That saying you grew up with, “lightning never strikes twice in the same place,” is bogus. Totally false.
Let Britannica explain it: “Even during the same thunderstorm, there is nothing stopping a lightning bolt from striking the same place it had struck previously, even if it was as little as a few seconds earlier or as much as centuries later.”
Pay attention, Baltimore: Don’t assume the team will escape another injury-riddled season like last year.
Think the Ravens are set at offensive tackle behind Ronnie Staley, Morgan Moses and Ja’Wuan James? Is Baltimore set at cornerback behind Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters?
Yeah, the team thought it was set at those positions last year, too – then they were hit by an unprecedented number of injuries, particularly to key players. As Ebony Bird’s Justin Fried said at the end of the season, “No team was more adversely affected by injuries this season than the Ravens. That’s not just an opinion either, it’s an objective fact.”
So, as Reed said, don’t be surprised to see Baltimore “double-dip” at certain positions during the upcoming draft. The Ravens have 10 picks in the April 28-30 draft, tied for the third-most in the league. That includes five picks in the fourth round, more than any other team.
Cornerback in particular is a likely draft target. Humphrey and Peters suffered season-ending injuries, while Anthony Averett and Chris Westry signed with other teams. Tavon Young, whose 550 snaps last season was third among Baltimore CBs, was released.
Here’s a look at cornerbacks, by tiers, who could be available in the first four rounds:
There’s a definite top tier among cornerbacks, but it’s a small one: Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner, LSU’s Derek Stingley and Washington’s Trent McDuffie are the consensus top CBs in the draft. Of the three, it’s possible that Stingley or McDuffie are still available. Gardner is the No. 5 overall prospect in the latest Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board, followed by Stingley (No. 6) and McDuffie (No. 11).
Baltimore drafted an Edge in the first round last year, Odafe Oweh, and they have All-Pro players at offensive tackle and cornerback. Therefore, logic says the team won’t take a player at one of those positions when it goes on the clock with the No. 14 overall pick.
But those are all premium positions – losing just one starter at CB, OT or OLB can be crippling.
Therefore, if McDuffie, or, especially Stingley, are still available, then expect Baltimore to pull the trigger.
The only question, though, would be this: What if a top cornerback or pass rusher are both available? Example: What if McDuffie and Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson are both available at No. 14?
— NFL (@NFL) April 9, 2022
It’s possible that Gardner, Stingley and McDuffie are the only CBs to go on Day 1.
Even if that unlikely scenario came to fruition, the Ravens should have several solid options out of the second tier of cornerbacks. Five cornerbacks are ranked in the second-round range (33 to 64), according to the Rigdon big board, including UTSA’s Tariq Woolen (No. 37), Florida’s Kaiir Elam (No. 38), Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. (No. 43), Georgia’s Derrion Kendrick (No. 53) and Auburn’s Roger McCreary (No. 56). Washington’s Kyler Gordon (No. 28) is another possibility, especially if he slides. Gordon is the only other CB ranked among the top 32 prospects.
Woolen is coming off a spectacular showing at the Combine after the 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior ran a blazing 4.26-second 40 and had a 42-inch vertical jump. Booth, who will reportedly have a top-30 visit with Baltimore, could see his draft stock slide after it was revealed that he needs hernia surgery (but is expected to be ready by the start of the season), according to Walter Football. And Elam has sort of turned into the “forgotten man” in this draft as an under-the-radar prospect who could sneak into the bottom half of the first round, according to the Locked on NFL Draft podcast.
Kendrick, meanwhile, is a polarizing prospect with a huge range in rankings by various draft analysts. For example, he’s ranked as a second-round prospect in the Rigdon big board, but NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein grades Kendrick as an average backup or special-teamer. And McCreary has seen his stock slip since the end of the year, as he’s generally seen as a press-man-only corner who has little to no experience at slot.
It’s possible, especially if Gordon, Woolen, Elam or Booth are available.
However, if only three or four corners go off the board in the first round, then it won’t take long before there’s a run at the position in the second round.
And if that’s the case and only Kendrick or McCreary are available, then Baltimore may pass at the position in the second round.
The Ravens have a top 30 visit scheduled with Andrew Booth Jr. 😮💨 pic.twitter.com/nQvAqqgWdW
— Ramey (@HoodieRamey) April 11, 2022
There are six CBs ranked in the third-round range (picks 65 to 105), and the Ravens have two picks in this round.
One of the more interesting CBs who could still be available with Baltimore’s first third-round pick is Houston’s Marcus Jones – but he might not get a lot of playing time on defense his rookie year. Instead, Jones’ calling card is as a returner. The 5-foot-8, 185-pound junior and former Troy transfer had close to 3,000 return yards and nine touchdowns as a return specialist (six kick return TDs, three punt return TDs). That includes two kick returns for TDs in a game against Coastal Carolina.
Jones also had a solid year on defense, as he finished this past season with 48 tackles, 5 interceptions and 18 pass deflections.
From Walter Football’s most-recent stock report: “The diminutive corner has generated a lot of pre-draft visits leading up to the 2022 NFL Draft. According to NFL sources, teams are interested in Jones mostly as a returner and feel he could be an excellent special teams contributor. They feel he is not as impressive as a cornerback, but he could carve out a role in the NFL as a backup corner who is the lead returner.”
If Baltimore hasn’t drafted a cornerback by now, then this is the most likely spot for the Ravens to take one – especially with pick No. 76.
SENIOR BOWL 1-on-1 PREVIEW: Cincinnati WR Alec Pierce vs. Houston CB Marcus Jones. Day 2 vs. Day 2 draft projection. Pierce will get plenty of rematch chances in Mobile. pic.twitter.com/UxCEE1FfXw
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) December 4, 2021
The tiers at cornerbacks align nicely with the rounds, as the next group includes four cornerbacks ranked in the fourth-round range (106 to 143).
After that? The quality drops off significantly. No CBs are ranked in the fifth-round range, according to the latest Rigdon-Big Board. Michigan’s Vincent Gray, ranked No. 136 overall, is the last of the Tier 4 CBs. Those CBs might not start, but all should be able to contribute as rookies, if not pick up a spot start or two.
After Gray, the next-highest ranked cornerback is Iowa’s Matt Hankins, the No. 200 overall prospect.
In other words, if Baltimore hasn’t drafted at least one cornerback by the end of the fourth round, then the Ravens may skip the position altogether if it’s looking for a potential Year 1 contributor. Keep in mind, the team only has one other pick after the fourth round, No. 197 overall in the sixth round.
That depends on whether the team has already drafted a cornerback. If they haven’t, then the Ravens may take a hard look at players like Alabama’s Josh Jobe (No. 110), Pittsburgh’s Damarri Mathis (No. 119) or Mississippi State’s Martin Emerson (No. 127).
Gray and Emerson have the best size out of this tier of CBs. Gray (6-foot-2, 192) ran a 4.54-second 40 at the Combine, while Emerson (6-foot-2, 200-pounds) ran a 4.53-second 40. Both came from press-heavy defensive schemes and could be used as big slot corners. Emerson also has special teams experience on the punt and kick coverage units.
Size & length to play press, and the click & close to play zone; @HailStateFB's Martin Emerson is going to slip because he's a little stiff hipped & this CB class is ridiculously deep. But if you keep his work in front of him he's damn effective: #NFLDraftpic.twitter.com/poklCObsxw
— Simon Carroll (@NFLDraftSi) April 8, 2022
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