Let's face it: Reed is a pick without pizazz

April 21, 2002|By MIKE PRESTON

ED REED. HE SOUNDS LIKE a partner in a law firm.

Ed Reed?

Isn't he someone's stockbroker?

Actually, Reed was the No. 1 draft pick of the Ravens yesterday, the 24th selection overall. The experts and the Ravens agree he was the leader of top-ranked University of Miami's defense last fall, and that the free safety from Saint Rose, La., plays with the same passion as Ray Lewis.

But no one was jumping up and down at the team's Owings Mills complex when Reed's name was called. It was like Reed had just been drafted into the Army instead of the National Football League.

Another draft, just another player.

Ed Reed's name had no juice.

Now, don't get me wrong. Ed Reed was the second-best safety in college football, and was the second one selected yesterday behind Oklahoma's Roy Williams, the eighth player taken overall by Dallas. He might just become the next Rod Woodson.

But he wasn't a top-10 pick, and didn't slip down the board. And that's what made the Ravens' drafts so exciting in past years. They always came away with something that seemed so special.

Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden was special because he was the first Ravens player ever drafted, and Lewis was the second. Peter Boulware had the reputation of being the nation's best pass rusher in 1997, and then came two cornerbacks in the next two drafts, Duane Starks and Chris McAlister, both No. 10 overall.

The Ravens selected running back Jamal Lewis and wide receiver Travis Taylor in the first round two years ago to jazz up their offense, and the Ravens were smiling all over themselves last year when Todd Heap, rated the best tight end in the draft, fell to them at No. 31, the last spot in the first round.

But there was no magic yesterday, just Ed Reed.

The Ravens had their eyes on three players who they thought might slip to them in the first round, including Boston College running back William Green, Arizona State offensive tackle Levi Jones and Northwestern linebacker Napoleon Harris.

The selection of Green would have been fun, because it would have been interesting to see him run in training camp, just as it was to see if Ogden could make the transition from college tackle to pro guard. Or to see if Lewis was big enough to play in the middle.

There was a fascination with the pure instincts of Boulware, making the transition from college defensive end to outside linebacker, and to see how much immediate impact Jamal Lewis and Taylor were going to have on a struggling offense.

But Green went to Cleveland at No. 16, and Jones went to Cincinnati at No. 10. Harris was taken by Oakland one spot ahead of the Ravens.

The magic was gone. The Ravens were left with good, old Ed Reed.

"None, we got wiped out," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' senior vice president of football operations, about his top three. "The thing you learn in this business is that you don't have control of other people's war rooms. You understand why we had a liking for those guys when they go that high. This was a very easy pick for us. When we got to pick No. 22, we had two players left. We had already called in Reed, but we made sure we fielded all calls [while the Ravens were on the clock]."

When Ravens team officials walked into the news conference to talk about Reed, there wasn't much excitement. Last year, Newsome and Phil Savage, the team's director of scouting, traded high fives across the table when they found out Heap was still available. Owner Art Modell cracked a lot of jokes, and coach Brian Billick once asked to be pinched because he thought he was dreaming.

Yesterday, it seemed like they were in Mudville.

"He is not 6 feet, not a 4.4, not this, not that, just a football player," said Savage of the 5-11, 205-pound Ed Reed. "We're excited about Ed Reed, and the coaching staff is excited about having Ed Reed here, too."

Said Newsome: "The thing that really sold me on him is every time we watched Miami's defense, and they needed a play to be made, Ed Reed made that play. When they needed a fire to be put out, Ed Reed put the fire out."

Ed Reed will probably become a good player because the Ravens have a pretty impressive draft record. The selection of Ed Reed allows them to move Gary Baxter, a second-year player drafted in the second round, from safety to starting cornerback even though Baxter is slow coming out of his backpedal.

Ed Reed was a four-year starter at Miami, and finished with 288 tackles. He had a school-record 21 interceptions as well as a school-record 54 pass deflections.

Miami has a great tradition. It's the school that produced Ray Lewis. That might have been a selling point yesterday, but Ed Reed said he has never met Ray Lewis.

That figures. Ed Reed says he has been to Baltimore only once, and that was recently to work out. He plays a position that really doesn't stick out, a spot that only appears to provide support for the others.

Safety. Ed Reed. It was a good choice, but just didn't create the buzz of past No. 1 selections.

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