Jackson and Florida’s Marcus Maye both missed most of the last season with injuries, but each has legitimate starting potential. Day 3 projects include many intriguing players such as Nebraska’s Nate Gerry, Clemson’s Jadar Johnson, Ole Miss’ Tony Connor, Miami’s Rayshawn Jenkins and Auburn’s Jonathan Ford.

The 2017 draft class boasts perhaps the best cornerback crop and safety crop of the last decade. And it could not come at a better time for the Baltimore Ravens.

In the coming offseason the Ravens hope to add a number three and number four cornerback, in addition to a quality safety to groom behind their aging veterans. If the draft board falls in a favorable way, the Ravens could draft multiple high caliber defensive backs that would set up their secondary for success over the next several seasons.