Ravens Get Lb Mccloud In 4th Round

Size, Strength Make Him Desirable Backup, One Of 8 Second-day Selections

April 21, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

After concentrating on their most urgent defensive needs during the first day of the NFL draft, the Ravens spent yesterday with their eyes trained on a variety of positions on both sides of the ball.

When the draft's second day was done, the Ravens had chosen eight more players, using the majority of their selections to help shore up one of the NFL's worst defenses in 1996. They also added some offensive line depth and two upgrades to their backfield.

The most talked-about selection was Louisville middle linebacker Tyrus McCloud, whom the Ravens took in the fourth round with their first pick of the day.

The day after Virginia outside linebacker Jamie Sharper fell to them unexpectedly in the second round, McCloud surprisingly remained on the board as the Ravens prepared to make the fourth pick of the fourth round.

The choice of McCloud was a no-brainer to the Ravens. At 6 feet 1 1/2 and 251 pounds, McCloud has been a sturdy run stopper for three seasons with the Cardinals. He collected 403 tackles over those three years, during which he started 32 of a possible 33 games. The Ravens are impressed by his size, strength and durability, and they feel they landed a capable backup for second-year middle linebacker Ray Lewis.

"I'm jacked about getting him," Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said of McCloud. "This is a guy who looks like an NFL linebacker. He was one of the strongest people I've ever seen at the combine. This gives us a backup middle linebacker, and heaven forbid, if anyone [among the outside linebackers] gets hurt, we have the ability to slide Ray over."

The Ravens added more linebacker depth later in the sixth round, when they used their first compensatory selection to take 6-foot-1, 246-pound Cornell Brown of Virginia Tech.

Before getting to Brown, the Ravens addressed their offense, first by taking Florida center Jeff Mitchell in the fifth round, then by drafting Indiana fullback Steve Lee.

Mitchell, 6-4, 307, played guard and center for the Gators, and the Ravens think he has bounced back impressively from a broken ankle that sidelined him for the last month of last season. After losing center Steve Everitt to free agency, they needed to replenish the line.

Ravens offensive line coach Kirk Ferentz played down Mitchell's injury history, which also includes some knee problems.

"Four years ago, that was the question most asked about our first-round choice [Everitt], and he turned out all right," Ferentz said. "Our main focus was tackles, then interior players who could play both guard and center. This gives us three snappers, and we've added an excellent prospect to our team."

The Ravens envision Lee as a physical blocking back in the same mold as Mitchell. Lee, at 6-1, 259, who rarely touched the ball for the Hoosiers, was needed to replace the recently departed Carwell Gardner.

"Lee is a blocking guard with a 30s number," said Phil Savage, the Ravens college scouting director.

The Ravens also took Kentucky defensive end Chris Ward, 6-3 1/2 and 271, with their first seventh-round pick, then concluded the draft by using three compensatory picks to take Penn State quarterback Wally Richardson, Alabama linebacker Ralph Staten and Louisville defensive tackle Leland Taylor.

Richardson, 6-4 and 221, saw his stock drop after a disappointing senior year with the Nittany Lions, but the Ravens like his arm strength and his command of Penn State's system. They think, with head coach Ted Marchibroda's and quarterbacks coach Don Strock's help, Richardson can challenge Scott Otis for the team's No. 3 job.

The Ravens plan to move Staten, who weighs only 208 pounds, to safety, while envisioning him as an immediate contributor on special teams. Taylor fills a depth need on the defensive line, and the Ravens figured they should take a chance on a guy that has shown much agility for his size, 6-3, 303.

All 12 of the Ravens draft picks, along with a slew of rookie free agents, will report to the team's Owings Mills complex for a three-day minicamp beginning Friday.

"We had some great first halves last year in games that we didn't finish," Savage said. "We needed to finish up strong in the second half today, and we think we did."

Pub Date: 4/21/97

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