On Ravens' list of scenarios, 10th best would be good enough

Top tackle or cornerback possible first-round pick

Nfl Draft

April 23, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Before the commissioner announces the first pick of the NFL draft Saturday, the Ravens will have their own version of the top 10 prospects - and team officials said they would be satisfied choosing any player from that list.

As it stands, with Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich drawing more attention from Chicago (No. 4 pick) and Jacksonville (No. 8), plus six other top players (Carson Palmer, Charles Rogers, Terrell Suggs, Andre Johnson, Terence Newman, Dwayne Robertson) likely to be gone, the Ravens may end up with the 10th-rated player on that list, regardless of their needs at quarterback, defensive line and wide receiver.

That 10th player could be Washington State cornerback Marcus Trufant or Utah offensive tackle Jordan Gross, the top-rated player at his position. The Ravens have addressed those positions through free agency, signing cornerback Corey Fuller and offensive tackles Orlando Brown and Ethan Brooks this offseason, but may be forced to select Trufant or Gross, especially if Penn State defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy is also off the board.

"We will have 10 players," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "The commissioner is not going to cancel the draft [if the Ravens are not ready to select]. Even last year, when the rest of the board was picked up, Ed Reed was our guy. The year before that, Todd Heap.

"We will not go into Saturday morning of the draft and not have 10 players, because if you don't get the phone to ring [for a trade], then you have to pick. So we will do our homework on that."

Trufant is considered the second-best defensive back behind Newman. He recorded three interceptions and 69 tackles last season and cemented his status as a first-rounder with a strong week at the Senior Bowl.

If the Ravens select Trufant, he would join a crowded defensive backfield that includes Fuller, starters Chris McAlister and Gary Baxter and Tom Knight, a former first-round pick who spent most of last season on the inactive list. Trufant, 5 feet 11, 199 pounds, likely would compete to be the nickel (fifth) defensive back.

"He's got excellent feet, excellent speed and ball skills," said Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta. "He suffers because of Terence Newman. Trufant is a good player. I think he'll start early in the league. The negative is the size; he's only 5-11. But athletically, he's what you want. I think he'll be a top 15 pick."

Gross almost certainly will be, too. In Gross, the Ravens would be getting a player with a nasty disposition and the ability to go with it.

Gross, at 6-4, 300 pounds, said he has not given up a sack since current San Francisco 49er Andre Carter beat him as a sophomore. Brown and Brooks will compete to start at right tackle this year, but Gross could be the long-term answer to a revolving door at that position the past four years.

"I have fun," Gross said. "If I knock a guy down and go after him when he's getting up, that's what is fun to me. We don't get to score touchdowns or catch passes, so as a lineman, I look for other ways to have fun. Beating the guy I'm playing against is what's fun. Yeah, a lot of people say I'm nasty. I'm proud of that."

Either player could be a backup plan if Leftwich and the defensive linemen are gone and the Ravens are unable to swing a trade to move down in the draft.

"You can't control what other people are going to do ahead of you, so when that pick comes, you have to have them rated to be able to say, `We'll take this player,' and turn the card in," Newsome said.

NOTES: Ravens officials are not withdrawing their offer to free-agent linebacker Jamir Miller, but they also won't guarantee a contract will be on the table after the draft. Miller, coming off a season-ending torn Achilles' tendon, has been considering offers from the Ravens and Cleveland Browns for weeks. Miller played with the Browns the past four seasons but was released at the end of February for salary cap reasons. Browns president Carmen Policy expressed disappointment about Miller's indecision Monday and threatened to take his offer off the table by the end of the draft. ... Ravens receiver Travis Taylor has two more years left on his contract, not one as previously reported. ... Verizon Wireless has introduced a new ring tone that plays the Ravens' fight song.

Best-of-the-rest outlook

A look at the best players available regardless of need for the Ravens' first- and second-round picks:

First round (No. 10)

Name, School P Ht. Wt. Brent Jones' skinny

Jordan Gross, Utah OT 6-4 300 Last sack he gave up was as sophomore

Marcus Trufant, Wash. State CB 5-11 199 Easily second-best CB, could start as nickel back

Boss Bailey, Georgia LB 6-3 233 More speed than power, most athletic LB available

Kwame Harris, Stanford OT 6-7 310 Wouldn't start this year, but could be RT of future

Second round (No. 41)

Musa Smith, Georgia RB 6-0 232 Program has recent history of successful NFL RBs

Mike Doss, Ohio State SS 5-10 207 Ed Reed-like knack for finding the ball

Jason Witten, Tennessee TE 6-5 264 Great size, better pass catcher than blocker

Andre Woolfolk, Oklahoma CB 6-1 197 Inexperienced at CB after 3 seasons as a receiver

Other players available in later rounds: Mark Brown, ILB, Auburn; Dahrran Diedrick, RB, Nebraska; Vishante Shiancoe, TE, Morgan State; Joe Odom, OLB, Purdue; Shane Walton, CB, Notre Dame; Josh Brown, K, Nebraska; Ben Sobieski, G, Iowa; Earnest Graham, FB, Florida.

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