Deep backfield bodes well for Ravens Upgrading secondary may come through Mack, Scott or Gray

Nfl Draft Preview

April 16, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

The deepest secondary class in recent drafts almost assures the Ravens the opportunity to upgrade a defensive backfield that was one of the worst in the NFL a year ago, allowing 248.1 passing yards per game.

With the team signing the Seattle Seahawks' Michael McCrary nine days ago to fill their pass rushing need and then having the No. 4 pick overall which will enable them to select an outside linebacker in the first round, the Ravens probably will try to select a cornerback or safety with their two second-round picks in Saturday's draft.

There is enough talent to go around.

"Shawn Springs and Bryant Westbrook rate 1-2 or 2-1 on almost everyone's board, and then there is a dropoff," said Joel Buchsbaum, of Pro Football Weekly. "However, there are still a lot of defensive backs who will go later in the first round or second frame."

Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said: "This is a real good draft for defensive backs. I suspect five or six may go in the first round, but I also believe we'll be able to improve our situation."

Springs and Westbrook are expected to go within the first five selections with Seattle taking Springs as the No. 3 selection and Westbrook going to the Detroit Lions as the No. 5 pick.

But with the Ravens having the Nos. 34 and 58 picks in the second round, they should be able to come away with highly touted players such as Maryland cornerback Chad Scott or safeties Tremain Mack of Miami of Florida or Virginia Tech's Torrian Gray.

The Ravens need another cornerback, especially on the right side, where second-year player DeRon Jenkins is listed as the starter.

The Ravens have only one experienced starter at safety in Stevon Moore even though they still have interest in Seattle free-agent safety Robert Blackmon.

"A lot of these guys have big physical statures, they match up better with the bigger receivers that come into the league," said Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis.

Scott, Mack and Gray probably will be available heading into the second round.

The Ravens have been impressed with Scott, who may be the most physical of any cornerback in the draft. The Ravens also like his versatility.

"If he can't play corner, he certainly can go inside and play safety," said Lewis. "He's a good tackler who has shown he is physical enough."

Mack is generally regarded as the best safety in college football. He had 70 tackles last season, and was named the Big East Special Teams Player of the Year after returning 13 kickoffs for 514 yards with a nation's best average of 39.5 yards. He also blocked 10 kicks in the last two years.

The only problem is that the New Orleans Saints have the pick before the Ravens in the second round, and the Saints might want to pick Mack with that selection.

In any event, Gray should be available for the Ravens. He has impressive speed and good range with the potential to cover one-on-one, which the Ravens require the safeties to do in their defensive scheme.

Texas safety Chris Carter and Louisville cornerback Sam Madison are two other players the Ravens might pursue in the second round to strengthen their defense.

Ratings of defensive backs

The top cornerbacks and safeties available in the NFL draft, according to Joel Buchsbaum of Pro Football Weekly:

Cornerbacks

Player: 1. Shawn Springs

School: Ohio State

Hgt: 6-0

Wgt: 195

40*: 4.35

Buchsbaum's comment: Has a chance to become a Pro Bowl player

Player: 2. Bryant Westbrook

School: Texas

Hgt: 5-11 3/4

Wgt: 200

40*: 4.42

Buchsbaum's comment: Dominating; needs to improve tackling form

@Player: 3. Tom Knight

School: Iowa

Hgt: 5-11

Wgt: 186

40*: 4.56

Buchsbaum's comment: Improved since 1995 comeback from

knee surgery

Player: 4. Sam Madison

School: Louisville

Hgt: 5-11

Wgt: 179

40*: 4.9

Buchsbaum's comment: Has skills, confidence; needs to eliminate lapses

Player: 5. Chris Canty

School: Kansas State

Hgt: 5-9 1/2

Wgt: 190

40*: 4.50

Buchsbaum's comment: Great ability; wants to be next Deion Sanders

Safeties

Player: 1. Tremain Mack

School: Miami

Hgt: 5-11 1/2

Wgt: 200

40*: 4.4

Buchsbaum's comment: Poor decisions on and off the field, but is big talent @Player: 2. Chad Scott

School: Maryland

Hgt: 6-1

Wgt: 203

40*: 4.57

Buchsbaum's comment: Promising if he improves tackling and consistency

Player: 3. Kim Herring

School: Penn State

Hgt: 5-11 1/2

Wgt: 191

40*: 4.5

Buchsbaum's comment: A solid prospect who improves every year

Player: 4. Chris Carter

School: Texas

Hgt: 6-1 1/4

Wgt: 200

40*: 4.51

Buchsbaum's comment: Toughness questioned, but has smarts and ability

Player: 5. Torrian Gray

School: Virginia Tech

Hgt: 5-11 1/2

Wgt: 202

40*: 4.44

Buchsbaum's comment: Runs, covers well; slow to shed blocks

*-Time in 40-yard dash

Pub Date: 4/16/97

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