INDIANAPOLIS – The Baltimore Ravens’ cornerbacks are known for their instincts, solid speed and a willingness to tackle.
What’s in short supply in the Ravens’ secondary is something that can’t be taught: the element of size.
With so many imposing wide receivers populating the NFL, the Ravens could use a big shutdown cornerback.
“Yeah, I think I want to be a big, fast, tough, disciplined football team,” coach John Harbaugh said at the NFL scouting combine. “Sometimes, you can’t have everything. A guy like Josh Wilson who I love, he plays bigger than his size. We could use a big cornerback, a big receiver, a big tackle.”
The last Ravens cornerback who fit the physical prototype was enigmatic former Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister, whom Baltimore cut after one rocky season when Harbaugh took over. McAlister didn’t mesh well at all with the new coaching staff.
Drafting 26th overall in the first round, the Ravens might find it debatable whether a cornerback will be worthy of selection at that point.
The Ravens could use a cornerback since Domonique Foxworth missed all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Plus, starters Josh Wilson and Chris Carr and Fabian Washington are free agents.
The Ravens aren’t known for reaching, and many draft analysts believe that only LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and Nebraska cornerback Prince Anukamara deserve to go high in the draft.
The Ravens have been linked to Miami cornerback Brandon Harris and Texas’ Aaron Williams in the first round in mock drafts.
“If you’re looking for a corner at the end of the first round, you might have a problem,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “If you’re looking for a defensive end, a defensive tackle or maybe an offensive tackle, you’re in luck. So, it’s about whether or not your needs meet up with the strength of this year’s draft. The corners, there is a big drop-off after the first two in my belief.
“And I’m not sure about the kid from Texas, Aaron Williams, and I’m not sure I like the Miami kid up are there, Brandon Harris. So, I don’t think there is a fit for the Ravens at corner at 26.”
The Ravens could entertain the possibility of Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, who’s big and fast at 6-foot-2, 211 pounds.
He was usually avoided by quarterbacks last year.
“I’m a shutdown corner,” said Smith, who has 4.37 speed in the 40-yard dash. “I’m a big, athletic, physical corner, I love to press, I have great speed, great size, great ball skills. I’m a shutdown corner.”
Obviously, he doesn’t lack for confidence.
Compared to Oakland Raiders star cornerback Nmandi Asomugha, Smith replied: I like the comparison a lot. I think I have better ball skills than he does, though.”
Smith acknowledged that teams are curious about character concerns and have probed his background.
He acknowledged having an underage drinking incident.
"I’ve told them I’m a great person,” Smith said. “I was a young player who made young mistakes. But I grew as a person.”
Smith intercepted no passes last season.
"Sometimes they avoided me in the pass game, sometimes it got a little boring,” Smith said. “I had one opportunity for an interception, a one-handed interception, I dropped it. After that I had like three passes thrown my way for the rest of the season. I definitely take that as a compliment, I mean, they didn’t throw my way, ever. They respected me.”
Other large cornerbacks include Williams (6-1, 195), Virginia’s Ras-I Dowling (6-1, 198) and Colorado’s Jalil Brown (6-0, 202).
Williams is known as a big hitter.
He missed one game last season due to a concussion. For his career, Williams recorded 106 tackles with four interceptions, six forced fumbles, five blocked punts and three sacks.
Some have projected him as a safety because of his physicality and size.
“I don’t see myself playing safety,” Williams said. “Whatever team picks me up and needs me to play safety, I’m locked in right away.”
Harris is known for his quickness and instincts. He’s considered to be more comfortable in man coverage than in zone schemes.
He ran track as a freshman at Miami, competing in the 60 meets as well as the 400 meters and the 400-meter relay.
However, Harris struggled in the Sun Bowl and is known for arm tackling instead of wrapping up and delivering a textbook form tackle.
A junior who declared early for the draft, Harris is accustomed to playing against sizable wideouts.
However, he was only measured at 5-foot-9 at the combine. That’s two inches shorter than he was listed at for the Hurricanes.
“It won’t be a hindrance to me,” Harris said. “I’m a very competitive person. I get on the edge when people start talking about things like, ‘You’re not the biggest guy, how are you going to cover those big receivers.’ That’s part of the game I’ve been going up against bigger receivers my whole life.
“Year in and year out, I’ve always been productive. A lot of us don’t have the numbers or the size that Peterson and Prince have, and those guys are great corners, but there are a lot of people here intent on showing that this isn’t just a two-person cornerback class.
Dowling has a low-key, quiet demeanor. He almost seems shy.
He intercepted eight passes in three seasons with 28 pass deflections. As a senior, he only played in five games due to hamstring, ankle and knee injuries.
"The kid had a pretty high grade going in,” Mayock said. "He’s a big, good-looking kid. Everybody’s frustrated that they won’t be able to see much senior tape.”
Although he lacks ideal recovery speed as he runs in the mid 4.5 range, Dowling’s size could be an asset.
“Nowadays, they’ve got a lot of tall receivers,” Dowling said. “It helps out a lot being tall, and being able to guard those big receivers.”
NOTES: Maryland linebacker Adrian Moten ran the fourth best time at his position group, clocking a 4.62 in the 40-yard dash. The only linebackers ranking ahead of him were Martez Wilson (Illinois, 4.49), Von Miller (Texas A&M, 4.53) and Brian Rolle (4.56). Moten met with the Ravens… The Ravens met with University of Miami cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke at the scouting combine. … Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews, who met with the Ravens at the Senior Bowl and the combine, dislocated his shoulder in the bench press. “It was just a freak thing,” Matthews told NFL Network. “It’s been sore for a while now. The bench put it over the top.”