Ravens will have to be mobile to secure QB in first round

April 15, 2003|By MIKE PRESTON

IF YOU LOOK IN almost any pro football publication, someone has the Ravens taking California quarterback Kyle Boller as the No. 10 overall pick in the NFL draft next weekend. Turn on the radio, and the draft nerds are saying the same thing.

But unless the Ravens trade up or down, they probably won't come away with one of the top three rated quarterbacks in the draft. Oh, they could easily select Boller in the 10th spot, and he'll be available, but the Ravens won't be getting their value because Boller is considered a stretch at No. 10.

Most teams have not put him in the top 10 class of the draft, so his selection would go against the team's policy of drafting the highest-rated player available.

With the draft only 11 days away, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is all over the map about the team's options. Trying to nail him down is like trying to pick who will be Mr. Irrelevant (the last player drafted).

But the most logical scenario has the Ravens trading up if they want Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich or trading down to pick Boller. You can forget about Southern California's Carson Palmer. He seems headed to Cincinnati as the No. 1 overall pick.

Poor guy.

"I will say this: Right now, there are only two quarterbacks that we would take at No. 10," Newsome said yesterday.

Which ones?

"I won't say," said Newsome, laughing.

As badly as the Ravens need a quarterback to back up Chris Redman or attempt to take away his job, Newsome realizes he can't mortgage the future for a quarterback.

According to league sources, Newsome has become enchanted with Leftwich, but so has Jacksonville Jaguars vice president James Harris, whose team has the No. 8 overall selection. The Ravens can get Leftwich if the price is right. He is expected to visit the team Thursday.

"Our past history indicates we normally stay put, but we normally get one of the players we covet," Newsome said. "We have showed good patience, and that has gotten us some good players. With two fours and two fives, that gives us additional ammunition to decide if we want to make a move up in the third round or the lower half of the second. It also gives us the opportunity to acquire earlier picks. Trading up or back is a likelihood at this time.

"Now, we're not going to make a trade just to make a trade; we've got to get something out of it," Newsome said. "We're going to have our top 10 list ready, and if we remain at 10, we'll take the best player available regardless if it's a corner, wide receiver, defensive lineman or offensive lineman."

The Ravens need a quarterback, but they aren't in a panic mode - not yet anyway. In the past, they have won with defense, and Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware, Chris McAlister and company will have to lead them again this season. With no go-to receiver, the Ravens have little choice but to play run-oriented, power football behind what could be an improved offensive line with newly added right tackle Orlando Brown joining left tackle Jonathan Ogden and left guard Edwin Mulitalo.

The Ravens won't need a quarterback to spray passes all over the field. Plus, giving up too much for a quarterback would be a gamble for a coaching staff that has yet to develop or produce a consistent starter from year to year since 1999.

So it's likely the Ravens will wait until draft day to make a trade, even though they've already had two preliminary discussions about a deal, according to league sources. The Ravens have needs at defensive tackle, receiver, offensive tackle and in the secondary. There are a number of players Newsome covets, such as receivers Charles Rogers of Michigan State and Andre Johnson of Miami.

The Ravens like defensive tackles Dwayne Robertson of Kentucky and Jimmy Kennedy of Penn State, as well as Arizona State defensive end Terrell Suggs, who would play outside linebacker if the Ravens drafted him. Another player high on their chart is Utah offensive tackle Jordan Gross.

But they might not be available when the Ravens draft. The No. 10 position doesn't seem to be one with great leverage unless a big name slips.

"I can't predict the board," Newsome said. "It's beyond my control."

But it appears the Ravens likely will have to make a deal to fill any other of their needs, especially at quarterback.

"At this point," Newsome said, "you never rule out anything."

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