Ravens set to tackle holes in line

Team expects to find help for offensive line in draft's later rounds

April 15, 2000|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

While the Ravens haven't hid the fact that they will take an "offensive" approach to this weekend's NFL draft, they may not limit themselves to just the skill positions.

The Ravens will have a good chance to boost their firepower with a versatile running back and a play-making wide-out with their two first-round choices. After that, they hope to shore up their offensive line in a draft short on stars but deep in guards and tackles.

The biggest area of concern remains right guard, where third-year reserve Mike Flynn would probably be expected to start right now. The Ravens then would look to secure some insurance to a front line that has been hindered by injuries and the loss of two starters, guard-tackle Everett Lindsay (signed with Cleveland) and right guard Jeff Blackshear (cut).

The only guard projected as a first-round selection is Tennessee's Cosey Coleman, a physically imposing figure who's capable of clearing paths on the outside. Once Coleman is gone, there could be seven guards taken from the second to fourth rounds, where the Ravens have just one choice, in the third, although they'll likely bolster that number if they trade down from their No. 5 pick in the first round.

Still, the Ravens have a perfect record with offensive lineman. All three of their draft picks -- left tackle Jonathan Ogden, left guard Edwin Mulitalo and center Jeff Mitchell -- all scheduled to start this season. Ogden was a no-brainer as the franchise's first pick in 1996, but the Ravens showed good instincts by grabbing Mitchell in the fifth round three years ago and Mulitalo in last year's fourth round.

"The guards and wide receivers are a dime a dozen in most every draft," said Phil Savage, the Ravens' director of college scouting. "You can take a guard basically in any round."

And the Ravens can sort through a clump of guards with a ranging assortment of styles.

Want a driving blocker? Pick Travis Claridge of Southern California, the Pac-10's top lineman who finishes off defenders in the running game.

"Claridge has demonstrated the ability to slug it out in the trenches or utilize his speed and mobility to pull out, leading the back around the corner," draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said.

Need size? Take Leander Jordan from Indiana University in Pennsylvania, the small-school project who has size at 6 feet 4, 330 pounds, as well as some weighty question marks.

"I think you will find that most of the league is split down the middle," Savage said. "Some think he has a lot of possibility. Others have put him down the draft board."

Looking for bulk? Choose Hawaii's Kaulana Noa, the 307-pound big body who locks on opponents with his strong hands and sustains blocks.

"At times, he's been beaten out of his stance, but he does recover extremely well," Kiper said.

"Noa should prove to be a valuable backup early on at the pro level."

Following that group, the guards that could be had in the middle to late rounds include: fast-rising Mark Tauscher of Wisconsin, underrated Noel LaMontagne from Virginia and sleeper pick Jon Osterhout of Sacramento State.

The center position is a one-man show with Virginia's John St. Clair. A tight end for the Cavaliers three years ago, St. Clair can cover some space while his inexperience is the biggest deterrent.

Alabama's Chris Samuels, who will almost certainly be taken by the Redskins as the third overall pick, headlines the tackles but it's debatable whether he's in the same class as other recent high-profile blockers like Ogden or Orlando Pace. He could be the first of four tackles chosen in the first round.

The Ravens rate Oklahoma's Stockar McDougle as the next-highest tackle. He puffed out to 352 pounds in the off-season, lowering his stock. McDougle, though, may be the best run blocker in the lot and shows tremendous push off the line.

"He is a big, giant athlete," Savage said. "Early in his career, he is going to struggle come because he is just not polished enough to come in and play immediately. However, there is a big upside ahead for him."

Player School Ht. Wt. Skinny

Tackles

Chris Samuels Alabama 6-5 322 Dominant pass blocker slotted to go to the Redskins at No. 3.

Stockar McDougle Oklahoma 6-5 351 Ballooned in the off-season, which didn't inflate his draft stock.

Chris McIntosh Wisconsin 6-6 315 Somewhat overrated, but still valued for durability.

Adrian Klemm Hawaii 6-4 306 Gifted athlete may need a year of seasoning.

Guards Cosey Coleman Tennessee 6-4 322 Possibly best all-around lineman with his mobility and strength.

Travis Claridge USC 6-5 305 Old-school type is rugged, but slow at times.

Leander Jordan Indiana, Pa. 6-4 330 Raw, huge talent could struggle in crossover to NFL.

Chad Clifton Tennessee 6-5 335 Ran 4.94 but has tendency of not adjusting on the move.

Centers John St. Clair Virginia 6-5 303 Former tight end is consensus favorite as draft's top center.

Matt O'Neal Oklahoma 6-2 277 Slender yet has strong feel for his position.

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