Endless possibilities

Ravens keeping open mind about what to do with No. 8 pick

NFL Draft

April 26, 2008|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Sun reporter

In a draft where multiple scenarios could occur today in the top 10, the Ravens haven't ruled anything out when it comes to the No. 8 overall pick.

"I don't think it's inconceivable that we could get a player from our top three this year," said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of college scouting.

Do the Ravens think Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan could really fall to them?

There are four teams standing in the Ravens' way of landing the top quarterback in the draft: the Atlanta Falcons (who pick third), Kansas City Chiefs (fifth), New York Jets (sixth) and New England Patriots (who could trade the seventh overall pick to the Carolina Panthers, who have shown interest in Ryan).

But there has been a trend of quarterbacks sliding in recent drafts (Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Leinart and Brady Quinn).

DeCosta said teams "get scared" because selecting a quarterback is such a hit-or-miss proposition.

"I feel like when you take a quarterback, you're making a statement with the organization," DeCosta said. "Your organization has to be in position to make that statement. If you have any instability in your organization, you're probably not going to take a quarterback because it's pretty risky."

Here's a scenario in which the Ravens would get Ryan:

After the announcement of Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long to the Miami Dolphins, the St. Louis Rams select Virginia defensive end Chris Long. With the No. 3 pick, the Atlanta Falcons take LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey because he's generally rated higher than Ryan and new coach Mike Smith's background is on defense.

At No. 4, the Oakland Raiders choose between Arkansas running back Darren McFadden and Ohio State's Vernon Gholston. The Kansas City Chiefs, picking fifth, take an offensive lineman, Boise State's Ryan Clady or Virginia's Branden Albert.

With the sixth pick, the New York Jets go with the player that the Raiders pass on, whether it's McFadden or Gholston. Then, the New England Patriots grab Southern California defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis.

That would clear the way for Ryan to fall to the Ravens.

"I think it's very clear that Matt Ryan is the premier quarterback of the 2008 draft," ESPN analyst Todd McShay said, "and he is head and shoulders above the rest of the quarterbacks."

Last season at Boston College, Ryan completed 59 percent of his passes, throwing for 31 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. His statistics are skewed by the fact that he wasn't throwing to NFL-caliber receivers.

"He has everything you want between the ears," DeCosta aid. "He has great leadership, great poise and is outstanding in the fourth quarter."

Although the Ravens have rarely moved up in the first round, they might have to consider the possibility this year.

If Ryan -- or Chris Long, who could also be in the Ravens' top three -- start falling, would the Ravens take the chance and jump up?

The Ravens have had talks with the Rams, Falcons and Jets, but they probably won't move up higher than No. 6.

"For me to say I want to trade up, I really don't want to trade up," said DeCosta, who dislikes giving up picks. "Now, obviously, if Michael Jordan is there, you trade up to get him. You don't wait for him to come to you. It's just a matter if we see a Michael Jordan in this draft or not."

If Ryan and Long aren't there at No. 8, the Ravens likely would want to trade down.

There could be teams -- like New Orleans at No. 10 -- who would look to move ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals to get Ellis.

Another possibility is the Philadelphia Eagles trading their first-round pick (No. 19) and disgruntled cornerback Lito Sheppard to the Ravens for the No. 8 pick.

That would allow the Ravens to get an established, 27-year-old cornerback and still have a shot at a quarterback in the middle of the first round.

It's tough to tell who the Ravens consider the No. 2 quarterback in the draft.

It is believed that the scouts prefer Delaware's Joe Flacco and the coaching staff favors Michigan's Chad Henne.

Asked of Henne, DeCosta said: "He's a very gutsy kid. He's a very smart kid. He's highly competitive with a strong arm. In my mind, he'll be a very good player in the NFL."

If the Ravens are unable to trade out of the No. 8 spot and Ryan and Long are gone, they will have a difficult decision.

The Ravens should have a choice of taking the top cornerback on their board (whether it's Troy's Leodis McKelvin or Tennessee State's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) or selecting the draft's second-best lineman (Virginia's Branden Albert or Boise State's Ryan Clady).

There has been some late buzz linking the Ravens to Albert, a graduate of Glen Burnie High School.

The Ravens can take the best player available because they have depth issues at nearly every position. They are expected to address quarterback, running back, receiver, tight end and secondary by the end of the draft.

"We have nine picks and they're very valuable picks," DeCosta said. "The draft is very strong in comparison to last year's draft. I think we can really legitimize the roster for the next four, five, six years with an excellent draft this year."

Note -- As of yesterday afternoon, general manager Ozzie Newsome said he has not heard from Jonathan Ogden on whether the offensive tackle plans to retire. Asked if he plans to hear from Ogden, Newsome said, "That's up to Jonathan."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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