If Ravens don't trade, Boulware looks like pick Modell alters stand with fit as linebacker

April 17, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

With the NFL draft just two days away, one opinion throughout the Ravens organization and around the league has held steady for the past three months. Two of the top four players available are USC defensive tackle Darrell Russell and Florida State end Peter Boulware.

Russell and Boulware head a list of defensive line prospects that should make their presence known during the draft's early rounds. As many as seven defensive linemen, including Notre Dame tackle Renaldo Wynn, Florida State end Reinard Wilson, Clemson end Trevor Pryce and Columbia end Marcellus Wiley, could be off the board by the close of the first round.

And, unless the Ravens, who hold the fourth overall selection and four of the first 64 picks, trade down from their top spot, they will probably take Boulware, the draft's highest-rated pass rusher.

Although the Ravens would love to get Russell, he figures to be gone after the New York Jets make the opening selection. And despite the fact that the Ravens already have filled a huge pass-rushing need by signing end Michael McCrary, Boulware might be too tempting to pass on.

Last week, upon McCrary's signing, team owner Art Modell said he would rather trade down from the No. 4 slot and gain additional picks, then pursue Boulware. Modell has since altered that position, saying the Ravens could take the 6-foot-4, 255-pound player and insert him as as an outside linebacker in their 4-3 defense.

"In our world, we don't consider him a lineman," Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said of Boulware. "This guy has great athletic ability, great intelligence, good character. You look for a guy who can make a considerable number of big plays right now. He's a guy who is going to get your defense off the field on third down."

The Ravens need more guys like that. Their defense gave up the third-highest number of points (371) in the NFL in 1996, largely because they were last in the league in sacks (30), passing yardage allowed (248.1 per game) and third-down percentage.

Among the linemen expected to get drafted in the early rounds, the majority of them are ends.

"I think it's a necessity factor more than anything. Everybody wants big-play people who can get to the passer," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda. "We didn't have any [last year]."

Along with McCrary, Boulware figures to alter that scenario significantly. As a junior last fall, Boulware set a single-season record at Florida State with 19 sacks.

Joel Buchsbaum, the draft expert from Pro Football Weekly, said Boulware "plays with linebacker agility, is a super athlete with a tremendous upfield burst who has excellent counter and spin moves and always seems to be making big plays."

The drop-off after Boulware and Russell is significant, although the first two rounds appear to be full of linemen with no shortage of NFL promise. The Ravens have the fourth and 28th picks of the second round. By that point, a number of excellent prospects like Miami end Kenny Holmes and Pryce will likely be taken.

Two players whom the Ravens would love to land -- Wiley or North Carolina tackle Rick Terry -- have moved steadily up the draft chart ratings in recent weeks, and are probably out of the Ravens' range.

At 6-4, 270 pounds, Wiley dominated the Ivy League, and won scouts over with excellent performances in the East-West Shrine game and the scouting combine.

Gil Brandt, the former Dallas personnel director and now the NFL's draft consultant, called Wiley "the most intriguing player in the draft."

Terry, 6-4, 305, led the nation's top-ranked defense last fall with 15 1/2 tackles for losses. He has run the 40-yard dash in 4.86 seconds.

Wilson, Boulware's bookend mate with the Seminoles, could be a second-round steal. At 6-2, 260, Wilson's lack of size has diminished his attractiveness as an end, although Lewis sees Wilson's eventual team solving that problem easily.

"You make him a 3-4 linebacker on the right side who can rush a bit," Lewis said. "He becomes a big linebacker as opposed to a small defensive end."

Pub Date: 4/17/97

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