All-Pro players such as #1 overall pick WR Keyshawn Johnson, #4 pick OT Jonathan Ogden, #14 pick RB Eddie George, #19 pick WR Marvin Harrison, #24th pick WR Eric Moulds, & Mr. All-Everything at #25 MLB Ray Lewis are who players that are drafted today compare themselves to.
The talent pool is so deep this year that this may be one of the hardest drafts to project in quite some time. And the Ravens, sure to nab a premier player even at #24, have their work cut out for them as the age-old adage "take the best player available" holds little meaning when there could be a plethora of talent stockpiled at #24 come Saturday.
There has been an inordinate amount of players linked to the Ravens pick, as they are the unfortunate victims of the cap-cuffs causing definitive needs throughout the team's roster. The V.P. of Player Personnel Ozzie Newsome has publicly announced that they could possibly draft for nearly every position on the team save TE & possibly QB with up-and-comer Chris Redman finally gaining the starting nod.
This leaves OT, WR, RB, LB, DT, DE, CB & S in no particular order as potential 1st rd draftee candidates. There have been various top-tier players in this year's draft linked to the Ravens 1st round pick & in this particular article the focus will be on only one possible player from each position. (Profile briefs courtesy of ESPN)
OT: Levi Jones- Arizona State
40 time: 5.18/40
Has only played left tackle for two years, and was painfully inconsistent during those years, but opened a lot of eyes (including his own) at Senior Bowl practices, where he excelled. Doesn't understand just how good he can be with a little bit more effort and diligence. Very quick feet, moves well laterally, can shadow rushers and ride them out beyond the quarterback. Has to get stronger in the hands and forearms, and learn how to lock out his elbows in pass-blocking situations. Excellent overall athlete with a terrific upside.
WR: Antonio Bryant- Pittsburgh
40 time: 4.48/40
Some scouts compare his raw ability to that of Randy Moss, and he possesses a similar frame. Lacks deep speed but is a pure receiver who knows how to get open, isn't bashful about going into a crowd after the ball and will make big plays even against double-teams. Some team is going to take him in the first round, and he'll either break its heart or make it look smart.
RB: William Green- Boston College
40 time: 4.45/40 (EST.)
Certainly the top back in draft in terms of talent, natural running ability, production and durability. But there are questions about his character and he was suspended twice during his college career, including last season's game against Miami. A prototype workhorse who wants to the ball 25 times a game and he can erode defenders the more carries he logs. Terrific vision and body lean, finishes off every run, a decent receiver. Plays a lot faster than stopwatch time. A top 10 pick on paper, but only if off-field concerns are addressed.
LB: Napoleon Harris- Northwestern
40 time: 4.58/40
Played basketball for two seasons with Wildcats, so no denying his athleticism. Progress may have been stunted a bit in 2001 when he was forced to play end because of injuries on team. Very quick "edge" defender with good size, plays with passion and loves to punish ball carriers with bone-jarring tackles. Good range, will chase down the plays away from him and anchor on the run straight at him. Uses his hands well to protect his body. Doesn't look comfortable playing in space and not a natural defender in pass coverage.
DT: Larry Tripplett- Washington
40 time: 5.0/40
Were he two or three inches taller, Tripplett would probably be a first-round prospect. Might be best utilized at nose tackle in the NFL, but only if he gains about 10 more pounds, becomes more adept at playing in a two-gap role. Good athlete who comes hard and, when his pads are low can be a real force, a player who can clog the middle. Not particularly quick but takes blockers on head-up, stymies their momentum and finds the football. Has actually been used in pass coverage for zone-blitz schemes. Very good special teams player.
DE: Charles Grant- Georgia
40 time: 4.68/40
No player has moved further up the charts in the last two months than this guy, partly because of his physical tools, and also because there are so few ends with size in this draft. Two months ago, he projected as a second rounder, now he is certain to go off the board in top 15. Ran in the 4.6s at his personal workout and opened lots of scouts' eyes with that performance. Still a tad raw, but anyone who saw five-sack performance versus Auburn knows the kind of impact player into which he can develop. Past knee problems no concern now.
CB: Mike Rumph- Miami
40 time: 4.4/40 (EST.)
One of the bigger corners in the draft and, despite a lack of stopwatch speed, is really gaining momentum as draft nears. Even with Buchanon on the opposite side of the field, quarterbacks didn't test him very often. Long arms and he gets his hands on a lot of balls. Physical enough to stop a wideout on his release, will take on the top receivers and is usually up to the challenge. Not as quick as most scouts would like and is probably most effective in zone coverage, but he's a smart player who doesn't make many mistakes. Natural leader and willing learner.
S: Edward Reed- Miami
40 time: 4.5/40
An amazing career in which he started 46 games over a four-year span, made as many big plays over the past two seasons as any defender in the country. Consummate leader who might have been a first-round pick in 2000 but elected to stay in school and try to win a national championship. Really was the spiritual leader and conscience of the Hurricanes defense. Had 21 interceptions for his career and played at both safety spots. Some teams feel he could play cornerback in a pinch. Natural "ball" skills and better hands than many wide receivers in draft.
