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The Ravens anticipate veteran Ed Reed being their starting free safety this year.
But behind him there is some uncertainty.
Baltimore lost both Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski to free agency, leaving a definite need in the defensive backfield. That’s why some of the recent mock drafts have the Ravens addressing that spot in the first round this year.
“Like a lot of positions; we feel like we could use some depth at that position,” Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta said last week. “I think this is a depth draft for the Ravens.”
The two players regarded by most draft experts as the best safeties in this year’s class are Mark Barron out of Alabama and Harrison Smith from Notre Dame.
“Both guys are very good players,” DeCosta said. “Both guys figure to come off the board.”
Barron, and Alabama product, is considered a definite first-round pick., He’s likely going to be the first safety taken and off the board by the time the Ravens pick at No. 29. He started the last three years at Alabama and was a leader on a defense stacked with NFL talent.
If he does slide to the end of the first round, he could be an intriguing option for Baltimore.
“Mark Barron is a great player,” DeCosta said. “We’ve had a chance to see him, again, because he’s an Alabama player. We’ve seen him a lot on TV, live games – just a great player.”
Smith’s draft potential varies a little more than Barron’s, as he will likely be available when the Ravens draft in the first round and possibly even around when they draft in the second.
“Harrison Smith will probably come off sometime between the end of the first round and probably midway through end of the second round,” DeCosta said.
Smith was a solid player during his four years at Notre Dame, and is exactly the kind of player that would provide depth in the secondary. He has performed well in workouts leading up to the draft and his stock appears to be rising at this point.
“Harrison Smith is an interesting guy,” DeCosta said. “He’s a big, rangy safety who runs pretty well. He’s got good ball skills. He’s very smart. I think he’s a two-time captain at Notre Dame, which tells you about his personality, intangibles and leadership.”
Whether the Ravens end up taking Barron or Smith, they likely won’t be the Ravens’ starters at the beginning of the season. Baltimore already has Reed and veteran Bernard Pollard penciled in as their two starting safeties, but adding Barron or Smith would provide some much-needed depth and potentially become an heir-apparent to Reed in the defensive backfield.