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Ozzie Newsome: Marlon Humphrey Was 'By Far The Best Player'

April 28, 2017
Were you surprised by the Ravens' choice of first-round draft pick? You aren't alone. In fact, the pick himself was surprised.

With players in major positions of need still on the board, the Ravens selected Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey with their first pick in the draft April 27, adding depth to a secondary that had already received much attention during the offseason.

As the first round of the NFL Draft unfolded, a surprising early run on wide receivers and quarterbacks left Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome with a healthy choice of options at No. 16, including defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, linebacker Reuben Foster and even tight end O.J. Howard. All three Alabama players had been viewed as potential top 10 picks.  

Instead, they surprised many and selected a different Alabama player in Humphrey, who Newsome said was "by far the best player" on the Ravens' board when they were on the clock. 

Among those surprised by the pick was Humphrey himself. 

"I did not think I had a chance of going to the Ravens at that point," Humphrey said on a conference call. "To be honest, I wasn't even really paying attention to who was on the screen, really. That's just how surprised I was when my name got called."

Humphrey said he did not make a pre-draft visit to Baltimore, but Ravens officials were high on him all along. It's possible they intentionally did not arrange a visit to mask their interest.

"We have been watching this guy for a long time," assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. "He is a guy that, universally, I think that our scouts and coaches … liked a lot. He passed every test, and he is an Alabama guy, so he is a good fit."

Newsome said things got "a little hectic" in the Ravens' war room when they were on the clock as they fielded calls about trading back, but they never heard a good enough offer. He also said the Ravens attempted to trade up, but that fell through as well.

With no deals done, the Ravens grabbed the player Newsome said was "by far the best player that we were going to take."

The son of former NFL running back Bobby Humphrey, who was himself a first-round draft pick out of Alabama in 1989, Marlon Humphrey played two seasons at Alabama before declaring for the draft after his redshirt sophomore season. 

Humphrey, who turns 21 July 8, started all 29 games he played during his Alabama career and finished this past season with 36 tackles and two interceptions for the national runners-up. 

Humphrey (6-foot-2, 197 pounds) was a star track athlete in high school, and the Ravens like his combination of size and speed, though he can be vulnerable on deep balls. 

"One thing about Marlon that really stands out for me is his physicality as a player," DeCosta said, "his ability to make really critical tackles, his ability to come up and want to be the first guy to make the tackle. He can blitz, he has really good size, he can play in multiple different types of alignments, coverages and he is competitive. 

"The other thing is he has played in really big games, and I think that is important. He is a guy that has been in national championship games on the biggest stage. He has played in a program that has really produced great players over the years, and it is a program that really does things very similar to how NFL teams do things. So, I think from that standpoint, he is going to really be a good fit as well."

Humphrey gives the Ravens a pair of first-round cornerbacks, with Jimmy Smith on the other side of the field. The Ravens had already upgraded their secondary this offseason with the signings of safety Tony Jefferson and cornerback Brandon Carr. Safety Eric Weddle, veteran safety Lardarius Webb, who was re-signed after being a cap casualty, and second-year cornerback Tavon Young also are back for a group that has received, by far, the most focus this offseason. 

In a division loaded with offensive weapons, including Antonio Brown and A.J. Green -- and the Bengals added speedster receiver John Ross at No. 9 overall -- it's clear the Ravens are putting a premium on a secondary whose lack of depth has been exposed as a fatal flaw in recent years.

The Ravens surely are still smarting from the Steelers' 75-yard, game-winning touchdown drive in the final minute on Christmas Day that knocked the Ravens out of playoff contention. 

"We have gone after a portion of our team, the back end, the secondary, with a vengeance," head coach John Harbaugh said. "I think we have done a great job as an organization in terms of getting that done. We have some really good players back there, and there is going to be competition. We are going to be darn tough to throw the ball against."

"We have two teams at least -- Cincinnati and Pittsburgh -- that put great receivers on the field against you, and you have to match that talent, talent for talent. 

"You have to match strength for strength, and I think we have done that with this pick, and it gives us a chance to get out there in the fourth quarter, in two-minute, and do the things we need to do to finish games."

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka