DeCosta: 'We won the game'

OWINGS MILLS -- Hours after the burly centerpiece of their draft had left the building, the Baltimore Ravens proclaimed themselves as satisfied with a selective haul tilted heavily toward one side of the football. "I think we hit a lot of doubles and singles," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "We scored a lot of runs and we won the game."

Led by first-round pick Ben Grubbs, an All-American offensive guard from Auburn introduced Sunday at the team's training complex, the Ravens drafted offensive players with five out of their seven selections this weekend.

Those acquisitions included a potential starting right guard in Grubbs, a blazingly fast return specialist and potential deep threat in Kansas State wideout Yamon Figurs, gritty Iowa offensive guard-tackle Marshal Yanda, pass-rushing Florida International linebacker Antwan Barnes, the consensus best blocking fullback in the draft in Alabama's Le'Ron McClain, Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith, the height-challenged Heisman Trophy winner, along with Michigan inside linebacker Prescott Burgess.

"When I'm watching players, I try to find the best players in the draft who fill needs," DeCosta said. "That's what we wanted to do.

"We wanted to address the special teams, we did that. Linebacker depth was something that we wanted to try to address, we did that. Fullback, obviously, was a need for us and we got the best fullback. I'm proud of the way we stacked the board and got our players lined up so that we can get a guy at a good value."

Whether it was selecting Grubbs instead of a pass rusher or a cornerback or opting for Figurs and Yanda with defensive prospects still out there, Baltimore demonstrated what it thought about its needs and the available talent.

"It was a better offensive draft than it was a defensive draft," DeCosta said. "If you look at the top 100 players, twice as many players in our top 150 were offensive players. There was a big gap in our draft board and on most draft boards. Once you get past the top 29 or 30 defensive players, there was a big drop-off."

So, Baltimore drafted two offensive linemen along with a versatile, bulk fullback at 6-foot, 260 pounds after trading for running back Willis McGahee during the offseason to try to upgrade a dormant running game.

The Ravens struggled to run the football during their AFC divisional playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts, especially in red-zone situations. Baltimore ranked 25th in rushing offense last season with 102.3 yards per contest.

"With the type of back that we have and with the type of offensive linemen that we have, I think we have a marriage there," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "We've got some athletic guys that can get out and get to the second level.
"Of course, we have Willis McGahee, who has the ability to get out and attack the perimeter of the defense. That was the combination of how we were looking at it as we moved forward from free agency to the draft."

During the second day of the draft, Baltimore used its first of two fourth-round picks (No. 134 overall) to draft Barnes, a 6-foot-1, 240-pound outside linebacker who set school records with 23 career sacks and 57 tackles for losses along with three blocked kicks.

"He's an explosive player," DeCosta said. "He should be a great special-teams guy."
Three picks later, Baltimore drafted McClain. He's expected to add some punch to the I-formation and double as a soft-handed H-back after catching a career-high 20 passes and three touchdowns last season.

He's slated to compete with Justin Green to fill the starting job vacated by departed free agent Ovie Mughelli.
"It was amazing the number of text messages and calls that we got from other teams around the league that had the similar feelings that we did about Le'Ron," Newsome said.

Baltimore ended Smith's painful free-fall with the final pick of the fifth round, grabbing a player who would likely have been drafted much higher if not for his lack of height at barely 6-foot. Smith will arrive in Baltimore as a third-stringer behind starter Steve McNair and backup Kyle Boller.
"I love his poise," DeCosta said. "He's got a leadership that's unique at his position in college football. He's respected.

"He's got an absolute cannon for an arm, and we think he's got a lot of upside to help us and emerge as a backup quarterback at some point and maybe more than that."

The Ravens concluded their draft in the sixth round with the 207th overall selection by picking Burgess, a hard-hitting, sizable tackler at 6-3, 240 pounds who caught Newsome's eye watching game film of the Wolverines' distinguished defense. Plus, Burgess is fast for his size with a 4.55 clocking at his campus workout.

"I kept asking about this No. 6, who would just flash," said Newsome, who interviewed Burgess at the NFL scouting combine. "Eric would say, ‘Yeah, just keep watching.'"

Overall, Baltimore seemed content about what it did to augment the roster months removed from an AFC North championship and a franchise-record 13-3 season.

"We brought in some quality players as far as character is concerned," Newsome said. "I think we'll look back on this draft three or four years later, and you're going to be able to look at a bunch of players that are going to be major contributors to a team that was 13-3 and that has hopefully positioned itself to go deeper into the playoffs next year."

NOTE: Team officials said that finding more safety and tight end depth are priorities.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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