Ravens fill in some gaps in second, third rounds

Baylor's Baxter projected to play as a nickel back

NFL Draft

April 22, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

With no glaring needs, the Ravens were shooting for the best available players when it came time to draft in the second and third rounds yesterday.

What they ended up with were two guys who should add depth to four positions.

The Ravens selected Baylor's Gary Baxter in the second round (62nd pick overall) and Wisconsin center Casey Rabach in the third round (92nd).

The Ravens hope to use Baxter (6 feet 1, 202 pounds), primarily a defensive back in college, as the nickel back in passing situations. Rabach (6-4, 301 pounds) was a four-year starter for the Badgers and will probably play behind Mike Flynn at center.

"What Gary gives us is another big, fast athlete," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president for player personnel. "The other thing that Gary brings is that there might not be a classier guy in this draft. So I think he is going to be an addition to the community of Baltimore."

Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis likened Baxter to Rod Woodson, as someone who is physical enough to play safety yet can cover receivers. Woodson remains unsigned, but Newsome said he expects the two sides to comes to terms.

"The deal is about 75, 80 percent close to being done," Newsome said. "The contract is not done, but we're close."

With Woodson likely to be back and Corey Harris in the starting lineup for Kim Herring, who signed with St. Louis, Baxter would be the ideal fit for the team's nickel back.

Baxter was a first-team All-Big 12 choice and a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back. Baxter's statistics reflect a linebacker's more so than a defensive back; last season he finished with 96 tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles. He had no interceptions.

"He has the speed to be a corner in the league," said Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis. "But for sure right now, we want him to be one of our inside guys on third down so we won't have to slide one of our other guys inside."

Baxter played all over the field at Baylor, which he felt may have hurt his draft stock. But it was his versatility that attracted the Ravens.

"On tape, we got an opportunity to see him play at corner, at safety, down in the box, covering the tight end, and on top of that, he also was a special teams contributor," said Ravens director of college scouting Phil Savage.

With his physical play and confident attitude, Baxter said he fits right in with the Ravens defense. Baxter, who played at John Tyler High School in Tyler, Texas, said he was recruited by Florida State and Miami but choose Baylor in hopes of reviving a struggling program.

"I felt like I was cocky enough to turn that program around," Baxter said. "Unfortunately, things didn't work out the way I expected it because you can't turn a program around by yourself."

Rabach is the Ravens highest drafted lineman since Jonathon Ogden was the fourth overall pick in 1996.

"He gives us flexibility," Newsome said. "He plays center and guard. There are times in games where he did both. That is something that we experienced with Mike Flynn. So what it does is give us a very versatile offensive lineman that brings valuable depth if he's not a starter."

Rabach was selected second-team All-American by the Associated Press and was All-Big Ten first-team choice.

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