Ravens draft overgrown TE

OWINGS MILLS -- Chris Chester kept eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and lifting weights, bulking up to the point where he outgrew the tight end position.

His evolution from a 240-pound reserve tight end into a 6-foot-3, 305-pound starting center and offensive guard for the Oklahoma Sooners didn't go unnoticed by NFL scouts.

Chester maintained his speed and agility even with the extra size, so much so that the Baltimore Ravens drafted him in the second round with the 56th overall selection.

"We love his athletic ability," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "He can move his feet. He's good in space. He's a guy we think has tremendous upside at the guard/center position and we're very excited to get him."

Chester could compete with incumbent Mike Flynn along with Jason Brown at center, or be moved into the mix at right guard. Flynn has been rumored to be moving to right guard, where Keydrick Vincent faltered last season and Brian Rimpf ended last season as the starter.

Ravens offensive line coach Chris Foerster acknowledged the lack of depth in the interior line as a reason for drafting Chester, but said that the selection shouldn't be interpreted as a "wakeup call" for Flynn.

A California native who arrived at Oklahoma as one of the nation's top-ranked tight ends, Chester has only started eight games on the offensive line, including three at center as a senior. He has battled knee injuries and broke his hand last season, prompting a move to guard for the final five games of last season.

Chester ceased being a secret at the scouting combine where he ran a 4.88 in the 40-yard dash, an extremely fast time for an offensive lineman.

"I wouldn't say it really set me back," Chester said of his position change. "I had to gain more weight and learn how to play offensive line. It really helped me because I knew a whole lot more about schemes and I was able to get a big picture of it.

"I had been playing tight end most of my life and I wanted to play tight end. I trusted my coaches that I could be a good lineman and it worked out real good."

The War Room, a publication authored by former NFL scouts, gave the Oklahoma lineman mixed reviews.

Among his strengths: "Has adequate size and the frame to add bulk. Has very good speed and a great first step. Can reach the second level and has a good initial pop. Is versatile."

The report listed several weaknesses, including: "Durability is an issue, knee problems plagued him throughout college. Has added bulk, but remains undersized. Will struggle against big defenders and against the more powerful bull rushers."

DeCosta said he has been tracking Chester's progress since two-a-day practices in August. He's banking on the 23-year-old's future development.

"His athletic ability was very obvious for scouts," DeCosta said. "Some of the best offensive linemen in football have started out as tight ends. Chris Chester is going to be a very good player.

"He has really blossomed. Long-term, we see a guy with tremendous potential to develop into an outstanding offensive lineman."

Chester began the season weighing 275 pounds, but kept getting bigger through his weightlifting regimen and downing countless chocolate protein shakes.

"I got after it," Chester said. "I took it real serious."

Chester said he feels like he's a better center than a guard at this point.

Along with first-round draft pick Haloti Ngata, Chester visited the Ravens' training complex and got the sense that he was in their plans.

"I thought there was a real good chemistry," Chester said. "I had what they needed. In the NFL, there's nothing set in stone. Hopefully, I get a chance to compete and an opportunity to play."

Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for Ravens Insider and the Carroll County Times.

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