For Ravens, safety a secondary issue

Team addresses starting need in 5th round

Analysis

May 01, 2006|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

The Ravens' draft this season wasn't about playing it safe or finding a safety.

Their second-round pick played only one full season at offensive line. Their third-round choice marked their first selection from a Division I-AA school on the draft's first day.

It wasn't until the 146th pick - and after 13 other safeties had been drafted - that the Ravens addressed the only hole in their starting lineup.

They took Georgia Tech's Dawan Landry, the eighth-rated free safety by Pro Football Weekly and the No. 12 safety overall by draft expert Mel Kiper.

"We feel good about getting Dawan Landry in the fifth round," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "What we've learned over the years is to stay true to the board and not to reach. We didn't feel like reaching down in that second, third or fourth round."

The perplexing part is this was a solid group of safeties in this year's draft. Five were taken in the second round alone.

The Ravens had hoped that they could land a safety in the fourth round, but Penn State's Calvin Lowry and South Carolina's Ko Simpson (who had been projected to go as early as the second round) were gone before their turn.

"Usually you don't draft a starter in the fifth round," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "If he can, that will really say something about the kid."

Newsome pointed out that Will Demps started for the Ravens as an undrafted rookie. But that was also on the Ravens' salary-cap ravaged 2002 team.

"I don't put limitations on players," Newsome said. "There could be a safety on someone else's team that [gets released and] could be starting for us against Tampa. Dawan is going to be given every opportunity to be our starting safety."

There's no faulting the Ravens for drafting Oregon nose tackle Haloti Ngata with their first-round choice. If the Ravens would have started smaller tackles Kelly Gregg and Justin Bannan, teams would have repeatedly run up the middle.

The first pick that raised eyebrows was Oklahoma center-guard Chris Chester. A converted tight end, he has only played offensive line for one full season in college.

Although some publications had Chester as a possible late first-round pick, it was surprising to see the Ravens use a second-round pick on a lineman who could be a project.

"I don't think there's any more gifted athlete at his position in the draft this year," director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "In fact, he's probably one of the best athletes on the offensive line to come out in the last five years."

The Ravens also don't label their third-round pick, nickel back David Pittman, as a risk, either.

Pittman will be asked to cover NFL slot receivers this season after a college career of playing against the likes of Stephen F. Austin and Oklahoma Panhandle. The Ravens believe he can fill that vital role after impressive performances against Division I players at the Senior Bowl.

"He stood out against the best players in the country," DeCosta said. "He passed a huge test. We think he's an excellent pick in the third round."

Ryan said it was more important to find a nickel back than safety.

"If you don't have a nickel back, that's when offenses can really tear you apart," he said.

The Ravens did address need on the second day of the draft.

Georgia Tech running back P.J. Daniels (fourth round) has similar instincts to former backup Chester Taylor. Massive Colorado tight end Quinn Sypniewski (fifth) will step into the blocking tight end role once held by Darnell Dinkins. And little-known Nebraska punter Sam Koch (sixth) will compete against veteran Leo Araguz for Dave Zastudil's old job.

The sleeper of the Ravens' draft seems to be Oregon receiver Demetrius Williams. The fourth-round pick is slated to be the team's No. 3 receiver and could start in a couple of years.

Williams has sure, soft hands and provides size (6 feet 2) to a receiving corps that starts Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton.

"If you would have told me that we would have gotten Demetrius Williams in the fourth round, I would have said no way," DeCosta said.

In many ways, it seemed like a more untraditional draft for the Ravens, who are known for their prowess in selecting college players.

This marked the first time that the Ravens used a first-round pick on a defensive tackle. It was the first time they drafted an interior offensive lineman as high as the second round.

Still, after making their 10th and final pick, the Ravens declared this draft a success.

"This draft was one of the years where things seem to fall in place," Newsome said. "I think the last two days have been very productive. I think two or three years from now, we'll be happy about the production from this draft."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

RAVENS 2006 SELECTIONS

1. Haloti Ngata Nose tackle Oregon

2. Chris Chester Guard-center Oklahoma

3. David Pittman Cornerback Northwestern State

4. Demetrius Williams Wide receiver Oregon

4. P.J. Daniels Running back Georgia Tech

5. Dawan Landry Free safety Georgia Tech

5. Quinn Sypniewski Tight end Colorado

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