The deepest secondary class in recent drafts almost assures the Ravens the opportunity to upgrade a defensive backfield that was one of the worst in the NFL a year ago, allowing 248.1 passing yards per game.
With the team signing the Seattle Seahawks' Michael McCrary nine days ago to fill their pass rushing need and then having the No. 4 pick overall which will enable them to select an outside linebacker in the first round, the Ravens probably will try to select a cornerback or safety with their two second-round picks in Saturday's draft.
There is enough talent to go around.
"Shawn Springs and Bryant Westbrook rate 1-2 or 2-1 on almost everyone's board, and then there is a dropoff," said Joel Buchsbaum, of Pro Football Weekly. "However, there are still a lot of defensive backs who will go later in the first round or second frame."
Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said: "This is a real good draft for defensive backs. I suspect five or six may go in the first round, but I also believe we'll be able to improve our situation."
Springs and Westbrook are expected to go within the first five selections with Seattle taking Springs as the No. 3 selection and Westbrook going to the Detroit Lions as the No. 5 pick.
But with the Ravens having the Nos. 34 and 58 picks in the second round, they should be able to come away with highly touted players such as Maryland cornerback Chad Scott or safeties Tremain Mack of Miami of Florida or Virginia Tech's Torrian Gray.
The Ravens need another cornerback, especially on the right side, where second-year player DeRon Jenkins is listed as the starter.
The Ravens have only one experienced starter at safety in Stevon Moore even though they still have interest in Seattle free-agent safety Robert Blackmon.
"A lot of these guys have big physical statures, they match up better with the bigger receivers that come into the league," said Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis.
Scott, Mack and Gray probably will be available heading into the second round.
The Ravens have been impressed with Scott, who may be the most physical of any cornerback in the draft. The Ravens also like his versatility.
"If he can't play corner, he certainly can go inside and play safety," said Lewis. "He's a good tackler who has shown he is physical enough."
Mack is generally regarded as the best safety in college football. He had 70 tackles last season, and was named the Big East Special Teams Player of the Year after returning 13 kickoffs for 514 yards with a nation's best average of 39.5 yards. He also blocked 10 kicks in the last two years.
The only problem is that the New Orleans Saints have the pick before the Ravens in the second round, and the Saints might want to pick Mack with that selection.
In any event, Gray should be available for the Ravens. He has impressive speed and good range with the potential to cover one-on-one, which the Ravens require the safeties to do in their defensive scheme.
Texas safety Chris Carter and Louisville cornerback Sam Madison are two other players the Ravens might pursue in the second round to strengthen their defense.
Ratings of defensive backs
The top cornerbacks and safeties available in the NFL draft, according to Joel Buchsbaum of Pro Football Weekly:
Player: 1. Shawn Springs
School: Ohio State
Buchsbaum's comment: Has a chance to become a Pro Bowl player
Player: 2. Bryant Westbrook
Hgt: 5-11 3/4
Buchsbaum's comment: Dominating; needs to improve tackling form
@Player: 3. Tom Knight
Buchsbaum's comment: Improved since 1995 comeback from
Player: 4. Sam Madison
Buchsbaum's comment: Has skills, confidence; needs to eliminate lapses
Player: 5. Chris Canty
School: Kansas State
Hgt: 5-9 1/2
Buchsbaum's comment: Great ability; wants to be next Deion Sanders
Player: 1. Tremain Mack
Hgt: 5-11 1/2
Buchsbaum's comment: Poor decisions on and off the field, but is big talent @Player: 2. Chad Scott
Buchsbaum's comment: Promising if he improves tackling and consistency
Player: 3. Kim Herring
School: Penn State
Hgt: 5-11 1/2
Buchsbaum's comment: A solid prospect who improves every year
Player: 4. Chris Carter
Hgt: 6-1 1/4
Buchsbaum's comment: Toughness questioned, but has smarts and ability
Player: 5. Torrian Gray
School: Virginia Tech
Hgt: 5-11 1/2
Buchsbaum's comment: Runs, covers well; slow to shed blocks
*-Time in 40-yard dash
Pub Date: 4/16/97