The early line on defensive linemen

Odrick, Price, Cody leading candidates for No. 25 pick

April 12, 2010|By Jamison Hensley | jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Even though two defensive linemen could be taken in the first three picks, there is a good chance that an appealing one will fall to the Ravens near the bottom of the first round next week.

Penn State's Jared Odrick, the consensus No. 3 defensive tackle in the draft, fits the personality of the Ravens' defense. In commenting on Odrick's high-energy play and toughness, one team official recently said, "He plays like a Raven."

Odrick was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year by the league's coaches after he recorded 43 tackles last season for the Nittany Lions. He also had seven sacks and 11 tackles for losses.

The biggest reason why Odrick could last into the second half of the first round is he's not considered flashy. He stops the run and rushes the passer equally well, but isn't dominant in either area.

"The fact that he's got a great motor and had great production in college is his highest testament," said Mike Mayock, the NFL Network's draft analyst. "It will be tough for some of those teams at the end of the first round to pass on him."

The Ravens, who hold the 25th overall pick, are likely among those teams who won't pass on Odrick.

Defensive line is one of the Ravens' needs after the team lost Dwan Edwards (signed with Buffalo) and Justin Bannan (Denver) in free agency. The Ravens added Cory Redding last month, but he's viewed as a stopgap solution. Three of the Ravens' top four defensive linemen (Redding, nose tackle Kelley Gregg and defensive end Trevor Pryce) will be at least 30 by the middle of the season.

Odrick, who stands 6 feet 5 and weighs 304 pounds, would be an upgrade over Edwards, anchoring the Ravens' defensive line with Haloti Ngata for the next decade. Although some think Odrick could be adequate as a nose tackle, the Ravens project him as an end in their system.

"He's a lunch-pail-type player," said Eric DeCosta, Ravens director of player personnel. "He plays hard. He's a smart kid. He's a good prospect."

There is a chance that Odrick will be gone before the Ravens are on the clock. The Ravens were reportedly among seven teams that had scheduled a private meeting or workout with him. (The Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons were the others.)

One report had Odrick being drafted as high as No. 7 by the Browns, but few see him going in the top 20 in the draft despite the fact that he was one of eight players invited to New York for the first round.

"I think I bring a lot of versatility at multiple positions that I've played before and am capable of playing in the future," Odrick said at the NFL combine in February. "I like to think I'm a high-character guy. I get along with everybody on the team. Somebody who's going to work hard. Somebody who is going to fight for a starting spot and earn respect. That's what you're going to get when you're dealing with Jared Odrick."

If Odrick is gone, two other defensive tackles might draw interest at the bottom of the first round.

UCLA's Brian Price provides more of a pass rush but less of a motor. The Pac-10's Defensive Player of the Year finished with 48 tackles, including 23 1/2 for losses.

He's intriguing because he has a strong upper body and explodes off the line. The biggest knock is his tendency to sit out plays when winded.

"He likes to jump gaps," DeCosta said. "He has good quickness, a good pass rush. He's going to be very attractive to 4-3 teams."

The lineman who would attract 3-4 teams is Alabama's nose tackle, Terrence Cody, who recently visited the Ravens.

He would immediately compete for playing time with Gregg, who has battled injuries the past two seasons.

The concern for most teams is Cody's weight, which ballooned to 400 pounds during his community college days. He reported to the Senior Bowl in January at 370 pounds and then weighed in at the NFL combine in February at 354 pounds. At his Pro Day last month, he was 348 pounds.

Some teams consider Cody a second-round talent because he isn't an every-down player. DeCosta said Cody is a first-round one "from an ability standpoint.

"He's a guy who is a force on first and second downs," DeCosta said. "He's the kind of guy Baltimore has typically played with on their defensive line. He's got the right demeanor. It wouldn't shock me at all if he gets picked in the first round."

Defensive tackle could be one of the deepest positions in this year's draft. Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy will probably be taken in the first three picks, and Tennessee nose tackle Dan Williams is expected to be selected in the top half of the draft.

That would represent only the start of the run on defensive tackles because there's a chance that a dozen could be selected in the first three rounds. In most years, that number is closer to seven or eight.

"It's a good year to be looking at defensive linemen if that's one of your needs," DeCosta said.

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