Ellis' game could be hard to resist

OWINGS MILLS -- Bull-rushing, pocket-collapsing, teeth-rattling defensive linemen are rare, coveted commodities. Especially an intimidating football player like USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, the scourge of the Pac-10 Conference and the Senior Bowl.

Ellis' potential presence at the eighth overall pick could create an interesting quandary for the Baltimore Ravens when they're on the clock in the first round.

Since Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan and Troy cornerback Leodis McKelvin may be off the board, Ellis' potential value doesn't match up with the Ravens' pressing needs at quarterback and cornerback.

Under any strict best-player available scenario, Ellis would seem to fit that description perfectly.

"He's a great player, one of my most favorite players in the draft based on the way that he plays, his demeanor, his tempo, his aggressiveness," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "He plays like a Raven. We love that about the kid. He's a very intelligent, highly motivated guy.

"It's not a great position of need for us, but when you have a chance to draft a great football player, you need to take the great football player. I think Sedrick Ellis is definitely a great football player."

Named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, Ellis has drawn comparisons to Ravens veteran nose guard Kelly Gregg due to his stocky physique and his zeal for pursuit.

Because the Ravens have Gregg, emerging defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and former Pro Bowl defensive end Trevor Pryce, they seem set on the defensive line. However, a good defensive lineman like Ellis would probably greatly aid the rotation even though he lacks top-end size at 6-foot-1, 309 pounds. Plus, Pryce battled injuries last season.

Because Boise State offensive tackle Ryan Clady and McKelvin might still be available at No. 8, the Ravens could be faced with a challenging decision.

"If there are two players close together, if they have the same type grades, if one player is a need and the other is not a need, we'll take the need player," DeCosta said. "In almost every case, if there's a significant difference in ability between the two players, we're always going to pick the better player regardless of need."

The irony surrounding Ellis is that he won't even be the top defensive lineman picked as he's slated to go after stout LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, swift Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston and relentless Virginia defensive end Chris Long.

Ellis is no slouch, though. The strongman from Chino, Calif., and consensus All-American recorded 58 tackles and 8 1/2 sacks last season.

"In another draft, I think this would be a guy who would be a top-three pick," DeCosta said. "But because of this unique draft where you have Chris Long and Glenn Dorsey and Gholston, the picks in the latter half of the top 10 are going to have a good chance of getting Sedrick Ellis. I think he's one of the best players at his position to come out of the draft in a long time."

A weight-room devotee, Ellis bench pressed 225 pounds 36 times and improved his 40-yard dash to 5.09 seconds at the Trojans' Pro Day after posting a 5.26 clocking and 34 reps at the NFL scouting combine.

About all Ellis seems to lack is elite height and bulk, but he plays with outstanding leverage.

"A lot of people like taller tackles, but I think my height is just great," Ellis told reporters. "You get these big 6-foot-5 linemen and I can get underneath them and uproot them out of what they're trying to do.

"Great footwork, great hands and the leverage works to my advantage a lot. At 309, I'm moving fast and very few of those guys can keep up with me."

Ellis has the versatility to play nose guard or tackle. For his career, he recorded 17 1/2 sacks and 28 1/2 tackles for losses with two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble as a senior.

With Ellis' skill set, it brings to mind New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick's oft-repeated adage about not letting a true trench master slip away.

"Defensive linemen are so unique," DeCosta said. "If you have the chance to take a great one, I think you owe it to yourself to do that."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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