Ravens lining up wish list

Team hopes to fill hole at right tackle in draft, eyes L. Jones, M. Pearson

Pro Football

April 17, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

If the Ravens want to fill that hole at right tackle, they will need to do it early.

The crop of offensive linemen in this weekend's draft is heavy at the top and slim pickings in the later rounds. To find a starting right tackle, the Ravens will probably have to pick one in the first two rounds, with Arizona State's Levi Jones considered a team favorite.

"These guys heard me at the meeting say I would rather play with a four-man line than bring [an unnamed lineman] in," said Phil Savage, Ravens director of college scouting. "So, there are some bad ones out there."

The headliners of the offensive tackle class are Texas' Mike Williams and Miami's Bryant "Mount" McKinnie. For the first time in five years, two offensive linemen should be among the top 10 selections.

The second tier consists of Jones, Florida's Mike Pearson and Boston College's Marc Colombo and drops off significantly after this group.

The Ravens made a concerted effort to familiarize themselves with offensive linemen.

Right tackle has been a year-long concern for the Ravens. Leon Searcy, a top free-agent signing last year, couldn't make it out of training camp healthy, and Kipp Vickers and Sammy Williams took turns struggling at that spot.

That's why Ravens offensive line coach Jim Colletto visited nine schools in a 10-day period, working out 12 players.

"When you look at the kind of players that are playing on the defense in this league, the importance of having athletic tackles is important," Colletto said.

Jones fits that description, but he may not be available when the Ravens draft at No. 24. Rated as the third-best tackle in the draft, Jones could be taken by the Tennessee Titans at No. 14 or the Denver Broncos at No. 19.

Jones, who attended Arizona State on an academic scholarship, has a special blend of intelligence and athleticism.

"He's one of the better athletes of all the offensive linemen," Colletto said.

Said Savage: "He certainly could come in and play on the right side immediately."

A fourth tackle possibility in the first round is Pearson, a three-year starter at left tackle for Florida. A raw run blocker, he needs to improve his strength and leverage.

"He is an athletic pass protector," Savage said. "There's an upside to him being only a junior."

Colombo is an interesting prospect expected to go in the second round. Considered an overachiever at Boston College, he has impressed scouts with his ability to battle in the trenches.

"He won't pass the eyeball test," Savage said. "He's got a belly, skinny legs. But he plays effectively, and he's what plays in the NFL right now. He's a big, mauler-type right tackle. He's not going to impress you in May minicamp in shorts. But when the pads go on, he'll be there to answer the bell."

Two other prospects projected to go later - Mississippi's Terrence Metcalf and California's Langston Walker - have question marks.

Metcalf didn't allow a sack in his last two seasons in college, but he could scare teams with an ankle injury that forced him to miss most of the 1998 season. Walker is a scout's nightmare, displaying all the raw talent with a questionable heart.

Lineman picks

A look at the Ravens' history at drafting offensive linemen:

Year Player (round)

2001 Casey Rabach (3)

2000 Richard Mercier (5)

1999 Edwin Mulitalo (4)

1998 Sammy Williams (6)

1997 Jeff Mitchell (5)

1996 Jonathan Ogden (1)

On the board? The Ravens have the 24th pick in the first round, the 56th pick in the second round and 87th pick in the third round of Saturday's NFL draft. Offensive tackles who are projected to land in those rounds:

Round 1 Player, School Ht./Wt. Skinny Levi Jones, Arizona St. 6-5/306 Smart as well as talented

Mike Pearson, Fla. 6-6/305 Reliable pass blocker

Round 2 Marc Colombo, BC 6-7/313 Mean, tough guy

Terrence Metcalf, Miss. 6-3/316 May project as a guard

Later rounds Jeff Hatch, Pennsylvania; Chester Pitts, San Diego State; Victor Rogers, Colorado; Langston Walker, California

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