Ravens unlikely to make splash in shallow defensive tackle pool

Nfl Draft

Saturday, noon (rounds 1-3), Sunday, 11 a.m. (rounds 4-7) * TV: ESPN, ESPN2 * Ravens' first three picks: 22nd, 53rd, 84th

Pro Football

April 18, 2005|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

With right tackle the only defensive position to be settled by a training camp battle, the Ravens will likely not find a rookie to add to the mix in the first round of Saturday's draft.

By the time the Ravens pick at No. 22, barring any draft-day trades that would move them up into the teens, the only player worth getting, Florida State's Travis Johnson, figures to be off the board.

The rest of the field is getting more suspect with every passing day.

"I wouldn't say it is a great year for defensive tackle," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "This year's draft, it's not a deep position."

That is not the best news for the Ravens, who plan to switch to a 4-3 defense from the 3-4 the team has used the past three seasons. Kelly Gregg is assured one spot, but who will be at his side remains a question.

It could have been Wisconsin's Anttaj Hawthorne or Northwestern's Luis Castillo had the two been model citizens since the end of the college season, but both players have character issues that will likely push them out of the first round.

Hawthorne has reportedly tested positive for marijuana, and Castillo has reportedly admitted using steroids, incidents that came to light over the past two weeks. Talent-wise, both players are believed to be rated among the Ravens' top five defensive tackles, but selecting either figures to be a major risk.

That leaves Johnson, and there is a chance, albeit slim, that he could fall low enough to allow the Ravens a chance to get him.

Nearly all mock drafts have Cincinnati picking Johnson at No. 17, but the Bengals added former first-round pick Bryan Johnson through free agency this offseason, lessening their need at that position.

If Travis Johnson gets past the Bengals, the Ravens could be in great shape to go up and get the only real difference-maker at that position in this year's draft. Johnson, 6 feet 3, 298 pounds, was the main reason Florida State allowed just 69 rushing yards a game last season, the best in the nation.

Johnson also had 10 sacks and forced six fumbles in his 51 games with the Seminoles. Last season, Johnson had 18 tackles-for-loss.

"I think in terms of defensive tackles, Travis Johnson is the marquee guy and there is a good chance he goes before we pick," DeCosta said. "That other crop of guys, Hawthorne, [Southern California's] Mike Patterson and Luis Castillo from Northwestern are all very good players - athletic, big, strong, stout guys."

Familiar with the Ravens' thinking from his six-year stint as defensive coordinator, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis may look to block his former team from Johnson. If that happens, it will be up to last year's second-round pick Dwan Edwards and valuable backup Maake Kemoeatu to clog up the middle and keep offensive guards from getting to the linebackers.

Edwards played in four games last year, but much like Gary Baxter, who went from a second-round pick who hardly played as a rookie to a starter in his second year, the Ravens expect Edwards to make the same leap.

"The depth at the defensive tackle position [in the draft] is one where if you are really looking to upgrade your team at that position, it would be tough," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "But we drafted Aubrayo [Franklin], Dwan, and have Kemo and Kelly. We've got four guys we can line up and go to war with."

The Ravens also have four guys who are not known for getting after the quarterback. With the change in defensive systems, finding someone who could get pressure up the middle is more of a priority in this draft, even if not by way of the first round.

If Johnson is off the board, the Ravens may find an effective pass-rushing tackle in Iowa's Jonathan Babineaux (11 sacks last season) in the second round.

"Now you tend to get guys who can be penetrators, who can get in the gap and be disruptive," Newsome said of the type of defensive tackle his team needs.

Defensive tackle outlook

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

First round (Pick No. 22)

Name School Ht. Wt. Skinny

Travis Johnson Florida State 6-3 298 Best tackle in draft, would be a steal for Ravens

Anttaj Hawthorne Wisconsin 6-3 323 Offseason problems probably kick him out of first round

Mike Patterson USC 5-11 290 Never took a play off and always seemed to find himself in the backfield

Shaun Cody USC 6-4 291 Probably better suited as an end in a 4-3 defense

Second round (Pick No. 53)

Name School Ht. Wt. Skinny

Luis Castillo Northwestern 6-3 306 Would be a huge gamble for a team considering his admitted steroid use

Jonathan Babineaux Iowa 6-2 285 Good penetrator whose 11 sacks last year leads all top-rated tackles

Later-round picks

Darrell Shropshire, South Carolina; Santonio Thomas, Miami; Derrick Robinson, Iowa, Eric Coleman, Clemson; Sione Pouha, Utah

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