Ravens are unlikely to pass on Archuleta

Arizona St. linebacker looking solid as safety

Pro Football

2001 Nfl Draft

April 18, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Back in the 1997 NFL draft, the Ravens took Peter Boulware and then some took a deep breath.

The Ravens were risking their fourth pick on a college defensive end and banking on a successful switch to outside linebacker. While Boulware turned into a Pro Bowl linebacker, it'll be intriguing to see if the Ravens are willing to gamble again.

Their next first-round experiment may unfold in Saturday's draft, when the Ravens could select Arizona State's Adam Archuleta, a linebacker in college projected to play safety in the NFL. At 6 feet, 210 pounds, Archuleta doesn't have the size to play linebacker at the pro level, but has displayed all the tools to make the transition to strong safety.

In a personal workout, the Pacific-10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year ran a 4.40-second 40-yard dash, leaped 39 inches in the vertical jump and bench-pressed 225 pounds 31 times. A relentless tackler with great anticipation, he led his conference with 119 tackles last season and registered at least one tackle for a loss in 24 of his final 29 games.

"I think when you combine the physical attributes that he has and his temperament on the field, he's the kind of player that you're willing to take a chance on even though he's changing positions," said Phil Savage, the Ravens' director of college scouting. "I don't know if there's a tape back there that within two to four plays that he's not showing up in a big way."

Archuleta wouldn't be setting a precedent, either. Darren Woodson and Pat Tillman were undersized linebackers who made All-Pac-10 at Arizona State and then moved back to safety where they became starters in the NFL.

It's just another challenge for Archuleta, a former walk-on with the Sun Devils.

"It's no secret on the ASU campus that I wanted to play safety," Archuleta said. "It's where I belong. It's in my heart, and my body's made for it."

There appears to be one major hurdle for Archuleta lasting until the Ravens' 31st pick. The Oakland Raiders have a need at safety and sit three spots ahead of the Ravens at No. 28.

If the Ravens do get Archuleta, though, they probably wouldn't use Archuleta at safety immediately. He could become the team's dime back in place of Corey Harris, who is expected to start at strong safety.

In that role, Archuleta would be a natural fit, playing near the line in passing situations.

"The guy played four years down in the box," said Ozzie Newsome, vice president of player personnel. "So he would be more comfortable there than he would 12 to 15 yards back."

The second safety expected to be taken is Florida State's Derrick Gibson. He should be picked late in the first round and last no later than the middle of the second round.

"He's a big safety who is probably better playing close to the line than the deep middle of the field," Savage said. "He's got great straight-line speed, but I wouldn't say he's what we consider a cover safety. If you put him on a third wide-out, he might have some trouble."

If the Ravens wait until the second round for a safety, they should have the likes of Washington's Hakim Akbar and Memphis' Idrees Bashir still available.

Outstanding physically, Akbar thrives against the run, but his coverage technique needs refinement. In 33 career games, he recorded 225 total tackles, recovered three fumbles and forced five.

"He's a headhunter and he likes to mix it up," Savage said. "When you poke holes in his game, it's generally when he's in the back end and the deep part of the field where he's been too nosy or too aggressive."

Bashir is a quick cover safety who needs to improve his footwork and tackling. So although he started all three of his seasons at Memphis at safety, some scouts envision him moving to cornerback.

"He's a little more of a center fielder with some ability to come down and cover a slot receiver," Savage said. "They do that some in the Memphis defensive scheme. He's probably been able to show that more than some of these other guys."

NOTE: The Ravens expect full participation for next week's minicamp. But Boulware (arthroscopic exam of his left shoulder), center Mike Flynn (surgery on right knee), cornerback Chris McAlister (broken bone in right hand) and defensive end Michael McCrary (broken right hand) all could be limited.

At a glance

When: Saturday (rounds 1-3) and Sunday (rounds 4-7)

TV: ESPN (Saturday, noon-7 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.), ESPN2 (Saturday, 7 p.m. to conclusion; Sunday, 1 p.m. to conclusion)

Ravens picks: First round, 31st overall; second round, 62nd; third round, 92nd; fourth round, 126th; fifth round, 161st; sixth round, 194th; seventh round, 231st

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