Heading into the offseason, one of the key tasks for the Baltimore Ravens was to improve the secondary. It feels like Groundhog Day saying that, as the secondary has seemingly needed improvement every offseason for the past decade.
Nonetheless, the Ravens are off to the right start, bringing on top free agent safety Tony Jefferson and releasing veteran Lardarius Webb. They are rumored to be very interested in potentially signing Morris Claiborne, a highly talented but oft-injured cornerback, as well.
Save for needed depth, the safety positions are set with starters Eric Weddle and Jefferson. At cornerback, the Ravens have two standout players in Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young, but nonexistent depth. Even if they add a veteran such as Claiborne to the mix, bringing in more cornerbacks is still on the agenda.
One way to fix that issue is to turn to next month’s NFL Draft as an option. With eight picks, it is logical to think the Ravens will use at least one to address the cornerback position. Could Baltimore’s first pick (16th overall) be the one they use to address the position?
This question cannot be easily answered, as it will ultimately boil down to which players are off the board when the Ravens are on the clock. But one intriguing potential option at 16 is Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey.
When it comes to all-around cornerbacks in this year’s draft class, Humphrey is one of the most complete, with loads of upside.
With only two years of experience, the 6’0, 197 pound Humphrey is just scratching the surface of potential.
From a playing style and body type standpoint, Humphrey is reminiscent of former New England Patriot and current Tennessee Titan, Logan Ryan. Humphrey has the length to fend off opponents at the line of scrimmage, and the physicality and instincts to be a complete cornerback.
With his notably long arms, Humphrey can effortlessly create space off the snap.
Being able to create comfortable separation with the simple stretch of the arm makes for easier coverage and more recovery time.
When Humphrey has to recover or close gaps in a short amount of time, the length again shows, as does his closing speed.
With instincts and short-area burst like this, Humphrey shows that he is a diverse defender, with the innate ability to play both man and zone coverage. The long arms help him make up for any lost time.
The plays above are ones that gives flashbacks to Ryan. Never among the elite cornerbacks in the NFL per se, Ryan has always been a consistent and complete defender. If a prospect such as Humphrey were to reach Ryan’s potential, that is an undoubted “win” for whichever team that drafts him.
Throw in the instinctive and willing physicality of Humphrey and it is easy to see how he can thrive in any defense.
A weakness to note in Humphrey’s game, and where he will likely struggle the most in the NFL, is in covering the deep ball.
His closing speed is exceptional in short areas, but his downfield recovery speed can underwhelm.
He got beat so easily in the play above (top of the screen) because of simple hesitation and hand movement off the snap. This can be a result of many things, but is likely a product of Humphrey’s physicality and success in the short game, which could cause him to underestimate the deep ball.
He also may run a 4.41-second 40-yard dash, but when it comes to long speed, his that quickness can dwindle.
Nonetheless, Humphrey is one of the most physical defenders in this year’s draft class, sometimes to a fault.
The legality of the play above (Humphrey is the player with the arrow pointing to him, not the one circled) is highly questionable, but the Ravens need another cornerback who is not afraid to play smash mouth football and get aggressive with opposing receivers.
Humphrey checks the boxes in more ways than one, and would be a quality addition to the defense.