Ravens eyeing cornerback class

OWINGS MILLS – There are a few compelling reasons for the Baltimore Ravens to seriously consider drafting a cornerback, and those aren't confined to the merits of a rich, deep incoming class of rookie defensive backs. The Ravens aren't assured that cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington will recover from anterior cruciate ligaments in time for the first game of the regular season.

By its nature, cornerback is a position that's susceptible to injury. And the Ravens could use some reinforcements opposite Domonique Foxworth.

"Well, I kind of compare corners to pitchers," Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta said. "They're fragile, they can break down. You can never have enough good ones. I'm a Red Sox fan, and they go out and sign a couple good pitchers every year because guys are going to come down with injuries: hamstrings, back, shoulders, all that kind of stuff.

"It's the same with corners. The more corners you have, the better off you'll be. You have to have them because the quickest way to get beat is by bad corner play."

The Ravens have devoted a significant amount of time investigating the cornerback position. They hosted Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson for a visit this week.

Secondary coach Chuck Pagano ran Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty's campus workout with director of college scouting Joe Hortiz observing the drills.

The Ravens have displayed a lot of interest in University of Virginia cornerback Chris Cook, an imposing specimen at 6-foot-2, 212 pounds.

And Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome interviewed Alabama cornerback Kareem Jackson at the NFL scouting combine.

Florida State cornerback Patrick Robinson has 4.38 speed in the 40-yard dash and a natural backpedal.

"There probably are four or five guys that definitely merit a first-round grade," DeCosta said. "They're all first-round, second-round type guys, and probably all 32 teams have a different ranking."

With University of Florida cornerback Joe Haden expected to be gone by the time the Ravens are on the clock with the 25th overall pick, Baltimore could potentially have their choice between Wilson, McCourty, Cook, Jackson and Robinson. Wilson is the most likely to possibly be gone by the Ravens' pick.

"When you watch Kyle Wilson on film, there's nothing not to like," said former Cleveland Browns scout Russ Lande, who covers the draft for the Sporting News. "He's tough, he's competitive and he has great ball skills. He has that burst, his athleticism is not in question at all. He has the traits of a really good football player.

"You enjoy watching him because he's passionate, competitive and instinctive I think he'd be a great fit for Baltimore. He would learn a lot from guys like Ed Reed and Fabian Washington. He's a great player and a good kid that they could take under their wing. I think it would be a great situation for him."

Wilson is an instinctive, athletic player whose stock has steadily climbed since he excelled during the Senior Bowl

He also ran the 40-yard dash between 4.39 and 4.43 seconds and posted a 38-inch vertical leap at his Pro Day.

The New Jersey native was lightly recruited out of high school, but he doesn't lack for confidence.

"Everybody wants to have that label as a shutdown guy who can take away certain receivers and their side of the field and not have quarterbacks throw their way, I definitely see myself as one of them," Wilson said in a telephone interview. "I know I'm the best out there. I just look for the opportunity to show that.

"I can just show my personality and athleticism. I just really like making plays, taking receivers out of the play completely and making big hits. I can do it all and I love to do it all." McCourty blocked seven kicks at Rutgers and intercepted four passes during his final three seasons.

The 5-foot-10, 193-pounder is known for his cover skills and athleticism. And he offers another dimension with his work on special teams, doubling as a productive kickoff returner.

The Philadelphia Eagles, who draft one spot ahead of Baltimore, are high on McCourty.

"I think being a complete football player and not just a corner or a nickel," McCourty said during the combine. "Being able to do everything a coach wants on special teams, too."

Jackson is drawing high marks after running faster than expected.

He's also known for his toughness and ability to break on the football.

The 5-foot-11, 196-pounder has 4.4 speed, a 37 1/2 inch vertical leap and bench pressed 225 pounds 13 times at the NFL scouting combine.

"Kareem is a guy that I think a lot of people didn't think would run very well, but he ran in the low 4.4s," DeCosta said. "He's a great technician. Nick Saban is a great defensive backs coach and really puts a lot of stress on his DBs to play a lot of pro-style coverages. He also tackles extremely well."

Robinson isn't nearly as rough on wide receivers as Jackson. However, he plays the position seemingly effortlessly when he's focused.

"Patrick Robinson is probably one of the best athletes at the corner position in the entire draft," DeCosta said. "He's very, very fluid in his hips, he has very good feet. He's a fast guy, and he's got good ball skills. He's not the most physical guy. Kareem is probably more physical, but Robinson probably has better feet."

Lande believes that only Haden, Wilson and Robinson should go in the first round with Jackson and McCourty better suited for the second round.

"I wouldn't be shocked to see Jackson and McCourty slide," Lande said. "There are legitimate concerns. Each one has questions. McCourty's not real big.

"He's a good athlete and is always in position, but he hardly ever makes a play on the ball. He breaks up one of four passes. It's not something that's real instinctive with him."

NOTE: Ravens running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery worked out former West Virginia running back Terence Kerns. Kerns played last season at Lackawanna Junior College in Scranton, Pa., due to academic issues that caused him to leave West Virginia. Kerns is a Frederick native who played at Thomas Johnson High School.


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