Ravens hoping to repeat draft history

OWINGS MILLS -- Inside the Baltimore Ravens' training complex, multiple action photographs of their Pro Bowl football players offer a vivid reminder of their decade of drafting.

Exercising patience and resisting the temptation to trade up or down has paid off with major dividends in several instances, including the selections of linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, tight end Todd Heap, safety Ed Reed and, most recently, wide receiver Mark Clayton. In each case, the Ravens were delighted that one of their top-ranked players fortuitously fell to their spot.

As the Ravens head into today's first round with the 13th overall pick, they're hoping history repeats itself. It's believed one of their greatest wishes is for gigantic Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to get bypassed by Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage.

If Ngata, Texas quarterback Vince Young, Texas safety Mike Huff and Florida State tackle Brodrick Bunkley are off the draft board, then Baltimore is likely to entertain trade offers to move down into the high teens or low 20s of the first round to obtain the third-round draft pick it currently lacks.

If Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome's protégé opts for Florida State hybrid pass rusher Kamerion Wimbley, there's a strong possibility that Ngata will be there for the Ravens' choice. Cleveland had the least sacks in the NFL last season, and Wimbley is viewed as an ideal fit for the 3-4 defense because of his ability to shift between defensive end and outside linebacker.

"Going all the way back to Peter Boulware we've always had an affection for guys like that and if Phil feels like one of those guys could impact his 3-4 defense, I'm sure he would take him," Newsome said. "It could impact us, but it's out of my control. ..

"We're just going to pick the best players. That has proven to be the way to go. When you're on the clock, just pick the best players."

At 6-foot-4 and 337 pounds and reportedly down to 10-percent body fat, Ngata has a reputation as a run-stopper with immense potential. The Pac-10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year was triple-teamed at times last season and finished with 61 tackles and three sacks.

It might quiet down disgruntled linebacker Ray Lewis' complaints about a lack of size on the defensive line, too.

"Ray Lewis would be the happiest guy in Baltimore if the Ravens get Haloti," predicted Ngata's agent, Mike McCartney, a former personnel director for the Philadelphia Eagles. "It would add two years to his career. It will be interesting to see what Cleveland will do at No. 12 because I can't see Haloti making it past the Ravens.

"My instincts and connections tell me that Cleveland likes Wimbley and Ngata, and will pick one of them. It also wouldn't surprise me if a team picking between 12 and 16 tried to trade up to 9, 10, 11 or 12 to draft Haloti."

It's believed that the Buffalo Bills favor Bunkley over Ngata with the eighth pick because of his superior pass-rushing skills.

The St. Louis Rams are thought to be wary of drafting a defensive tackle high in the draft because they've endured quite a few busts at that position, as did new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett when the former New Orleans Saints coach picked Georgia lineman Johnathan Sullivan.

And the Arizona Cardinals appear inclined to either draft Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler, Florida State linebacker Ernie Sims or USC offensive tackle Winston Justice.

If the Ravens trade back in the first round, it's believed that they have designs on drafting a versatile safety-cornerback prospect that can start next to Reed. All have strengths and drawbacks. The group includes Florida State's athletic Antonio Cromartie, who has recovered from a major knee injury, Virginia Tech's moody, but gifted Jimmy Williams, Ohio State's hard-hitting, but short Donte Whitner or Tennessee's imposing safety Jason Allen, who dislocated his hip last year and has turned off some teams because of an arrogant attitude.

Potential trading partners include the Minnesota Vikings (No. 17), San Diego Chargers (No. 19), New England Patriots (No. 21) or San Francisco 49ers (No. 22). A juicy trade rumor in NFL circles involves the Ravens swapping their 13th pick for the New York Jets' 29th and 35th picks if Ngata is off the board and Cutler is still available.

"I'm in the pick business, but you have to find someone else to trade with," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "If you have a third-round pick this year and you stack the board correctly, you can get a good player. It's a very deep draft."

If linebacker Ernie Sims or offensive tackle Winston Justice are available at No. 13, it might involve taking a risk as both have character issues. Justice was suspended for an entire season for brandishing a replica gun, an incident that followed a no contest plea for solicitation of prostitution. Sims was arrested for domestic battery last year.

Plus, there have been alarming reports that Sims has suffered as many as six to eight concussions and was knocked unconscious at least once. Cardinals coach Dennis Green insists that Sims has only had two mild concussions.

"What we try to do is take the risk out of it," Newsome said. "When a player walks through that door, we pretty much know 85 or 90 percent how good he is.

"At the end of the day, I'll just take the risk out of it. If there's a situation where there are some differences of opinion in the draft room, then I'll just go to the next guy whom everybody agrees on."

Aaron Wilson writes Ravens Insider and the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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