Ravens likely to cash in on blue-chipper RB Phillips, OT Ogden LB Hardy, WR Johnson are top-pick targets

Draft trade-up unlikely

Modell: 'We're going to get one of them'

Possible top draft picks for the Ravens

April 10, 1996|By MIKE PRESTON AND GARY LAMBRECHT | MIKE PRESTON AND GARY LAMBRECHT,SUN STAFF

There are only four blue-chip players in the college draft, and the Baltimore Ravens most likely will select one from that group, owner Art Modell said yesterday.

The four players Modell singled out are Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips, Illinois outside linebacker Kevin Hardy, UCLA offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden and Southern Cal wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson.

The Ravens have the Nos. 4 and 26 picks in the first round of the two-day draft, which begins April 20. Modell said the Ravens will not make any deals for a higher selection in the first round, but they might trade down. The New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars and Arizona Cardinals have the top three picks, respectively.

"We might trade down if we could get three No. 1's, which I never had," said Modell. "There are four real blue-chippers, and we're going to get one of them."

The Ravens have made no secret that they like Phillips, who rushed for 2,230 yards, scored 21 touchdowns and averaged 5.9 yards per carry last season.

Despite Phillips' off-the-field problems -- he pleaded no contest last fall to charges that he assaulted his former girlfriend -- his stock has risen in the past week. The Jets reportedly are the latest team to want Phillips.

Phillips is expected to meet with Modell for dinner tonight, the only college player extended such an invitation.

"He and I are going to go one-on-one, to see what makes him tick," said Modell. "We're going to have a complete examination, full disclosure. [But] chances are we're not going to get him."

If the Jets take Phillips, the Ravens' choice probably would be the 6-4, 244-pound Hardy, who had 105 tackles last season. Running back and linebacker are the areas where the Ravens need the most help.

"We would like to draft on need with our No. 1 pick, but sometimes you have to take the best athlete available, and sometimes you get the right combination," Modell said recently.

Johnson fits the mold of the new prototype receiver in the NFL. He's tall and big (6-3, 217 pounds), almost a clone of the Dallas Cowboys' Michael Irvin. Johnson had 102 receptions, a 14.1-yard average and seven touchdowns last season.

Ogden is 6-8 and weighs 318 pounds. He has started at UCLA since midway through his freshman year. He runs extremely well and has tremendous durability.

No matter its first-round pick, the team should be able to select a quality runner in a draft loaded with backs such as Phillips, UCLA's Karim Abdul-Jabbar, Ohio State's Eddie George, Texas A&M's Leeland McElroy, Minnesota's Chris Darkins and Michigan's Tim Biakabutuka.

Biakabutuka visited with the team yesterday. Rutgers tight end Marco Battaglia, Mississippi State cornerback Walt Harris and George, the Heisman Trophy winner, were expected to fly into Baltimore last night.

Phillips, California defensive end Duane Clemons, Johnson, and Illinois defensive end Simeon Rice are supposed to arrive tonight. Ogden, Eastern Kentucky tight end Jason Dunn, Ohio State wide receiver Terry Glenn, Hardy, McElroy and Baylor defensive tackle Daryl Gardener will visit before the end of the week.

Pub Date: 4/10/96

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