Ravens tab Pittman for nickel duty

OWINGS MILLS -- David Pittman is the Baltimore Ravens' new nickel back by default as much as the promise he demonstrated at a relatively obscure Louisiana college. The Ravens drafted the slim Division I-AA standout from Northwestern State (La.) in the third round with the 87th overall pick to address a glaring need in their secondary following the retirement of Deion Sanders and departure of Dale Carter.

Instead of drafting a safety such as South Carolina's Ko Simpson as a potential starting candidate next to Ed Reed, the Ravens decided they didn't want to pass up Pittman.

Seventeen picks before Baltimore drafted Pittman, the Buffalo Bills selected Ohio State cornerback Ashton Youboty, who had been projected as a first-round choice.

Baltimore traded its No. 44 overall pick in the second round to the New York Giants for the 56th and 87th picks.

"This young man gives us a chance to have a nickel back, which is huge right now," Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said of Pittman, the only I-AA player to compete in the Senior Bowl. "Currently we don't have anybody with any experience at that nickel spot, so that was something we were really desperate for.

"You have to understand that nickel is a huge, huge priority for any team. If you don't have a nickel back, you can't even line up and play defense as we found out in Cincinnati when we had all those injuries."

Despite playing at a lower level of competition, Pittman impressed the Ravens with his coverage skills, 153 career tackles, 11 interceptions and four touchdown returns.

"I think he's been tested," Ryan said. "The No. 1 thing when you're evaluating film is that he can't help who he goes against. Did he cover them? Absolutely.

"Football is football. Athletically, it doesn't matter where you went to school. Obviously, it's going to be a huge step up, but I think it's going to be a huge step up for anybody whether you're from Division I or Division I-AA. I'm sure he's our kind of player."

Pittman, who visited the Ravens' training complex, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and recorded a 10-foot-8 broad jump and a 36-inch vertical leap

Draft analysts downgraded Pittman for his lack of size, saying the 5-foot-11, 182-pounder can be pushed around by bigger receivers in the red zone and exploited by play-action fakes and double-moves.

His major strengths are his smooth backpedal and his long arms and ability to compete for jump balls. He drew high marks for intangibles, described as feisty and hard-working.

"There are guys on the board that were rated a little higher than him that had been taken, but we felt fortunate that David was still there," Ryan said.

Heading into today's final four rounds, it's debatable whether the Ravens will be able to find a safety capable of challenging for a starting job. The remaining pool includes Simpson, Penn State's Calvin Lowry, USC's Darnell Bing, Georgia Tech's Dawan Landry, Florida State's Pat Watkins, Howard's Antoine Bethea and Georgia's Greg Blue.

"Whoever shows up will get an opportunity," Ryan said. "If the kid is one of our best 11, then whoever it is will be starting."

NOTE: Baltimore remains in the market for a quarterback, running back, blocking tight end and a third wide receiver.

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

If you are reading this article via a news portal, you can find the original on RavensInsider.Com

Ravens Insider Top Stories