Team has wild-card spot at No. 8

Ravens seeking depth at bunch of positions

NFL draft outlook

April 16, 2008|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN REPORTER

Feeling the anxiety of the coming NFL draft, first-year Ravens coach John Harbaugh dropped by Eric DeCosta's office last week.

"Are you having trouble sleeping?" Harbaugh asked the Ravens' director of college scouting.

DeCosta replied yes, knowing all the times he has woken up in the middle of the night.

These restless feelings will end April 26, when general manager Ozzie Newsome and the scouting department must deliver new young talent for a 5-11 team.

The Ravens don't have a glaring hole in the starting lineup, but they know the importance of having quality depth at every position after last season and the need to build a foundation for the future.

"I'm very excited," DeCosta said at yesterday's draft luncheon. "This is probably the most critical draft we've ever had based on our needs on this team, based on our record last year and where we want to get to."

During the Ravens' half-hour news conference yesterday, team officials never tipped their hand on their intentions for the No. 8 overall pick.

The Ravens are considered the wild card in the top 10 because they could draft at any position from a quarterback to a cornerback to an offensive or defensive lineman.

The players most commonly linked to the Ravens in the first round are: Troy cornerback Leodis McKelvin, Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, Southern California defensive lineman Sedrick Ellis and Boise State offensive tackle Ryan Clady.

Based on the Ravens' preparation, their focus seems to be on cornerback and quarterback.

Two of the draft's top cornerbacks - McKelvin and Kansas' Aqib Talib - recently visited the Ravens' headquarters.

"I wouldn't say there's a clear-cut corner this year in the draft," DeCosta said. "I think if you polled every single team, you'd have a different order. But all four guys [McKelvin, Talib, Tennessee State's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and South Florida's Mike Jenkins] are worthy of being first-round picks."

The Ravens have been doing an equal amount of work on quarterbacks.

Louisville's Brian Brohm, a second-round prospect who worked out for the Ravens earlier this year, met with team officials yesterday at Ravens headquarters.

The Ravens have also had visits from two other quarterbacks: Delaware's Joe Flacco and Michigan's Chad Henne. Both could go late in the first round or early in the second.

The team held a private workout with Boston College's Matt Ryan, who is considered a top-five prospect. To fall to the Ravens, Ryan would need to slip past the Atlanta Falcons (No. 3) and the Kansas City Chiefs (No. 5).

"We like them all," DeCosta said of the quarterbacks. "We think there are seven or eight quarterbacks in this draft that are very good prospects."

The two linemen who could be drafted by the Ravens are Ellis and Clady.

Ellis is a disruptive force on the defensive line, and DeCosta said he would be a "top-three pick" in other draft years.

Clady, who is considered the second-best offensive tackle in the draft, has been attached to the Ravens because it appears Jonathan Ogden is retiring. But Newsome said the Ravens don't have to draft an offensive tackle because they have two young ones in Marshal Yanda and Jared Gaither.

"That makes it easy for us to just set the board based on who the best players are and don't have to go out to draft," Newsome said. "Jonathan may or may not retire. That doesn't have to factor into the equation."

With nine picks in a deep draft, the Ravens know this is a time that could shape the team's future.

"The pressure I have on myself is I still have a bitter taste in my mouth about last year," Newsome said. "I lost a very dear friend in Brian [Billick]. I think it's upon me to do everything I can to get this organization and this town back to where it belongs, and that's on top of the AFC North."

NOTES -- Harbaugh will throw out the first pitch at Camden Yards on Sunday, when the Orioles play the New York Yankees. "I think it's going to be a fastball," Harbaugh said. "I'm going to get at least over 65 [mph]. ... Newsome said no date has been set for Terrell Suggs' arbitration hearing. Suggs wants the one-year tag of $8.879 million for defensive ends - which is $814,000 more than what linebackers receive.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?

With the NFL draft just around the corner, April 26-27, and the Ravens' new coaching staff preparing for its first minicamp, tomorrow through Saturday, turn to The Sun and baltimoresun.com for expanded coverage. We'll begin an all-out blitz of draft coverage Sunday.

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