Days before the 2023 NFL draft, NBC Sports’ Peter King released his lone first-round mock draft, or as he calls it, “the annual exercise in futility.” At No. 22 for the Baltimore Ravens, King mocks Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes.
“I’ve thought receiver for the last month, even after Odell Beckham Jr. signed with the Ravens. But Forbes is the imperfect candidate in a wholly imperfect draft, and I think he’s going in the first round,” King wrote. “There is so much to like with the 6-0 ¾, 168-pound corner, the most productive defensive back in this draft. The only thing not to like is his rail-thin physique. But how about missing one of 37 college games with injury, returning six interceptions for touchdowns (an NCAA record), and having 30 interceptions in his past six seasons (16 in high school, 14 in college)? You want this man on your team. The Ravens would figure out how to maximize his instinctive play.”
Forbes, the turnover-savvy corner, could be a big boost for the Ravens as they’ve struggled to get their gloves on interceptions. Over the past three years, the Ravens have ranked in the bottom half of the league in picks, and were twice ranked in the bottom five in interceptions as a team (2021: No. 28 [9 INT]; 2020: No. 28 [10 INT]). It’s been six seasons since they last ranked in the top half of the NFL, when they led the NFL in interceptions in 2017, with 22.
It makes great sense for the Ravens to add a No. 2 cornerback with sharp instincts to jump routes and play with a bit of risk; they traded for such a player in 2019 to acquire cornerback Marcus Peters, who’s picked off eight passes since becoming a Raven and strolled two of them into the end zone. The bonus of Forbes would be youth and, thus far, a consistent bill of health.
While the reasoning of Forbes at No. 22 is clear, King does make the selection a bit bold, as Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr., goes after fifth in this draft, at No. 26 to the Dallas Cowboys.
“When the offseason began, I expected Porter—son the of the ferocious former Steeler linebacker—to go somewhere in the teens, latest,” King wrote. “But some evaluators think he’s not the physical presence his size (6-2 ½, 193 pounds) would portend, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he fell out of the first round.”
It’ll be interesting to discover if Porter Jr. is falling due to ‘mock fatigue’ or if pundits are finally gleaning more information from scouts and evaluators. We’ll have to find out on Thursday.