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Five Things That Could Affect Ravens In 2017 NFL Draft

April 26, 2017
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will head to the podium in Philadelphia shortly after 8 p.m. April 27, and finally, thankfully, all the mock drafts will be behind us and the real one will be at hand.

A lot can happen between when the Cleveland Browns are on the clock with the first overall pick and when the Ravens are scheduled to make pick No. 16, and this year's draft is considered one of the most unpredictable in a long time. The Ravens have been linked to no fewer than a dozen players in the various mock drafts, at positions including receiver, offensive line, linebacker and defensive line. 

The Ravens central philosophy is to take the highest-rated player on their board regardless of need, and this year, it's likely the highest-rated player will conveniently fill one of the Ravens' host of needs.  Given those needs, and a class that is considered deep in several areas, it would surprise no one to see the Ravens trade back from their No. 16 spot to acquire an additional draft pick. 

As the first round of the draft unfolds, here are five things to watch that could affect the Ravens:

1. When and how do the top three receivers go off the board?

Wide receiver is a major position of need for the Ravens, and the top three receivers in the draft -- Clemson's Mike Williams, Western Michigan's Corey Davis and Washington's John Ross -- all have been linked to the Ravens in various mock drafts. Speculation for these three has been all over the map. Some mock drafts have them all gone by the time the Ravens pick at No. 16. Others expect at least one to last well into the first round. Some have speculated Ross, with blazing speed but a history of knee injuries, could drop. 

Which of these receivers comes off the board first, and how early? If two are gone in the top 12 picks, do the Ravens trade up to make sure they get one of these playmakers? 

2. How many quarterbacks go early?

The Browns have two picks in the top 12, and they might use one of the picks on a quarterback. It is not considered a strong quarterback class -- led by North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky, Clemson's Deshaun Watson and Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes -- but that might not stop teams desperate for quarterback help. There has been talk that the 49ers at No. 2, the Jets at No. 6 and the Bills at No. 10 all have considered drafting a quarterback in the first round. The more quarterbacks taken early, the better for the Ravens, as that will keep players the Ravens like on the board longer.

3. Will there be a run on edge rushers?

Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said five edge rushers could go in the first round, and as many as 10 in the first two rounds. Pass rushers such as Tennessee's Derek Barnett, Missouri's Charles Harris and UCLA's Takkarist McKinley could be available at No. 16, and as with the receivers, any early quarterback picks would help the Ravens here. Then again, if there is a run on pass rushers, the Ravens might like their options at receiver if they choose to go that route. 

4. Does Reuben Foster fall into the Ravens' neighborhood?

The Alabama linebacker is considered a top-10 talent, but he was sent home from the NFL Combine after an argument with a hospital worker, he has dealt with a shoulder injury and he tested positive for a diluted urine sample at the combine. Those red flags could send Foster tumbling. 

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, who played at Alabama, has strong ties with the Crimson Tide, and Newsome's staff surely has vetted Foster. Newsome said at the pre-draft news conference that the combine incident did not affect Foster's standing on the Ravens' draft board. "He went to Alabama, so I think I have the inside on most of that information that comes out of there," he said. 

5. Will there be any 11th-hour surprises?

Last year's draft was rocked moments before it started when a video surfaced of tackle Laremy Tunsil wearing a gas mask as he appeared to be smoking marijuana. Tunisil had been considered a potential No. 1 overall pick, but he was passed over by several teams, including the Ravens at No. 6. Tunsil ultimately went to the Dolphins at No. 13. Will there be any bizarre 11th-hour surprises this year that send a player tumbling down the draft board?