Ravens could draft cornerback early for insurance

OWINGS MILLS – Ozzie Newsome isn't merely envisioning a negative scenario when he ponders a glaring need for depth at cornerback. <br><br> The general manager witnessed the Baltimore Ravens barely survive multiple injuries in the secondary last season.<br><br> Not only did venerable nickel back Deion Sanders miss seven complete games with hamstring and foot problems, but Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister was out for the majority of three games with a shoulder stinger.

While the Ravens would appear to be fortified sufficiently with McAlister and newly-signed starter Samari Rolle, they are just one injury away from having a serious problem.

Subtract Rolle or McAlister and factor in that Sanders hasn't decided whether to accept the Ravens' invitation to return and Baltimore could definitely use a young cornerback for insurance.

"You shouldn't be surprised if we decide to go that route," said Newsome, who has the No. 22 overall pick of the first round. "To have a No. 1 pick at corner, and he can only play special teams for the first six games, then all of a sudden, one of our guys gets dinged up. Guess what? Our No. 1 pick is starting for us. That could be a good thing."

Especially if that No. 1 pick turns out to be either West Virginia cornerback Adam Jones or Auburn cornerback Carlos Rogers.

Although both players are mentioned as potential top 10 selections in multiple mock drafts, Baltimore wouldn't hesitate if either slid and was still available at No. 22 or possibly trade up to obtain one of the more athletic players in the draft.

In the case of Jones, he's undersized at 5-foot-9, 186 pounds, but covers 40 yards in 4.33 seconds and has excellent return skills.

Nicknamed "Pac Man," Jones is also considered a hungry prospect who grew up in an impoverished background in an Atlanta project.

"Obviously, Pac Man Jones is 5-foot-9, but he plays bigger," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "Small in stature, big in heart. A warrior who plays extremely well, competitive, tough and physical."

Rogers has excellent size at 6-0, 195, runs a 4.42 and won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back.

Quarterbacks rarely challenged him last season when he intercepted two passes and opponents completed only 18 of 65 passes (27 percent) thrown into his territory.

"Carlos at that point could be the best player available, but I think the theme I'm using this year is, you can't have enough depth," Newsome said. "We got into a situation at corner where Chris goes down, Deion goes down.

"You don't have players, and it's tough in October and December to go out and find players that can come in and contribute to your football team."

Nebraska cornerback Fabian Washington has Olympic sprinting ability, covering 40 yards in 4.29 seconds.

He recorded 11 interceptions and broke up 38 passes, but has been downgraded by some scouts for a perceived lack of toughness and tackling ability.

"He's got great speed, excellent cover ability," Washington said. "He's the guy as a junior that we think has the upside. He may not be as physical as you'd like him to be, but in terms of his cover ability he's as good as any player in the draft."

Baltimore is less likely to draft a safety.

Georgia free safety Thomas Davis is projected as an outside linebacker by most teams, including Baltimore, but has the rare ability to act as an enforcer in run support at 6-1, 230 pounds. He runs a 4.54 and bench presses 355 pounds.

Davis registered 272 career tackles, 10 ½ sacks, three interceptions, two blocked punts and six forced fumbles.

"Thomas Davis is one of the most explosive players in this draft," Newsome said.

Oklahoma safety Brodney Pool combines technique, size (6-1, 205) and cover skills (nine interceptions).

He's more of an Ed Reed type, though, and might be too similar to the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

"Pool is a guy that brings a little better athletic ability than most of the safeties," Newsome said.

After the first round, the Ravens would likely take a long look at cornerbacks such as LSU's Corey Webster, Clemson's Justin Miller and Michigan's Marlin Jackson.

Don't expect the Ravens to find themselves in a position again like last season where they were forced to move dime back Chad Williams to nickel and divided cornerback duties between Ray Walls and Corey Fuller. Not to mention Sanders turns 38 in August.

"We don't have Deion yet," Newsome said. "We do need an infusion of youth at our corner position. That's why we spent a lot of time on this position, and it's a good corner board this year.

"I think it hurt us, no doubt, our ability to get off the field on third down when Deion and Chris were injured."

As well as a being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

If you are reading this article via a news portal, you can find the original on RavensInsider.Com

Ravens Insider Top Stories