Ravens could look at safety

Uncertainty of Reed’s future might create need at position

April 21, 2010|By Jamison Hensley | The Baltimore Sun

When the Ravens are on the clock Thursday night, team officials truly don't know whether safety is a position of need.

No one — from owner Steve Bisciotti to general manager Ozzie Newsome — has asked Ed Reed whether he is returning or retiring. The Ravens are working under the assumption that the Pro Bowl safety is coming back, but Reed has never given a definitive answer.

Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of player personnel, said Reed's decision can't factor into the team's decision on draft day.

"What we found is your needs change from day to day, week to week," DeCosta said. "In 2001, we really didn't need a running back until Jamal Lewis tore his ACL and then we had a huge need. We try not to get caught up in that until it happens."

Perhaps the most intriguing first-round scenario for the Ravens is Texas' Earl Thomas somehow falling down to them at No. 25.

Thomas, who is generally rated the second-best safety in the draft (behind Tennessee's Eric Berry), is a playmaker who could step into Reed's role. So what happens if Thomas is available when the Ravens are on the clock?

"If a safety is clearly the best player there," DeCosta said, "he's a consideration."

The odds of Thomas slipping to the Ravens toward the bottom of the first round aren't great, but this scenario would create a great storyline.

Thomas' play is eerily similar to Reed's. He's a rangy ball hawk who has excellent awareness. That's why it's hard to see a player of this caliber dropping past such safety-needy teams as Cleveland (No. 7 pick), Jacksonville (No. 10), Miami (No. 12), Houston (No. 20) and Philadelphia (No. 24).

On being likened to Reed, Thomas said, "He's a great player. I'm pretty sure he is going to be in the Hall of Fame and that's a great comparison. I think I have a long way to go if I want to compare my game to him, but I thank you for the accolades."

The accolades have been piling in for Thomas. Russ Lande of the Sporting News believes Thomas will be the first safety picked in the draft. Mike Mayock, the draft expert for the NFL Network, ranks Thomas ahead of Berry on his list.

One knock on Thomas has been his size. He showed up at the NFL combine in February 10pounds heavier than his usual playing weight, but it didn't take away from his speed or agility in running the drills.

"It's not a concern for us," DeCosta said. "I think he had an idea of what teams wanted him to be at weight-wise and tried to please teams. He's a good football player whether he weighs 200 pounds, 195 pounds, 205 pounds."

His play isn't dictated by his size. It's all about instincts with Thomas, who likes to follow the quarterback's eyes and jump routes.

In two seasons at Texas, Thomas recorded 134 tackles and forced five fumbles. Last season, he solidified himself as an impact player with eight interceptions, running two of them back for touchdowns.

"He's athletic and he's tough," DeCosta said. "He's slightly undersized but he's a football player. When you watch him on tape, you really do admire him."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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