Ravens say duo answers the call

Suggs, Boller are hailed after phone misconnection led to missing Leftwich

`Positions ... were needs for us'

Team says top 3 picks rated among its top 20

Nfl Draft

April 28, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Moments after the NFL draft ended, Ravens officials believed they had scored a touchdown. But the measuring stick will center on a draft-day audible.

The Ravens, who are being applauded for picking up three players ranked in their top 20, will have their draft ultimately judged on the results of a botched deal with the Minnesota Vikings.

After the Vikings agreed at the last minute to swap first-round picks (No. 7 for No. 10), the Ravens got a busy signal when trying to inform league headquarters as time expired and couldn't complete the deal in time to draft Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich.

The result: The Jacksonville Jaguars chose Leftwich and the Ravens rebounded strongly by taking Arizona State pass rusher Terrell Suggs and trading up to select California quarterback Kyle Boller.

But only time will tell whether Leftwich or the package of Suggs and Boller was the better choice.

"It's just like Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning," Ravens player personnel director Phil Savage said, referring to the top two quarterbacks chosen in 1998. "There's no question comparisons are going to happen. The people in Jacksonville are going to track Suggs as to what Byron does. The people here are going to say without the busy signal, maybe we would have had Byron Leftwich."

Ravens officials said they have no regrets over how the picks panned out.

"I didn't think there was any way or any formula that I could have come up with that would have us getting Kyle Boller and Terrell Suggs in the same draft," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "I couldn't conceive of that. I never imagined of getting those two guys. And they were at two positions that were needs for us."

In comparison with the rest of the league, the Ravens scored high marks and may have had the best overall draft next to the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Ravens can make the argument that they picked up the best pass rusher (Suggs), the best quarterback (Boller), the best running back (Georgia's Musa Smith) and the best fullback (Wake Forest's Ovie Mughelli) in the draft. In fact, they nabbed three players - Suggs (No. 6), Boller (No. 10) and Smith (No. 20) - rated in their top 20.

It's been a remarkable - and quick - rebuilding job by the Ravens. Before last year's draft, the Ravens had a skeleton crew of 35 players. Entering next month's minicamp, they will have a roster loaded with 35 players originally drafted by the team, which includes 15 taken in the first three rounds.

"To actually have gone through this and write down on paper who we've drafted for the last two years," Savage said, "I don't think we could be any more pleased the way it went."

After striking big with Suggs and Boller, the Ravens raised eyebrows by drafting Smith in the third round. Running back is a stocked position for the Ravens with Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor, and the team had more pressing needs at defensive line and receiver.

But the Ravens considered getting Smith with the 77th overall pick a steal.

"When you're dealing with two young quarterbacks, you need the ability to run the football," Newsome said. "Now, with Jamal Lewis, Chester Taylor and Musa Smith, we will always have the ability to do that."

Defensive line was addressed in the fourth and fifth rounds with Alabama defensive end Jarret Johnson and Tennessee nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin.

Johnson is a high-motor overachiever who will share playing time with Tony Weaver and Adalius Thomas. Franklin was considered the best nose tackle prospect after the elite linemen (Kentucky's Dewayne Robertson and Penn State's Jimmy Kennedy).

"I see them getting a rotation going that really could become pretty strong over the next couple of years," Savage said.

In the secondary, the Ravens picked up two free safeties in Notre Dame's Gerome Sapp (sixth round) and Utah's Antwoine Sanders (seventh), who are considered complements to safeties Will Demps and Chad Williams.

Sapp and Sanders are best suited as center fielders covering the back end; Demps and Williams are better served playing closer to the line. Sapp, in particular, is an intriguing prospect since he might have been taken in the third or fourth round if not for a wrist injury.

The Ravens upgraded their overall blocking with Mughelli, Illinois offensive tackle Tony Pashos (fifth round) and Central Florida center Mike Mabry (seventh).

Mughelli has the mentality of a lineman, and Pashos is rated as one of the top run blockers who is projected to be a right tackle. Mabry, the scouting department's sleeper pick, is undersized and likely will need a couple of years to develop into a starter.

Rounding out the Ravens' draft was Oklahoma tight end Trent Smith, a productive pass catcher. He joins a crowded tight end group with Todd Heap, Terry Jones and John Jones.

"This probably solidifies our tight ends corps as one of the greatest in the league," director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said.

The most glaring omission from the draft was receiver. The Ravens have veterans Travis Taylor and Frank Sanders along with three second-year prospects. The team also has had talks with veteran free agent Marcus Robinson, who was recently released by the Chicago Bears.

"The wide receiver board was not good on the second day," Newsome said. "We knew that, and that was one of the reasons we signed Frank Sanders before the draft. The other thing is when you got Javin Hunter, Randy Hymes and Ron Johnson, are we bringing in the same type of guys? And we expect those guys to be better this year."

In the end, the Ravens said they left the draft with their checklist complete.

"As far as draft day," Savage said, "it was mission accomplished."

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