When the Ravens came within striking distance of picking a viable offensive tackle during the NFL draft, the options disappeared.
Demand for quality offensive tackles quickly outweighed the supply Thursday as four were taken ahead of the Ravens' selection in the first round, including Notre Dame's Zack Martin by the Dallas Cowboys one pick before the Ravens drafted inside linebacker C.J. Mosley.
The Cowboys won a coin flip over the Ravens at the NFL scouting combine in February for the 16th overall pick. The Ravens likely still would have drafted Mosley instead of Martin if they had a choice, given that Martin was the fourth-ranked tackle and Mosley was the consensus top player at his position.
Between lacking draft picks to trade after sending fourth- and fifth-round selections to the Jacksonville Jaguars last October in exchange for left tackle Eugene Monroe, and an unwillingness to deviate from their best-player-available philosophy, the Ravens wound up with no offensive tackles in nine selections this year.
Four of the Ravens' first eight picks were compensatory selections that couldn't be traded, making it difficult to maneuver. It was an elusive pursuit for the Ravens, who acknowledged before the draft that right tackle was one of their greatest needs.
"You are correct," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "The way the board was stacked, you could see that three or four went right away at the top of the first round. So, it wasn't stacked very well in that case. We were not going to just reach down and just take a player at the tackle position."
Many analysts characterized the Miami Dolphins' pick of offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James, from the University of Tennessee, two picks after Mosley as a reach, but they're trying to rebuild their offensive line.
The run on offensive linemen continued in the second round, when Nevada tackle Joel Bitonio went to the Cleveland Browns (No. 35) and Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandjio (No. 45) was drafted by the Buffalo Bills. Three picks after Kouandjio was gone, the Ravens drafted Florida State defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan, who was projected as high as the top half of the first round before NFL teams learned of his diluted drug specimen that he attributed to excess water intake because of hydration issues.
Two offensive tackles went late in the second round: Ohio State's Jack Mewhort and Missouri's Justin Britt.
The Washington Redskins picked Virginia's Morgan Moses with the second pick of the third round, and North Dakota State's Billy Turner went next to the Dolphins. The Denver Broncos picked Michigan's Michael Schofield four picks before the Ravens chose Colorado State tight end Crockett Gillmore at the end of the third round.
And the Ravens opted for running back Lorenzo Taliaferro in the fourth round, two picks before Stanford tackle Cameron Fleming went to the New England Patriots. Because of running back Ray Rice's potential suspension under the NFL personal conduct policy and the Ravens ranking 30th in rushing offense last season, they needed a running back. Towson running back Terrance West, another player the Ravens liked, was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the third round.
Four of the Ravens' first five picks were defensive players, even though the team ranked 29th in total offense last season and 12th in total defense.
"It just seemed like everybody was drafting offense, and we were drafting defense," Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. "I'm sure that surprises people, but it's just really the matter of fact that we just draft the best player that's available when we pick, and they happen to be defensive players. Now some of that might have been because everybody else was drafting offense.
"You saw a lot of receivers, you saw a lot of offensive linemen coming off the board. Some tight ends went quickly in the second round. We'd look to the right, we'd look to the left, and the defensive players to the right, they were higher than the offensive players to the left. It wasn't by design. It just seemed to work out that way."
And that leaves the Ravens with a questionable situation at right tackle after quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked 48 times last season, when they had Michael Oher. The veteran signed $20 million contract with the Tennessee Titans in March.
For now, the Ravens can go with Rick Wagner, who played sparingly as a rookie, at right tackle. They could also shift left guard Kelechi Osemele back to right tackle, where he started every game in the regular season as a rookie in 2012 before moving to guard for the playoffs during the Ravens' Super Bowl run.
The group of tackles available in free agency includes former Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle Eric Winston, who played for Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak with the Houston Texans. Winston, 30, didn't draw high grades last season, and he has drawn minimal interest as a free agent.