The Ravens didn't offer any clear-cut predictions or pronouncements at their pre-draft news conference earlier this week, but then again, they never do. The last thing they want to do is tip their draft hand.
But reading between the lines, all signs point to the Ravens going defensive in this draft.
Speaking about the Ravens first pick at No. 6 overall, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said, "There are four or five guys that we feel comfortable taking at 6 on the defensive side."
You don't have to be math genius John Urschel to deduce that if the Ravens have five defensive players identified as first-round targets, it's almost certain one of them will be available when they are picking at No. 6.
So while some mock drafts have linked the Ravens to offensive players such as tackle Ronnie Stanley or running back Ezekiel Elliott, it sure sounds as if the Ravens will be thinking defense with that first pick. The most likely candidates remain cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Vernon Hargreaves, defensive end Joey Bosa, defensive lineman DeForest Buckner and linebacker Myles Jack.
What about that second pick, at No. 36 overall?
"As we get into the second round," DeCosta said, "we see a lot of those kind of guys: playmakers, safeties, ball-hawking safeties, corners who can intercept passes and score touchdowns, pass rushers as either five-techniques or as outside linebackers who can sack the quarterback. So, it does shape up very nicely for us, based on that criteria.”
To be fair, DeCosta was replying to a question specifically about defensive players, but DeCosta later stressed that this draft, moreso than those in previous years, is stocked on the defensive side.
"I think it’s a strong defensive draft," DeCosta said. "We see more defensive players in this draft than in the past few years – about 35 extra defensive players that would be considered draftable players."
DeCosta also predicted a "run on corners" between picks 20 and 45, so if they don't pick one in the first round, it will come as no surprise if they take one at No. 36.
To be sure, the Ravens aren't going to dismiss their offensive issues. Left tackle remains a concern, and they will not pass up the chance to take an impact receiver. General manager Ozzie Newsome will stick to his "best player available" philosophy, and when the Ravens are on the clock, history suggests they'll turn to the top player on their board, regardless of position.
In 2013 and again in 2014, the Ravens used their first three picks on defensive players. Don't be surprised if the Ravens follow that blueprint again.