It's a win-win

ON THE RAVENS

Ravens in strong position to improve today

Draft

April 26, 2008|By MIKE PRESTON

The speculation has been circulating for months. In the first round of the NFL draft, the Ravens are going to select Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, or Virginia defensive end Chris Long, or Troy cornerback Leodis McKelvin.

But no one really knows. Not me, or you, or Mel Kiper Jr. Not new Ravens coach John Harbaugh, or even general manager Ozzie Newsome.

"We're ready, I can tell you that," Newsome said yesterday morning.

The Ravens, at No. 8 overall, are in a great position, and unless they make some colossal mistakes, should be able to immediately improve by the end of the first two rounds today.

Unlike some years, the Ravens have bargaining room in the first round. There are varying opinions among the so-called draft experts, but most agree there are six or seven elite players in the draft.

One of those, such as Ryan, might slip to the Ravens. Or the Ravens could make a deal to move up to No. 7 with the trade-happy New England Patriots to select Long.

Or the Ravens could stay at No. 8 and select a really good defensive tackle such as Southern California's Sedrick Ellis, or they could trade down to stockpile picks in a draft that is deep with talent.

The Ravens like their options.

"From year to year, drafting at No. 8 or any position in the first round is different, [depending] on the players in the draft," Newsome said. "The year we got Terrell Suggs in 2003, it was a good position. The year we selected Duane Starks, it wasn't, 1998.

"It's like going to Baskin-Robbins. It all depends on who is taking the flavor right before you pick."

The Ravens have drafted in this area before with success. Cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Starks and outside linebacker Suggs were taken at the No. 10 overall spot.

So was wide receiver Travis Taylor, but what the heck, no one is perfect.

The preference here is for the Ravens to get a quarterback, and Ryan is the top one coming out of college. This city and this franchise are starved for a star quarterback, one they can call their own.

We've all seen the impact of a great quarterback, such as Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. We got a glimpse of it two seasons ago when Steve McNair led the Ravens to a 13-3 regular-season record.

McNair provided the Ravens with a blueprint for a quarterback. He doesn't have to have a great arm, but he needs to be accurate. He needs to be a leader, and tough, and Ryan has those characteristics.

But the Ravens can't mortgage their future just for Ryan. Under no circumstance should they trade away draft picks to move up to select Ryan. There are just too many good quarterbacks available later in the draft.

If the Ravens can get Ryan without giving up a lot, that's great. But if they can get Long, or an offensive tackle such as Boise State's Ryan Clady, or Ellis, that would be fine, too.

The Ravens are going to come out of this draft with a quarterback. The run is expected to start somewhere in the second round, but it will be interesting to see whether one is selected late in the first.

Will the Ravens wait for another one before possibly trying to trade up, or do they sit and wait?

The Ravens have nine selections in the draft, so they have some options. They have done extensive work on Michigan's Chad Henne and Delaware's Joe Flacco.

Louisville's Brian Brohm also has strong credentials, and there are other possibilities, such as Hawaii's Colt Brennan, Tennessee's Erik Ainge and USC's John David Booty.

Newsome is going to get one of them. And if he trades down from No. 8, he'll probably get a cornerback as well, such as Terrell Thomas (USC), Jack Ikegwuonu (Wisconsin) or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Tennessee State).

Despite all the scenarios, the Ravens should have a good draft. They should be able to fill their most pressing needs at cornerback, offensive tackle or quarterback on the first day.

If not, there will be a lot of talent left on the second day.

"Last year, the draft was strong at the top, but the selections in the lower rounds weren't as great," Newsome said. "This year, it's very strong at the top, but it has great depth going into the fourth and fifth rounds."

mike.preston@baltsun.com

MOCK ME

A look at who the mock drafts have the Ravens selecting:

Don Banks, SI.com Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee State

Vic Carucci, NFL.com Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College

Charley Casserly, CBSsports.com Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State

Nancy Gay, San Francisco Chronicle Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State

Bob Glauber, Newsday Keith Rivers, LB, Southern California

Rick Gosselin, Dallas Morning News Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College

Clark Judge, CBSsports.com Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy

Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College

Pat Kirwan, NFL.com Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College

Todd McShay, ESPN Branden Albert, OT-G, Virginia

Tony Moss, Sports Network Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee State

Mike Mulligan, Chicago Sun-Times Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College

Pete Prisco, CBSsports.com Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy

Chris Steuber, Scout.com Branden Albert, OT-G, Virginia

Mike Triplett, New Orleans Times-Picayune Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy

Charean Williams, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College

Paul Zimmerman, Sports Illustrated Keith Rivers, LB, Southern California

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