Cornerback is another premium position in need of reinforcements this offseason. The Baltimore Ravens have two capable starters in Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young. However, Smith has clearly earned the injury-prone label after missing 13 games over the last three seasons. And Young is best utilized in the slot due to his lack of length to matchup on the outside.
Beyond Smith and Young on the Ravens depth chart, Shareece Wright and Kyle Arrington are a pair of veterans who have disappointed and are likely to be released from their contracts this offseason. The other corners currently under contract are Maurice Canady and Robertson Daniel, two unproven young players. Canady showed some flashes in the preseason, yet he may be transitioned to the barren free safety position.
Jerraud Powers was serviceable for the Ravens last season, but he is limited to the slot and is an unrestricted free agent. Chris Lewis-Harris is also unrestricted, while the Ravens have the rights to retain Jumal Rolle and Sheldon Price if they elect to do so. Between Canady, Rolle and Price, all tall corners with man coverage ability, the team should be able to fill out their depth chart with quality fifth and sixth corners.
The corner position is rivaled only by the offensive line as the position group where depth is most crucial. There is a league-wide scarcity of quality corners and lineman, the drop off from starters to backups at these positions is dangerously steep for most teams. Three corners are on the field for more than 60-percent of all snaps these days. Furthermore, a liability at corner can destroy the weekly game plan faster than almost any other position. The Ravens have a bunch of needs this offseason, cornerback is arguably the most essential in terms of safeguarding against another underwhelming season.
With these parameters established, the Ravens should look to add at least two corners to their roster before training camp. Ideally, one corner capable of starting on the outside that would push Young to the slot full-time, and another backup with the size to cover in the red zone when inevitable injuries arise. The Ravens could address the position in free agency, but it is doubtful they will find an effective starter for the ‘right price’ in this hyper inflated market.
Fortunately, the 2017 NFL draft class features perhaps the best crop of corners ever collected in the same draft. The Ravens will probably draft a cornerback with one of their first two selections, depending on how the draft board shakes out. Sidney Jones, Teez Tabor, Marlon Humphrey or Quincy Wilson could be the pick at #16 overall. Tre’Davious White, Cordrea Tankersley, Gareon Conley and Adoree’ Jackson appear to be excellent options for the Ravens second round pick, if the certain run on corners is delayed long enough to make one of them available at #47 overall. Each of these cornerback prospects possess the size, athleticism and skills to start as rookies across from Jimmy Smith.
The third, fourth and fifth rounds are where the possibilities become interesting. This cornerback class boasts not only outstanding early round prospects, but several intriguing mid-round corners who would probably be drafted earlier in other years. Here are five players with mid-round projections who should be on the Ravens radar to fill the critical fourth cornerback role:
- Rasul Douglas, West Virginia
Prototypical size with great instincts in zone coverage and the ability to contest jump balls. Douglas is a playmaker with questionable make-up speed and agility to cover quick receivers.
- Fabian Moreau, UCLA
Physical specimen with quick twitch athleticism, strength and lateral fluidity. Moreau is still a bit raw after a position change in college and his ball skills need development.
- Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado
Experienced player brings polished technique, quick feet and the ability to mirror receivers. Awuzie plays smaller than his listed size, lacks physicality against the run and may not possess the required deep speed.
- Kevin King, Washington
Instinctive with rare height and a great understanding of leverage in coverage. King is another corner who has questions about his long speed and may have benefitted from playing beside two elite prospects in the Huskies secondary.
- Channing Stribling, Michigan
Long press man corner who excels in trail technique and is a strong tackler. Stribling has the traits of a ballhawk but his lack of quickness should make him available on Day 3.