Focused Only On The Draft, Ravens Feel Successful
REVERSED PROCEDURE COULD BECOME TREND
By Joe Platania
It's bad enough for the rest of the NFL that the Ravens have one of the best draft brain trusts in the league.
It got even worse for the opposition when the Ravens got the chance this year to focus solely on the seven-round selection meeting, which ended April 30.
Because of the NFL lockout, the free-agent signing period and trading procedures have not yet begun, giving all 32 teams a chance to hone in on which college players could best help their teams.
But because the Ravens have done a lot better job drafting players than most other teams, it was a golden opportunity for them to really shine during the three-day pickfest.
"(The lockout) allowed us to focus on (the draft)," general manager Ozzie Newsome said after the Ravens completed their eight-man class -- the first in team history to have that number of players -- by taking Georgia Tech running back Anthony Allen after going without a seventh-rounder three times during the last four years.
"If we had had free agency start (before the draft), we would have gotten other players, gotten our own (free agents) under contract and hopefully have all that pay dividends down the road."
College scouting director Joe Hortiz agreed."Coaches and scouts worked well together," he said.
"You could see the passion they showed in fixing our board, getting our guys in the right spots."
But during the draft, the Ravens selected five offensive and three defensive players, shoring up depth, addressing a few problem areas and, they think, making themselves a better football team than the one eventual AFC champion Pittsburgh eliminated during the Divisional round last winter.
Player personnel director Eric DeCosta mentioned that area scouts were assigned to travel a lot more often last fall and watch even more players than usual. "This is their time of year," he said.
Newsome elaborated that if such a sea change in the offseason calendar were to be implemented, it would have to come as part of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
Instead, the draft took place during an extraordinary three-day period during which one set of rules was in place when it began on April 28 and another existed by draft's end. On Friday night, April 29, a federal court issued a temporary stay of an earlier ruling that lifted the lockout, meaning the work stoppage is on again.
As a result, undrafted free agents cannot be contacted, an obstacle that hurt the Ravens to a degree, given the results they have had culling talent from those not taken in the draft, such as Priest Holmes, Bart Scott, Ma'ake Kemoeatu and others.
"We added quality and depth," Newsome said. "We're a better team than we were when we started out at 8 o'clock Thursday night."
The final day's selections began with the fourth-round acquisition of Indiana wideout Tandon Doss, a 6-foot-2 target who has Wildcat-type experience in that he has taken snaps at quarterback and run with the ball as well.
"He's tough and physical," Hortiz said.
With the team's two compensatory fifth-round picks, the brain trust honed in on Texas cornerback Chykie (pronounced "Shockey") Brown, a cornerback who lived with troubled linebacker Sergio Kindle for two years, and Mississippi State defensive end Pernell McPhee, a pass-rusher who accumulated 32.5 sacks at the junior-college level.
"Brown started out as a cornerback and played safety," Newsome said. "McPhee brings value to us."
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and assistant Craig Van Der Steeg were given the assignment to scrutinize Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor, a Troy Smith-esque athletic type who was taken in the sixth round.
But Newsome emphasized that Taylor -- likely drafted to be a third-string signal-caller while the team searches for a veteran backup to Joe Flacco -- would not be asked to change positions.
"We drafted him as a quarterback," Newsome emphasized.
As for Allen, he becomes the fourth Georgia Tech product drafted in team history. The All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-teamer averaged nearly 102 yards per game, second in the league and 18th nationally, after transferring from Louisville.
"At Georgia Tech, they run the triple option," Hortiz pointed out. "So, Allen was either run-blocking or getting hit on a fake, so we know he’s tough."
It has been tough for teams to deal with the lockout and the new rules that it brings. But for the Ravens, it made draft success even easier to attain.
Here are thumbnail sketches on the Ravens' eight-man draft Class of 2011.
(First round, 27th overall selection)
Height/weight: 6-foot-2, 201 pounds
Strengths: Good size and speed (4.46-second 40-yard dash), good hands and field vision
Weaknesses: Not much closing speed, average instincts
Quotable: "Has been inconsistent and appears to lack the confidence and instincts of elite-level corners … has undeniable upside." -- Pro Football Weekly draft guide
(Second round, 58th overall selection)
Height/weight: 6 feet, 204 pounds
Position: Wide receiver/returner
Strengths: Fast, gets good separation from defenders, can adjust in air
Weaknesses: Doesn't have diverse route-running skills, body-catches too much
Quotable: "Has a willingness to go over the middle. He is explosive out of his cuts." -- Ravens college scouting director Joe Hortiz
(Third round, 85th overall selection)
Height/weight: 6-foot-7, 330 pounds
School: Central Florida
Strengths: Durable, good size, can get good bend for someone his size
Weaknesses: Still a bit raw, did not play top-flight competition
Quotable: "He's very physical and he's on the upswing. … He'll compete for a right-tackle spot right out of the gate. … He's kind of mean, tough and hard-nosed." -- Ravens coach John Harbaugh
(Fourth round, 123rd overall selection)
Height/weight: 6-foot-2, 201 pounds
Position: Wide receiver/return specialist
Strengths: Excellent field awareness, good size and straight-line speed, can go over the middle
Weaknesses: Not very agile; run-blocking technique needs work
Quotable: "I have a lot of experience running from the slot or outside. Anywhere the Ravens need me to be, I'll be." -- Doss, via media conference call
CHYKIE BROWN (pronounced "Shockey")
(Fifth round, 164th overall selection, compensatory)
Height/weight: 5-foot-11, 190 pounds
Strengths: Plenty of length, can knock a receiver out of his pattern, good closing burst and can leap
Weaknesses: Not a good tackler, lacks strength, doesn't make plays on the ball, broke his arm as a senior and missed four games
Quotable: "Yes, I (played press coverage). That's one of the strongest parts of my game. ... Texas developed me into a man and a better football player." -- Brown, via media conference call
(Fifth round, 165th overall selection, compensatory)
Height/weight: 6-foot-3, 278 pounds
School: Mississippi State
Position: Defensive end
Strengths: Motor that never stops, tough against the run, solid tackler and good on-field motivator
Weaknesses: Poor hand technique, doesn't get many sacks, still developing football instincts after two seasons playing at junior-college level
Quotable: "McPhee is raw, but has a strong trunk, long arms and good movement skills to develop, though he requires a strong support system." -- Pro Football Weekly draft guide
(Sixth round, 180th overall selection)
Height/weight: 6-foot-1, 221 pounds
School: Virginia Tech
Strengths: Strong arm, athletic, a proven winner (school-record 35 wins), impressive senior year TD-INT ratio (24-5), 67 total touchdowns (44 pass, 23 rush)
Weaknesses: Undersized, not very broad field vision, doesn't have good touch pass
Quotable: "An extremely athletic improviser in the role of Ravens' 2007 fifth-round selection Troy Smith. Taylor is best on the move." -- Pro Football Weekly draft guide
(Seventh round, 225th overall selection)
Height/weight: 6 feet, 223 pounds
School: Georgia Tech (transferred from Louisville)
Position: Running back
Strengths: Excellent size, sturdy, good field vision and will play through pain
Weaknesses: Not very fast, doesn't pick up blitzes well, doesn't accelerate
Quotable: "Allen had 1,934 rushing yards in his two-year Georgia Tech career and rushed for 3,036 career (college) yards." -- Allen player biography
Posted April 30, 2011