Draft, Ravens share trait: big `D'

Baltimore not in market for what '01 crop features, still may pick defensively

Pro Football

2001 Nfl Draft

April 20, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

One of the draft's strengths ranks low on the Ravens' need list.

That does not necessarily mean they won't plan for the future, which would certainly be the case if the Ravens take a defensive lineman early in this weekend's draft.

Preparing for the future might be worthwhile considering the ages and injury history of the starters. The youngest lineman is tackle Sam Adams, and he will be entering his eighth year.

Tackle Tony Siragusa and end Rob Burnett are both going into their 12th seasons, while end Michael McCrary starts his ninth. McCrary, Burnett and Siragusa have had knee surgeries in the past, though all remained healthy throughout last season's Super Bowl run.

With a surplus of quality defensive tackles in the draft, the Ravens could end up with a steal if they choose one with the 31st pick. And quality tackles are usually hard to come by.

"If you look at our team, we've got four that can practically start for most teams in [Siragusa and Adams] and Lional [Dalton] and Larry Webster," said Ozzie Newsome, Ravens vice president of player personnel. "Defensive tackle is the strength of our team but it is also the strength of this draft."

Many draft projections indicate that at least five tackles will be selected in the first round, and 10 of the first 45 picks overall will be tackles. Florida's Gerard Warren headlines the group and will certainly not be available by the time the Ravens pick. Georgia tackles Richard Seymour and Marcus Stroud, along with Miami's Damione Lewis, are expected to be taken by the middle of the first round.

That leaves Stanford's Willie Howard and Texas' Shaun Rogers as the probable highest rated tackles the Ravens could end up with, players that would likely be off the board already in any other year.

Howard's knee surgery before the start of his senior season led to a subpar year. As a junior, he was named the top defensive lineman in the Pacific-10 but registered only five sacks last year. Howard's knee should be fully healed as a professional. His athleticism at 6 feet 3 1/2 , 295 pounds, could mean a move to end.

"Some people think he's going to be better at end," said Phil Savage, Ravens director of college scouting. "Some say he's bulky enough to play inside. Either way, I think ultimately he will find a spot and be a starter in the NFL. I don't know that he's going to be a great NFL, Pro-Bowl type player but he does hustle. He's got good size, and he's a pretty good athlete. I think he's going to go more in the second round."

The Ravens could opt to go for a higher need by picking a true end, though the draft is weaker at that position. Keith Washington, the team's top backup last season, signed with the Denver Broncos. Adalius Thomas, who played mostly on special teams as a rookie last year, is the team's lone backup.

Missouri's Justin Smith, California's Andre Carter and Florida State's Jamal Reynolds should be gone, leaving Nebraska's Kyle Vanden Bosch available in the first round for the Ravens.

Vanden Bosch, 6 feet 4, 270 pounds, recorded 17 quarterback hurries last season but only 5 1/2 sacks. He is a bit more polished but the same type of player as Texas Christian's Aaron Schobel, whom the Ravens could probably pick up in the second round. Schobel was the Defensive Player of the Year in the WAC. He forced seven fumbles and recorded 31 sacks in his career.

"Aaron has been a productive player at TCU in terms of number of sacks and pressures," Savage said. "He is a player who doesn't wow you with athleticism but can bend the corner. People generally compare him to Michael McCrary because he's got that same type of motor, same type of desire. The thing he doesn't have is the big lower body that Michael has. That is probably the difference. He is probably going to go in the second or third round."

The Ravens could also go with Maryland tackle Kris Jenkins, Southern Mississippi's Cedric Scott, Minnesota's Karon Riley, or Marshall's Paul Toviessi later in the draft.

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