Second, third picks bring athleticism

Ravens counting on Chester, Pittman to fill holes

Nfl draft

April 30, 2006|By KEN MURRAY | KEN MURRAY,SUN REPORTER

Athleticism was the keynote when the Ravens jockeyed for position and an extra pick on the first day of the NFL draft.

They got a converted tight end in the second round with the hope Chris Chester will restore depth to their interior offensive line.

They took Division I-AA cornerback David Pittman in the third round with the hope he can fill the critical nickel back spot on defense.

What the Ravens really hope is that Chester and Pittman are quick studies on a team that can use their contributions this season.

The Ravens engineered a second-round trade with the New York Giants to get Chester, from Oklahoma, with the 56th pick yesterday. Then they drafted Northwestern (La.) State's Pittman with the 87th pick in the third round, added in the Giants' deal.

"We have been trying to get a third-round pick the last six months," Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of college scouting said.

Although the Ravens' original target in the third round was cornerback Ashton Youboty of Ohio State - who went to the Buffalo Bills at the 70th pick - defensive coordinator Rex Ryan sounded pleased with the selection of Pittman.

"David Pittman gives us a chance to have a nickel back, which is huge right now," Ryan said. "Currently, we don't have anybody with experience at the nickel spot. Hopefully, this young man, with [defensive back coaches] Dennis Thurman and Mark Carrier working with him, can see action [this] year."

Pittman comes with credentials. He had 11 interceptions and four special teams touchdowns at Northwestern State. He also was the only I-AA player on either Senior Bowl roster at season's end.

"I think he was tested [at Northwestern]," Ryan said. "When you evaluate him, he can't help who he goes against. Did he cover them? Absolutely."

Chester already showed he is a quick study at Oklahoma, where he started last preseason as a reserve tight end and became a center by the season opener. He broke a hand that necessitated a switch to guard midway through the year.

Gaining weight as he went - on peanut butter sandwiches and chocolate protein shakes - Chester's stock rose at the scouting combine in Indianapolis in February when he showed up weighing 305 pounds. He weighed 275 as a tight end.

"We love his athletic ability," DeCosta said. "He can bend his knees, move his feet. He's very, very good in space. He's a guy we think has tremendous upside at the guard/center position."

Chester's athleticism, he said, helped him make the conversion to blocker on short notice.

"It helped me because going in, I had quickness and I was able to get in good position and get my hands and feet in good position to make blocks," he said. "Also, blocking out in space, pulling on screens, it helped me a lot as well."

Chris Foerster, the Ravens' offensive line coach, welcomed the addition of a player who offers a rare blend of qualities.

His athleticism, explosiveness, quickness and speed all carry from the tight end position into the line," Foerster said. "Which makes him a special athlete in the line. It's just a matter of playing time and experience for him."

Chester said he felt good "chemistry" on a visit to the Ravens' Owings Mills complex in the last month.

"I thought I had what they needed," he said. "I thought I could contribute after seeing how they play. I felt real positive about that."

ken.murray@baltsun.com

RAVENS' PICKS TODAY

Round Overall

Fourth 111th, 132nd*

Fifth 146th, 166th*

Sixth 203rd*, 208th*

Seventh 219th* - Compensatory selection

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