Ravens' choice word: complementary

Lacking first-round selection, team makes prudent moves to bolster its supporting cast

Analysis

April 26, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

What many perceived as the most disappointing draft in Ravens history might turn out to be a complementary one.

For a franchise that has turned the draft into an annual Pro Bowl talent search, team officials made the best out of a difficult situation this year by building a supporting cast from the college ranks this season.

The only team without a first-round pick, the Ravens came away with more size on the defensive line (Dwan Edwards, second round), a couple of receivers with intriguing potential (Devard Darling, third; Clarence Moore, sixth), a third-string quarterback (Josh Harris, sixth), a flashy return man (Derek Abney, seventh) and a solid special teams performer (Roderick Green, fifth).

These choices probably won't garner the typical high marks from league observers, but they should receive passing grades after having just two selections in the first 152 picks.

"It was almost like being involved in a pitching duel," said Eric DeCosta, the team's director of college scouting. "We didn't hit any home runs, but I think we got a lot of singles and still won."

The immediate success of this class hinges on a player not even drafted.

The Ravens filled their most pressing need by trading their fourth-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for receiver Kevin Johnson. He may not give the Ravens a boost like Terrell Owens, but he makes them look more like an NFL team than one gearing up to run the wishbone.

"I think all the observations and concerns [about the Ravens' draft] are legitimate when you don't have Kevin Johnson in the equation," coach Brian Billick said. "That's where Edwards and Darling are such solid picks in conjunction with getting a Kevin Johnson."

Based on the Ravens' draft board, the team made the right moves by choosing Edwards and Darling.

There was some questioning of the Ravens when they stayed put in the second round and Louisiana State receiver Devery Henderson was selected at No. 50, one spot ahead of them. In actuality, Henderson was never in the Ravens' plans at that point.

The Ravens had Henderson ranked in the second tier of receivers that included Darling and Southern California's Keary Colbert, but they said the best value for those receivers was at the bottom of the second round. Team officials discussed the possibility of moving down for Colbert, whom they had rated the highest of the three, but couldn't find a team willing to trade.

That's why picking Edwards, their 30th-rated player, was a no-brainer with the 51st selection.

"Our board clearly said Edwards," Billick said. "We did the smart and prudent thing."

The Ravens' most aggressive move came when Colbert was drafted, leaving Darling as the last coveted receiver of that first day. That's why the Ravens were so aggressive to jump up six spots in the third round to get Darling.

"We felt like after Darling, the receivers fell off the map in terms of somebody that could come in and do some things right away," said Phil Savage, the Ravens' director of player personnel.

Of the Ravens' seven picks, only Edwards is projected to challenge for a starting job next season. But the expectations weren't much higher considering that the Ravens return 21 of 22 starters from their AFC North championship team.

"We may not get all of the headlines [from this draft]," general manager Ozzie Newsome said, "but from my standpoint, we were able to get some quality people - players we think can help us now - and some players we think can be developed."

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