Grade is in: incomplete

Analysis: Ravens get some help, but hole at right tackle remains

Punter in 4th round a surprise

Receivers, running back added on second day

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Nfl Draft

April 22, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The draft is done, but the Ravens' checklist isn't complete.

After making 10 picks over the course of 17 hours, the Ravens still don't have a starting right tackle and face depth issues at defensive line, linebacker and cornerback.

The Ravens added a starter in the secondary and on the defensive line, and they even addressed special teams, picking up a return specialist and raising eyebrows by using a fourth-round pick on a punter.

But the gaping void on the right side of the offensive line looms as the team's biggest problem. Seeing a draft class short on quality offensive tackles, the Ravens decided to pass on the position rather than spend a pick on a tackle rated low on their draft board.

"I think it was a mistake for people to think that we're going to fix everything in one draft," said Phil Savage, the Ravens' director of college scouting. "It's not realistic at all. But at the same time, we've added some guys who are definitely going to help this team.

"There's no doubt in my mind that all these guys are going to contribute in some way very positively. Are they going to make the big splash? Let's just wait and see how it plays out."

The Ravens wanted to fill the void at right tackle by selecting Arizona State's Levi Jones, who was surprisingly taken by the Cincinnati Bengals with the 10th overall pick. They had intended to select Tennessee's Reggie Coleman in the sixth round, but their last chance to land an offensive tackle ended when the Washington Redskins drafted him just three picks before the Ravens.

The team, which begins its first minicamp on Friday, is now forced to find a starting tackle in free agency.

Are the Ravens disappointed that they ended the draft without a right tackle?

"Not really," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' senior vice president of football operations. "You have to stay with your board. We do have needs. We could have easily taken a corner or a tackle. Next year, we would still be looking for a corner or a tackle. You take the value. There are other ways to get players on this football team. But the last thing we need to do in the draft room is start taking out the depth chart and saying we need this or we need that."

The Ravens opened the draft with a couple of solid picks in Miami safety Ed Reed and Notre Dame defensive lineman Anthony Weaver.

Stuck when none of their elite prospects fell down on the board, the Ravens chose Reed, who was clearly the best player available. But drafting a free safety in the first round wasn't the best fit for the Ravens despite their obvious needs in the secondary.

By adding Reed, the Ravens will move last year's second-round pick, Gary Baxter, from free safety to cornerback. Since his backpedaling needs polish, Baxter is projected to be a better safety. But, to the Ravens' credit, the cornerbacks left at the end of the first round were not very attractive.

In the second round, the Ravens made a wise decision to jump up and grab Weaver right before the Oakland Raiders could. Weaver may never make a Pro Bowl, but he is the kind of steady, high-energy performer needed up front in the new 3-4 defense.

The production of Reed and Weaver could make or break the rebuilding of the Ravens' defense.

"During that typical rookie swoon in November, you kind of forgive most rookies. This year, we can't," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "They're going to have to play all the way through it. Being four-year starters at Miami and Notre Dame, that's going to serve these guys real well."

The success of this year's Ravens draft class will be judged by the final eight picks.

The Ravens delivered the biggest surprise of their seven-year draft history by drafting punter Dave Zastudil in the fourth round.

For a team with so many pressing needs, using such a high draft pick on a punter is debatable. Economically speaking, the Ravens saved about $125,000 by drafting a punter rather than re-signing Kyle Richardson, who agreed to terms last night with the Minnesota Vikings.

The receiving corps was stocked in the fourth and sixth rounds, where the Ravens drafted Minnesota's Ron Johnson and Notre Dame's Javin Hunter. Johnson, who is more of a possession-type receiver, will likely become the team's No. 3 receiver and figures to be a good complement to Travis Taylor and Brandon Stokley.

But drafting receivers has been a sore spot for the Ravens. They have yet to draft a receiver who has caught more than 42 passes for them in a season.

The sleeper of the Ravens' draft may end up being Toledo running back Chester Taylor, a sixth-round pick. With Jamal Lewis coming off an injury and Jason Brookins being solely an inside ball carrier, Taylor has some pass-catching skills and will be given a chance to become the team's third-down back.

"A majority of the players picked over the weekend will be in uniform and playing when we open the season at Carolina barring any injury or contract holdout," Newsome said. "When we become the team like we were over the past two years, you can look back on this draft and a lot of these guys are going to be contributors on this team. I think they're going to be great Ravens for a long time."

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