Ravens thrilled with upside of trio of picks

OWINGS MILLS - Trusting their own draft board along with cooperation from other clubs led to the Baltimore Ravens' acquisition of a trio of highly-regarded football players.

By the close of business in Saturday's NFL draft, the Ravens addressed their pass rush, added a strong-armed, mobile quarterback and found insurance behind running back Jamal Lewis.

After the Arizona Cardinals' decision to trade their sixth overall selection and eschew the popular option of Arizona State defensive end Terrell Suggs, the Ravens pounced on him with the 10th overall pick of the first round. Complications, including the clock and a busy phone line at league headquarters, led to the Ravens being unable to swap for the Minnesota Vikings' seventh overall selection in a maneuver intended to obtain Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich. The time expired before Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome could consummate the trade, so the Jacksonville Jaguars wound up with Leftwich. Two picks later, Baltimore tabbed Suggs, the owner of an NCAA record after 24 sacks last season. However, the Ravens eventually pulled off another gambit to select fast-rising Cal quarterback Kyle Boller at No. 19 with the New England Patriots acting as their trading partner. Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome exchanged the Ravens' second-round pick (No. 41 overall) and next year's first-round pick to nab Boller. "We felt like we got two of our best players," Ravens director of player personnel Phil Savage said. "We thought we could get one, but not two. We feel really good about what we accomplished so far." Ravens coach Brian Billick didn't rule out the possibility that Boller could possibly supplant incumbent Chris Redman this year. Redman is rehabilitating from back surgery, but is expected to take snaps with the first offense at minicamp. In the third round with the 77th overall pick, Baltimore drafted Georgia running back Musa Smith. The Ravens said they had assigned a first-round value to Smith, a power back who excelled in the competitive Southeastern Conference. Meanwhile, Billick is intrigued by the 6-foot-3, 234-pound Boller's combination of size, speed and arm strength. Boller is capable of throwing the football through the uprights from the 50-yard line while kneeling on one knee. He has 4.59 speed. "Boller is the complete package," Billick said. "He has got size, intelligence, huge arm strength and great personal charisma. "He has great character, very intelligent, but yet he's just scratching the surface of how far he can go. The bigger upside was a real positive for us." Boller enjoyed a meteoric rise of improvement last season with 2,815 yards, 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in leading the Golden Bears to a 7-5 campaign. For his career, Boller had 64 touchdowns and 48 interceptions, only completing 47.8 percent of his passes. Savage said Boller's receivers were prone to drops. Boller said reports that he was only required to read half the field last year were untrue. Cal coach Jeff Tedford, who coached Detroit Lions quarterback Joey Harrington and Cincinnati Bengals first-round bust Akili Smith at Oregon, helped Boller improve his technique through some unorthodox coaching methods. He used a piece of rope to prevent Boller's left elbow from flapping around in practice sessions and had him wear tennis shoes on wet grass to improve his footwork. "Whether I play right away or wait, I'm excited," Boller said. "I'm not going to try to stomp over people. I'm going to try to earn my way." Over the last week, USC coach Pete Carroll vouched for Boller's potential to Billick, suggesting that Boller might have been drafted ahead of top overall pick and Heisman Trophy Award winner Carson Palmer if he had one more year working under Tedford. "Kyle is an outstanding athlete," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "He has very quick feet and does a great job of stepping up in the pocket to avoid tacklers." Savage said the Ravens anticipate improving enough next season to stay out of contention for next year's top quarterback: Ole Miss' Eli Manning. In Suggs, Baltimore added a undersized college end it projects as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense opposite Pro Bowler Peter Boulware. As for what Suggs' addition means to the Ravens' contract offer to free agent linebacker Jamir Miller, Newsome said he hasn't heard from him in two weeks. It didn't sound like Newsome was inclined to initiate another conversation. Suggs' stock dropped somewhat because of pedestrian 40-yard dash times ranging from 4.84 to 4.92 seconds in campus workouts. "He's got a great first step and terrific quickness initially," Savage said. "Football is played in a shorter area. He has tremendous hustle and plays with a lot of passion." Last year, Suggs won the Bronko Nagurski Award, Lombardi Award and the Pac-10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Suggs said he was under the impression he was being judged on his football ability, not for the Olympics. "I'm going to a defensive kingdom," Suggs said. "A defensive player couldn't be happier." Smith rushed for 1,324 yards and eight touchdowns last season for the Bulldogs. The 6-foot, 232-pounder was clocked in 4.45 seconds with a 41-inch vertical leap. In the Sugar Bowl against Florida State, Smith rushed for 145 yards on 23 carries. "He's a powerful back," Ravens running backs coach Matt Simon said. "He could be a quality starter in this league. He has great explosiveness and is a good receiver out of the backfield." Only Garrison Hearst and Herschel Walker have had greater single-season rushing totals in Georgia history. Baltimore said it ranked Smith among its top 20 players. "He reminds us a lot of Jamal Lewis," Ravens scout Terry McDonough said. "He does not quite have Jamal's speed, but a similar type of running style."

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