Ravens’ picks send their stock soaring

Selections earn widespread praise from analysts

April 25, 2010|By Jamison Hensley, The Baltimore Sun

The Ravens' most uncharacteristic draft led to the typical results.

It started with the Ravens trading out of the first round for the first time in team history. It included the drafting of a player who raised red flags in regard to health and character. And it featured the selection of tight ends in consecutive rounds when the fan base cried out for a cornerback.

By the time the Ravens' draft show was complete Saturday, the draft experts were giving them a standing ovation. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. described it as an A-plus draft. Ron Jaworski, the former quarterback-turned-ESPN analyst, said the Ravens are building a "juggernaut."

"I thought Baltimore did an excellent job with what they had to work with," ESPN draft expert Todd McShay said.

In the first three rounds, the Ravens came away with one of the draft's top pass rushers (Texas' Sergio Kindle, who has an often-injured knee and a previous DWI charge), the second-best nose tackle (Alabama's Terrence Cody) and the third-best tight end (Oregon's Ed Dickson).

"The biggest thing that we did is we got three players that we wouldn't want to play against," said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of player personnel.

The 2010 draft will ultimately be judged on the Ravens' decision to trade the 25th overall pick to the Denver Broncos for selections in the second, third and fourth rounds.

When the Ravens were on the clock, there were three top-20 players available: Tennessee nose tackle Dan Williams, Boise State defensive back Kyle Wilson and Texas Christian pass rusher Jerry Hughes. The Ravens traditionally have made a living by taking a falling prospect in the first round and turning him into a Pro Bowl player. This time, the Ravens uncharacteristically moved out of the first round.

Only time will tell whether Williams, Wilson or Hughes will make the Ravens regret taking the picks, which led to the drafting of Kindle and two tight ends (Dickson and Brigham Young's Dennis Pitta).

"Sitting there Thursday night and just having picks, it was a very uneasy feeling," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Sitting here today, and if someone would ask me the question ‘ Would you make that trade again?' I would go, ‘Yes, I would, based on the picks we got and based on the players we got with those picks.'"

Few can argue about the value the Ravens received in giving up the 25th overall pick, which the Broncos used for Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. Kindle (selected 43rd overall), Dickson (70th) and Pitta (114th) were among the top 60 players on nearly every draft expert's board.

"You can get picks, but picks don't mean anything until they become players," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We'll find out three, four years down the road how good these guys are. But they got players that we're excited about as a coaching staff to have — guys that we targeted and that we wanted. That just speaks volumes."

The draft didn't play out perfectly. After the trade with Denver, the Ravens tried unsuccessfully to trade back into the first round to get Hughes, a coveted rush linebacker. And the Ravens attempted to move up to the first pick in the second round to select Virginia cornerback Chris Cook, but the St. Louis Rams wouldn't agree to a deal (Cook was then taken by the Minnesota Vikings with the second pick of the second round).

Still, the Ravens ended up with two players in the second round (Kindle and Cody) the team had given first-round grades.

"We're surprised we got them in the second round, quite honestly," DeCosta said.

The most debated move by the Ravens came in the fourth round, when they selected a second tight end instead of a cornerback. This is considered an area of need because the Ravens have two healthy cornerbacks (Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr) and two coming off season-ending knee injuries ( Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb).

After the Ravens took Pitta midway through the fourth round, only one cornerback was selected in that round, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah of Indiana (Pa.).

"I don't think it was a really deep corner class myself," Harbaugh said. "There was a group of corners at the top of the draft that you really liked. After that, it was a second tier of guys. Those guys are like rolling dice; you're never sure which one of those guys are going to make it. We were looking at those guys in the fourth round, but we couldn't justify one of those guys over Pitta. We just couldn't do it as far as being the type of player that we know he's going to be. We'll find a way to add a corner."

Harbaugh wouldn't rule out the return of Frank Walker, but the Ravens expect veteran cornerbacks to get released in the next couple of months. Teams who were keeping high-priced veterans as contingency plans might cut them after drafting a cornerback.

Newsome, though, said the Ravens didn't need to draft a cornerback to help their pass defense.

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