Ravens may seek `D' line upgrade

Penn State's Kennedy appears to be best value for team's pick at No. 10

Nfl Draft

Pro Football

April 21, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Rex Ryan recently pulled Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome into his office to give him a dozen reasons not to forget about him this weekend.

Ryan, the Ravens' defensive line coach, had written down the names of the 12 opposing running backs on the team's schedule next season. It's a list that contains six of the NFL's top 10 rushers from this past season and one influential message: Think about the defensive line heading into the NFL draft Saturday and Sunday.

After replacing their entire defensive front from a year ago, the Ravens would probably like to find an upgrade for nose tackle Kelly Gregg and defensive end Adalius Thomas.

With the 10th pick in the draft, the best value at defensive line is Penn State's Jimmy Kennedy, who would play end in the Ravens' 3-4 scheme.

A disruptive cog in the interior, Kennedy, 6 feet 4 and 323 pounds, has drawn comparisons to ex-Raven Sam Adams because of his combination of size and quickness.

"Right now, I believe I am the best at my position," said Kennedy, who visited the Ravens' practice complex last week. "I just have to train and learn in the NFL, and hopefully I can prove that."

Projected as a top-five pick earlier this year, Kennedy hurt his stock with an average on-campus workout. His time in the 40-yard dash (5.23 seconds) disappointed many scouts.

The biggest reason Kennedy might not fall to the Ravens at the 10th pick would be interest from the Minnesota Vikings, who select three spots ahead of the Ravens.

"He has probably as much physical ability as anybody in the draft," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "He plays faster on tape than what he ran in workout. He's been dominant on tape in stretches."

The best fit for the Ravens is Kentucky defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson.

But the Ravens' chances of landing him dropped with the disappointing workouts of Kennedy and Arizona State defensive end Terrell Suggs. As those prospects fell, Robertson became a fast riser and is now strongly linked to the Chicago Bears at the No. 4 pick.

The Ravens, though, had Robertson -- who plays with a rare blend of explosiveness and strength -- as their top-rated lineman this entire offseason.

"He's a perfect example of why I would advocate moving the draft up," Ravens player personnel director Phil Savage said. "On March 15, we could have gotten this guy at 10. Now, we have zero hope."

If the Ravens trade down, there is a possibility of drafting such defensive linemen as Oklahoma State tackle Kevin Williams, Miami end Jerome McDougle and Georgia tackle Johnathan Sullivan.

Like Robertson, Williams has improved his stock and could go anywhere from seventh to the Vikings to the Denver Broncos at No. 20. He was perhaps the best college defensive lineman in the second half of the season.

McDougle, who is best suited as an end in a 4-3 alignment, has possibly the best skills of any pass rusher in the draft. He has proved to be faster than Suggs, who is expected to be taken by the Arizona Cardinals with the sixth pick, but McDougle's statistics last year (seven sacks and 26 hurries) fell below expectations.

Sullivan is the top project of this group after coming out as a junior. He plays with a consistent motor but probably will not become an impact player until 2004.

Having quickness along with a massive frame, Sullivan needs a year to improve his strength before trying to clog up the middle against NFL linemen.

"But down the road," DeCosta said, "he may be the best of the bunch."

If the Ravens wait until the second round, they still could help in beefing up their defensive line.

Linemen who fit their 3-4 scheme are Miami's William Joseph and Ohio State's Kenny Peterson.

Joseph has the potential to play nose tackle, and Peterson is more of an end.

Nebraska's Chris Kelsay, who also visited the Ravens last week, is a question mark in the 3-4 defense. It's debatable whether he has the size to hold up or if he would get driven off the ball.

The Ravens view two Penn State linemen -- Anthony Adams and Michael Haynes -- as fits for a 4-3 defense because of their athleticism. If either one is drafted, the Ravens would probably play more four-man fronts this season.

"There is some depth on the defensive line this year," Savage said. "It's just a matter of which player will fit our specific defense and how they will be utilized."

Draft data

Rounds 1-3: Saturday, noon-10 p.m.

Rounds 4-7: Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Ravens' picks: 10, 41, 77, 109, 134, 146, 173, 182, 223, 250, 258

Ravens' picks

A look at the Ravens' history of drafting defensive linemen:

Player, Pos. ....Yr. ....Rd.

Chris Ward, DE...'97...7th

Leland Taylor, DT...'97...7th

Martin Chase, DT...'98...5th

Adalius Thomas, DE...'00... 6th

Cedric Woodard, DT...'00...6th

Dwayne Missouri, DE...'01...7th

Tony Weaver, DE...'02...2nd

Defensive linemen outlook

A look at defensive linemen who may be available for the Ravens' first- and second-round picks:

First round (No. 10)

Name, School...Pos. ...Ht. ...Wt. ...Jamison Hensley's skinny

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