For Ravens, It Won't Be Long Now

April 25, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Will tight end Brandon Pettigrew fall to the Ravens at No. 26?

Do the Ravens fall back in the first round?

Have the Ravens fallen out of the trade picture for wide receiver Anquan Boldin?

These are the questions facing the team when the NFL draft begins Saturday. They should be answered by late evening.

The Ravens have strong interest in Pettigrew with the 26th overall pick. But there are three teams standing in the way of the Ravens and Pettigrew, the Oklahoma State standout who is the consensus top tight end in the draft.

* The Buffalo Bills: : It's unlikely they will take Pettigrew with the 11th overall pick, but they could trade up from the 28th spot and ahead of the Ravens.

* : The Detroit Lions: : They could draft Pettigrew at No. 20, but it's hard to believe that defensive-minded coach Jim Schwartz (Mount St. Joseph) would take two offensive players in the first round. Detroit, which has the first overall pick, has reportedly agreed to a six-year deal with quarterback Matthew Stafford.

* : The Philadelphia Eagles: : They will probably take a hard look at Pettigrew at No. 21, especially after not bringing back L.J. Smith. But the Eagles need a running back (Knowshon Moreno, Donald Brown and LeSean McCoy are options) and might choose a tight end in the second or third round.

The Ravens have had a history of coveted players sliding to them, but general manager Ozzie Newsome wouldn't speculate whether that trend would continue Saturday.

"All I can tell you is that I'm prepared for 26 players," Newsome said Friday. "If it ends up being that 26th player, we'll be very happy with him."

In what could be an unpredictable draft - the top 20 players could be vastly different on each team's draft board - the Ravens could trade back, acquire more picks and still get a valued prospect.

The Ravens, who start with six draft picks (their fewest since 2000), will likely move back at some point to obtain more selections.

Asked whether he has talked to teams about trading in the first round, Newsome said: "We've had conversations, but it probably won't start again until we get to the 20th pick. Teams that are behind us want to wait and see who they have a chance to pick."

Although it was already considered unlikely the Ravens would trade for Boldin, their chances seemingly took a blow Friday.

According to ESPN, the Arizona Cardinals have lowered their asking price to a second-round pick, which has piqued the interest of the New York Jets, New York Giants and Eagles.

The Ravens talked to the Cardinals last week, but they weren't willing to give up multiple picks, a league source said.

If the Cardinals have dropped their demands, that would appear to hurt the Ravens because Arizona would likely try to work a deal with the Giants (45th overall selection), Jets (52nd) or Eagles (53rd) instead of the Ravens (57th). But the Ravens could try to entice the Cardinals by trading a player along with a second-round pick.

As for the Ravens' first pick, here's how The Baltimore Sun gauges the team's outlook:

* The favorite: : Brandon Pettigrew, tight end, Oklahoma State

When picking at the bottom of the first round, the Ravens have hit on players who are the best at their position in that draft class (tight end Todd Heap, safety Ed Reed and guard Ben Grubbs).

Pettigrew is a complete tight end (a blocker as well as a pass-catcher) who could be groomed behind Heap.

* The question mark: : Rey Maualuga, inside linebacker, Southern California

He has been linked to the Ravens because he is a hard hitter who plays in the team's mold. But it would be an out-of-character pick for a team that stresses character (there were two instances of unruly behavior at USC).

And Newsome laughed when asked at the combine whether Maualuga compares to Ray Lewis. "They're both named Ray, that's the comparison," Newsome said. So, do the Ravens like him or not?

Must get past: Denver (No. 12), Detroit (No. 20) and New England (No. 23).

* The dark-horse candidates: : Kenny Britt, wide receiver, Rutgers; Hakeem Nicks, wide receiver, North Carolina; Vontae Davis, cornerback, Illinois; Alphonso Smith, cornerback, Wake Forest; and Larry English, linebacker, Northern Illinois

The Ravens made it clear they don't feel pressured to take a receiver in the first round. If they draft one, it'll probably be either Britt (who reminds some of Terrell Owens) or Nicks (who reminds some of Michael Irvin).

Team officials said they could still add to a revamped cornerback group. Davis is probably the most talented cornerback in the draft (but he has some discipline issues), and Smith is a good fit in the Ravens' system.

The best pass rusher who could be available is English, who has a quick first step and great motor. He'll drop to the bottom of the first round because he is not an exceptional athlete. The Ravens compare him to Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley.

* : The fallback options (if the Ravens trade down into the second round): : Alex Mack, center, California; Sean Smith, cornerback, Utah; Phil Loadholt, offensive tackle, Oklahoma; and Brian Robiskie, wide receiver, Ohio State

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