Pro's Take: How each player fits for the Ravens:
On OT Levi Jones: Jones is arguably the most athletic OT in the draft. Jones is a good OT who could be a Day One starter if he focuses on every snap and makes the most of his potential. He's an above-average pass-protector and a road-grader at run-blocking, which would make him a perfect fit at RT. Jones can more than hold his own against even the most aggressive of defenders and can get to the 2nd level and demolish any defenders unfortunate enough to be in his path.
Jones has LT abilities but a RT mentality carrying an nasty attitude against his opponents and takes enjoyment in dismantling all defenders leaving nothing but destruction in his wake. He passes the eye-ball test, and the ‘light' may have come on for him as to how good he could really be. Jones would fill a definite need for the Ravens, as one of their biggest holes lie in the RT position.
On WR Antonio Bryant: Bryant for the Ravens would serve the same role that WR Chris Carter served for the Vikings in Billick's offense. Bryant comes with some baggage, but Billick has proven that he can handle ‘special' players & get the most out of their abilities. His play-making skills go without question, as he's been a consistent force for his college team.
Bryant is a sure-handed receiver who has good size and speed, which make him a reliable target, especially in the red-zone and critical downs. Bryant would effectively fill the #2 WR position alongside former #1 WR Travis Taylor providing an effective receiving duo and keeping WR Brandon Stokely in the slot (where he's most effective) giving QB Chris Redman 3 reliable targets to spread the ball around to.
On RB William Green: Green has all of the intangibles that you look for in an effective RB on this level of play. He's a shifty power-back in the mold of RB Ahman Green with the Packers as he hits the hole with bad intentions and rarely goes down after first contact.
Green would be an insurance policy for the Ravens, as they were severely hampered offensively without a consistent running threat to lean upon. Green comes with some baggage, but again Billick has proven that he can handle these kinds of players.
On LB Napoleon Harris: Harris is the kind of player who makes life hard for opposing offenses as he seems to be everywhere yet no one can really get a good ‘piece' of him. Harris's numbers weren't great this season due to playing out of position, but his effectiveness in getting after the passer goes unquestioned.
Harris would fill a definite need for the Ravens after the loss of a premier OLB in Jamie Sharper to the Texans in the expansion draft. Harris is the kind of detail-oriented player who could start on the weak-side right away and be effective as he's surely an impact player.
On DT Larry Tripplett: Tripplett a two-gap player who reminds you of a poor man's Warren Sapp without the nastiness in Sapp's demeanor. A prototypical NT, Tripplett can also lend a respectable pass-rush without ‘giving up the farm' as he takes good angles and does a good job in collapsing the pocket consistently.
Tripplett is considered arguably one of the quickest DT's off the snap in the draft which almost guarantees the double-team unless you like seeing your QB looking up at the sky. Tripplett would free up the Ravens LB's to make plays and may possibly make some of his own. He would become a good anchor for the Ravens to build their 3-4 defense around.
On DE Charles Grant: Grant has made a meteoric rise up the draft boards after checking in at 282pds and clocking the 40 in high 4.6's. In comparison, Top 5 pick Julius Peppers clocked in at 4.75/40 or so and that's a darn good time. Grant has the potential to become an impact player over time & he possesses the size you look for in a 3-4 DE with the added bonus of being able to also get after the QB in a hurry.
Grant is one of those players whom you know is going to become a good player, but he's gonna need some time to transfer his abilities to the field on the pro level. Grant could start right away for the Ravens, but that would mean you'd have to initially take the good with the bad. In the long run with this player, there's gonna be far more good than bad I assure you.
On CB Mike Rumph: Rumph is one of the most feared pass-defenders in college football today. Teams chose not to test his side rather than challenge his basketball-like blanket coverage of receivers. Rumph possesses a distinct advantage as he is a match-up nightmare against the majority of the WR's he's faced in his division of college football.
Rumph isn't the best CB in the draft, but he is underrated and fits the aggressive attack-style scheme that the Ravens will employ this season with his tenacious bump-and-run tactics, long arms, and knacks for getting his hands on the ball. A first day starter if he's drafted.
On SS Edward Reed: Leader of the defense and quarterback of the secondary. Team's leader. Very hard worker who is always in great shape and will go the extra mile. Tempo-setter who gets everyone to work harder. Very good athlete for a safety who may be athletic enough to play cornerback. Is strong for his size and is a dedicated lifter.
Big-play maker with a sixth sense for the game. Very alert in coverage and has exceptional anticipation and good timing. Gets a good read and break on the ball and gets his hands on a lot of passes. Seems to have good hands for the interception. Has made as many big plays as anyone the past two years.
And all this before I've even said my part! Reed is a phenomenal player who would make a major impact in a depleted secondary for the Ravens. He's a cornerstone who impacts a game unlike anyone other than the best of SS's and would plug a hole that has been a pain in the Ravens side almost since the franchise's inception. An impact player if there ever was one.
Few doubt that eventually the Ravens will again ascend the ranks into the upper-echelon of teams who consistently make noise in the post-season. They possess a talented F.O. and scouting department, which has allowed them to field an effective squad and remain in contention throughout the season.
The key word here is eventually. Having patience is what building through the draft is all about. Time is a key factor in role-players developing into dominant players. It doesn't happen overnight, but with the proven effectiveness that the Ravens F.O. have displayed in the 1st round so far, hopefully it won't be that long of a wait.
-Pro-(James Jackson is one of the talented regulars on the Ravens Message Board here at TheInsiders. Drop in and discuss this article with him and others).