Ravens' selection will be valuable, if not logical

Guards Smiley, Snee likely best available when receiver-weak team picks

Pro Football

April 22, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

If the Ravens address offense with their first pick, it likely will be a lineman rather than a much-needed receiver.

Interior offensive linemen historically get pushed down into the second round, and two top-rated guards - Alabama's Justin Smiley and Boston College's Chris Snee - could be the highest-graded players available at the Ravens' 51st overall pick.

On a team that returns its entire starting line, the choice would be based more on value than need.

"In my mind, I don't know of anybody that would jump out and beat one of our guys out," Ravens offensive line coach Jim Colletto said. "You're really looking for a guy who can develop into a player. In this day, with [starting right guard] Bennie Anderson and [backup] Casey Rabach becoming free agents next year, you'd better be looking for guys, because you don't know what can happen from one season to the next."

Selecting offensive linemen on the first day isn't a common practice for the Ravens. In their eight drafts, they have twice picked an offensive lineman - Jonathan Ogden in 1996 and Rabach in 2001 - in the first three rounds.

This draft could be an exception, because Smiley and Snee are two junior prospects who have Pro Bowl potential.

Smiley relies on his athleticism and posted the fastest time among guards at the scouting combine, where he ran the 40-yard dash in 5.07 seconds. An emotional and intense player, he did not allow a sack in three years as a starter.

Snee is considered by some scouts as the best lineman ever to come out of Boston College. His quickness, strength and nasty streak make him one of the best drive blockers in the draft.

"If you're looking for the most technically sound tough guys, it would be Smiley and Snee," said Eric DeCosta, Ravens director of college scouting. "I think they are very similar in the way that they play. Both guys are very tough, quick and smart. Those are the characteristics that predict a good guard prospect."

The Ravens also have shown an interest in Miami's Vernon Carey and South Carolina's Travelle Wharton, both of whom were interviewed by the team at the combine in February.

Carey, who is considered a second-round prospect, is an overwhelming run blocker who converted from tackle to guard as a senior. Wharton has similar versatility but probably will go in the third round because his intensity is inconsistent.

"I think [Wharton] has pretty good feet, but I think he needs to get stronger," DeCosta said. "Having played both guard and tackle, I think he has the potential to start for somebody in the league."

At offensive tackle, the Ravens see some sound developmental-type players. The ones who could be available in the third round are Florida's Max Starks, Kansas' Adrian Jones, Southern California's Jacob Rogers and Georgia Tech's Nat Dorsey.

Colletto, however, said the Ravens already have a good prospect on their team in Damion Cook, a three-year veteran who can play tackle or guard.

"He's the guy on our team now that really has to make a push," Colletto said. "He's got size, speed and everything. He just hasn't played."

Playing time will become a factor if the Ravens decide to select a guard in the second round. Based on the Ravens' roster and the nature of the position, the impact of that pick may not occur until next year.

"What I tell our guys here, the most difficult position to play - other than the secondary or quarterback - is centers and guard in this league," Colletto said. "It's such a physical game and they're matched up with such physical players, the adjustment for a college kid is huge."

NOTE: Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller will be part of a roundtable discussion that will air during ESPN's two-day draft coverage. He will participate with Washington Redskins offensive tackle Jon Jansen, Buffalo Bills linebacker Takeo Spikes and Minnesota Vikings cornerback Corey Chavous.

Offensive lineman outlook

The offensive linemen who may be available for the Ravens' second-round pick (51st overall):

Name, Pos. School Ht. Wt. Skinny

Justin Smiley, G Alabama 6-3 300 Athleticism and work ethic make him top-rated guard on most draft boards.

Chris Snee, G Boston College 6-2 315 Former defensive lineman is known for run blocking and nasty streak.

Vernon Carey, G/T Miami 6-4 340 Not very fluid but versatility - started at four spots - increases value.

Nat Dorsey, T Georgia Tech 6-6 325 Intriguing potential but could have used another year in college.

Later-round picks

Max Starks, T, Florida; Travelle Wharton, G, South Carolina; Adrian Jones, T, Kansas; Jacob Rogers, T, Southern California; Kelly Butler, T, Purdue; Shane Olivea, G, Ohio State.

Linemen picks

The Ravens' history of drafting offensive linemen:

Lineman Year Round

Jonathan Ogden 1996 1st

Jeff Mitchell 1997 5th

Sammy Williams 1998 6th

Edwin Mulitalo 1999 4th

Richard Mercier 2000 5th

Casey Rabach 2001 3rd

Tony Pashos 2003 5th

Mike Mabry 2003 7th

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