OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- With the run on quarterbacks and wide receivers, the Baltimore Ravens were on the clock with three prospective top-10 picks available.
The Ravens then delivered one of the biggest first-round surprises in team history Thursday, when they selected Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey with the No. 16 overall pick. Even Humphrey himself was caught off-guard.
"I did not think I had a chance of going to the Ravens at that point," said Humphrey, who didn't have a pre-draft visit with the Ravens. "To be honest, I wasn't even really paying attention to what was on the screen. That’s just how surprised I was when my name got called."
Humphrey wasn't a reach. He was a lock to be taken in the first round. Humphrey was the No. 14 prospect in Todd McShay's rankings, and he was the No. 2 cornerback on Mel Kiper Jr.'s board. His size (6 feet, 196 pounds), speed, long arms and physical style gives him a chance to become a top cornerback.
But Humphrey will need time to develop. He is known to have technique issues, and he has struggled in defending deep passes. That is a concern considering Humphrey will eventually cross paths in the division with Antonio Brown, A.J. Green and fellow first-rounder John Ross.
"He was by far the best player that we were going to take," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "The only way we were not going to take him was someone was going to have to offer us something really good to trade back."
The popular argument to this pick is the Ravens invested in cornerback during free agency, when they signed veteran Brandon Carr. But no one can blame Baltimore for its focus to upgrade the secondary, unless you've forgotten two of its most painful losses in recent years.
The lack of depth at cornerback cost the Ravens in the playoffs in 2014 and hurt their chances of reaching the postseason last year. Three years ago, Baltimore lost in the divisional round at New England in large part because of the struggles of Rashaan Melvin, the seventh cornerback to start that season. Last season, the Ravens watched their hopes of winning the division end as Ben Roethlisberger marched the Steelers 75 yards for the winning touchdown against a secondary that was without Jimmy Smith.
The way the Ravens have addressed cornerback this offseason shows how the sting of those games linger.
"We've gone after a portion of our team in the back end with our secondary with a vengeance," coach John Harbaugh said. "We are going to be darn tough to throw the ball against."
The Ravens began the draft knowing Humphrey was a possibility to be their pick in the middle of the first round. Baltimore, though, had its sights on another prospect as well.
Newsome acknowledged he tried to trade up somewhere "in the teens." It's presumed the Ravens were targeting Temple linebacker Haason Riddick.
"But it didn’t work out," Newsome said of his attempt to move up.
Cornerback has long been ignored by Baltimore. The Ravens hadn't taken one in the first three rounds of the past five drafts. The last was Jimmy Smith in 2011.
That hurt depth at a position where the Ravens desperately needed it. In the past three seasons, the Ravens have started at least four corners. Over those three seasons, Baltimore has allowed 62 touchdowns to wide receivers. Only the New Orleans Saints (64) and Philadelphia Eagles (63) have allowed more.
Now, the stakes at secondary have been raised even more in the AFC North. The Steelers can spread out defenses with Antonio Brown, Eli Rogers, Sammie Coates and the recently reinstated Martavis Bryant. The Bengals can put pressure on cornerbacks with A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd and speedy first-round pick John Ross.
The Ravens can counter at cornerback with Smith, Carr, Tavon Young and now Humphrey.
"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 for talent," Harbaugh said. "You have to match strength for strength, and I think we have done that with this pick. 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."