Blocked from DBs, Ravens add depth

OWINGS MILLS – Relegated to watching seven defensive backs get drafted Sunday prior to their fourth-round selection, the Baltimore Ravens were forced to shift gears and simply went for depth during the second day of the NFL draft.

Instead of bolstering their super-thin nickel package with defensive backs such as Antonio Perkins, Vincent Fuller, Marviel Underwood, Jerome Carter or Kerry Rhodes who were grabbed above them, the Ravens obtained a potential future starter in the fourth round with North Carolina strongman center Jason Brown.

Plus, the Ravens executed depth-building moves with Montana fullback Justin Green in the fifth round, a third-string quarterback with towering Oregon State quarterback Derek Anderson in the sixth round and a rugged special-teams candidate by adding Texas Tech linebacker Mike Smith in the seventh round.

"It was not that we didn't try," Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said of the Ravens not drafting a defensive back. "We had one we had targeted and we thought we could wait another round to get him and someone beat us to the punch."

Louisville's Rhodes was picked by the New York Jets one pick before Baltimore drafted Brown, one of the draft's top-rated centers.

"Corner this year got absolutely decimated," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "We had three or four or five that we liked that we thought we might be able to get on the second day and boom, boom, boom, they were gone. It seems to me that teams are doing a better job of drafting over the last few years."

That leaves the Ravens with proven cornerback starters in Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister and newly-signed Samari Rolle, but uncertain reserves with Dale Carter, who missed all of last season with a blood clot in his lung. Deion Sanders, who will turn 38 in August, hasn't announced whether he will return yet.

"We think if things work out with getting Deion back, between Deion and Dale and Chris and Samari, we're OK," Newsome said. "It will be enticing to some [undrafted] player who will want to come in and make our roster, and they can."

Newsome said he received complimentary calls from NFL executives when he drafted Brown, a finalist for the Rimington Award who squats 775 pounds. Brown could eventually replace center Mike Flynn with some seasoning.

Green is a 5-11, 251-pound battering ram with some running ability whom Newsome said could push reserve Ovie Mughelli to perform better or push him off the roster. He rushed for 1,146 yards as a junior.

"Justin Green is a tough guy, but he's not just a bull in the china shop guy that runs into you," DeCosta said. "He can block, he can catch."

Anderson has outstanding size at 6-6, 245 pounds and is lauded for his arm strength, passing for 11,249 career yards and 79 touchdowns.

His accuracy and mechanics are a definite issue, completing only 50.7 percent for his career with 57 interceptions.

"He's not a scrambler per se, but he can move around," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "He's a good athlete. He's got a big arm. Physically isn't the question, it's more the mental aspect of the game that needs work."

Smith was an All-Big 12 selection, but is so unheralded that few, if any, draft publications listed him among their top 200 prospects. He drew high marks from Baltimore for his intangibles and toughness.

"Mike Smith can at the least be a very good contributor on special teams and hopefully work his way to being a starter for us one day," Newsome said.

Newsome referred to the second day of the draft as a scouts' day, noting how he tried to acquire competitive players with a work ethic that outweighed their relative obscurity.

"Guys with some intellect so they can come in and be able to use the passion that they have," he said.

The Ravens were thrilled with their first-day haul of receiver Mark Clayton, outside linebacker Dan Cody and offensive tackle Adam Terry. However, they appeared relatively subdued early Sunday evening as they reflected on the second day of the draft.

"From my perspective, we went into the weekend thinking short-term and long-term, how we can get some guys that can come in and impact us right away," Newsome said. "We also got some guys that can start to groom themselves as we get some age to our roster, so we could have some guys already on campus ready to step in."

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

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