Ravens look at blockers, especially Justice

OWINGS MILLS -- The ceiling on Winston Justice's ability might be too high for the Baltimore Ravens to pass on the USC offensive tackle in the first round even though they appear set at offensive tackle for the immediate future.

Despite the presence of All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden, the solid improvement of right tackle Tony Pashos and the investment of a second-round draft pick and this year's third round draft pick in a trade to acquire Adam Terry last year, Justice remains a consideration for Baltimore with the 13th overall pick if he's still available.

Although Virginia's D'Brickashaw Ferguson is the consensus best offensive tackle, scouts wonder how good Justice might eventually become with maturity and experience. Justice could challenge for the right tackle job in Baltimore right away, and eventually shift to the left side once Ogden retires.

Justice, who has character issues that include being suspended for the entire 2004 season for brandishing a replica gun and pleaded no contest to solicitation of prostitution in 2003, has some qualities that can't be taught.
At 6-foot-6, 320 pounds, Justice ran the 40-yard dash in 5.08 seconds despite a sore calf muscle at his Pro Day. He registered a 39-inch vertical leap and did 38 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench press. He doesn't turn 22 until September.

When Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs was an Arizona State All-American chasing the NCAA all-time record for sacks, Justice shut him out during his freshman year.

"Winston Justice is very athletic," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "We think he's a young player that has a very good upside. From my perspective, we have to look at what would have happened if he had played for those two years and where he would be right now."

It doesn't seem to bother Newsome or director of college scouting Eric DeCosta that Justice is outspoken in his belief that he's better than Ferguson.

"If the guy's got a swagger and can back it up, then I like it," DeCosta said. "If a guy has as swagger and doesn't play very well, I think he's a fraud."

"He's got a right to say that," Newsome said. "If you don't have confidence in yourself, who else is going to?"
If the Ravens draft a safety or defensive tackle in the first round or if they obtain a third-round draft pick by trading backward, they should have a solid pool of offensive linemen to scrutinize.

"If a guy were to fall to us at the right point, we would definitely consider it," DeCosta said.

DeCosta said he's intrigued by Boise State offensive tackle Daryn Colledge (6-4, 298 pounds, 5.0 speed).
"He's a smaller-school guy with a lot of upside," DeCosta said. "I like him a lot."

Auburn offensive tackle Marcus McNeill is massive at 6-7, 335 pounds, but has been plagued by back problems.

"He's a big good athlete, but the biggest question is medical issues," DeCosta said. "He's going to start in this league."

Miami offensive tackle Eric Winston (6-6, 312) reminds DeCosta of Terry because of his height and size, describing him as a value in the second round.

"He's a real good athlete, not always real physical," DeCosta said. "Before he hurt his knee, he was regarded as one of the top tackles."

Oklahoma offensive guard Davin Joseph is slightly undersized at 6-2, 312 pounds, but is agile and has a reputation for having a nasty streak.

Pittsburgh tackle Charles Spencer is a big converted defensive tackle at 6-4, 349 pounds who projects to guard in the NFL.

"The biggest thing with him is trying to control his weight," DeCosta said. "He's probably a second-round lineman. A lot of these offensive linemen that don't go in the first round, there's a reason why."

USC offensive guard Taitusi "Deuce" Lutui could be a first-day consideration for Baltimore, which holds the No. 44 pick of the second round.

"Lutui would be a very good value in the third round, but he could go sooner," DeCosta said. "Remember, we didn't think we would be able to draft Edwin Mulitalo in the fourth round."

USC offensive guard Fred Matua, who visited the Ravens' training complex, would probably rate higher if not for being undersized at 6-2, 305 pounds.

"He's a good player, very athletic, tough and feisty, probably a first-day pick," DeCosta said.

Oklahoma center Chris Chester (4.89 speed), who visited the Ravens, is rated second behind rugged Ohio State center Nick Mangold.

"Nick Mangold is one of the most polished, safest picks in the draft," DeCosta said. "If we pass him at 13, we won't see him at 44. Whoever gets him is getting a great football player. I hope it's not somebody in our division."

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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