Blueprinting the Ravens' contingency plans

OWINGS MILLS -- An elusive quarterback prize is nearly within the Baltimore Ravens' grasp, but at least two obstacles could block them from landing strong-armed Boston College senior Matt Ryan. Under most viable trade scenarios, the Ravens seem to lack the ammunition to move up from the eighth overall spot to grab Ryan because their third-round pick is an untradeable compensatory selection.

There have already been exploratory calls back and forth with the St. Louis Rams, Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets about the expensive cost of moving up.

It's believed the Jets' sixth overall pick is as high as the Ravens would be willing to move up with trade discussions involving the Ravens' fourth-round pick as well as additional compensation.

Under most trade scenarios, the Ravens seem to lack the ammunition to move up from the eighth overall spot to grab Ryan because their third-round pick is an untradeable compensatory selection. "The draft is a funny thing," Ryan told reporters in New York. "Not many people give you information as to what's going on. I wish I had a better feel for it, but your guess is as good as mine."

If the Rams draft LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, it's believed that the Falcons would likely turn the card in on Ryan third overall rather than overload at defensive end with Virginia's gritty Chris Long or Ohio State's tempting workout warrior Vernon Gholston.

If the Rams get Long and Atlanta picks Dorsey, the Kansas City Chiefs are considered unlikely to draft Ryan with the fifth overall pick. Even though incumbent Brodie Croyle isn't a sure thing, the Chiefs need to replace pass rusher Jared Allen and improve its offensive line.

The Chiefs are likely to field calls about trading down.

At sixth overall, the Jets are enamored of Arkansas runner Darren McFadden. However, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis loves flashy, speedy athletes and might pick him fourth overall. That could prompt the Jets to trade back with Baltimore.

That uncertainty above them is why the Ravens have multiple contingency plans in case Ryan is wearing a different team's baseball cap and jersey today.

Calling an audible from the preferred plan of obtaining Ryan could simply mean standing pat and drafting stout USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis.

It's believed that Ellis is one of the Ravens' top-rated prospects on their draft board, certainly no lower than the eighth-best player.

However, Ellis doesn't really fit a need because of Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata's presence.

"He's one of my most favorite players in the draft based on the way that he plays, his demeanor, his tempo, his aggressiveness," director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "He plays like a Raven."

The Ravens have a history of getting their man when they've picked this high in the past, including Terrell Suggs and Chris McAlister falling to them at the 10th spot in 2003 and 1999.

"The year we got Suggs and the year we got McAlister, they were ranked very high for us," DeCosta said. "I don't think it's inconceivable that we might get a player in our top three this year."

Since it's a rich, deep draft, it would make a lot of sense for the Ravens, who have nine selections, to stockpile picks by trading back.

"I don't lose interest in nine through 14 because we might be picking nine through 14," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "They might want to make a trade up, but the integrity of the board stays all the way through."

One scenario that could unfold for the Ravens is picking athletic Boise State offensive tackle Ryan Clady or versatile Virginia guard-tackle Brandon Albert.

Clady visited the Ravens a week ago and Albert, a 6-7, 315-pounder from Glen Burnie, impressed team officials with his intellect and personality during a visit last month.

Either lineman could be potential replacements for All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden, who's leaning toward retiring but hasn't made it official yet.

"A lot of athleticism, moves very well," Newsome said of Clady. "He's going to be a good player for somebody."

If Ryan and Ellis are off the board and the top two offensive tackles are bypassed, Baltimore could trade back to the New Orleans Saints' 10th spot. If the Saints fail to trade up for Dorsey, they could settle for Ellis.

Ellis is likely ranked above Troy University cornerback Leodis McKelvin by the Ravens. However, McKelvin represents an intriguing blend of 4.38 speed, game-changing return skills and an ultra-confident approach.

Plus, the Ravens have a pressing cornerback need due to McAlister and Samari Rolle's age and recent shaky health.

It's worth noting, though, that Newsome rarely drafts small-school players during the first day with slow-developing third-round cornerback David Pittman the exception to that rule.

The Ravens have also looked at other cornerbacks like Kansas' Aqib Talib, Tennessee State's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, South Florida's Mike Jenkins, Arizona's Antoine Cason, Indiana's Tracy Porter, USC's Terrell Thomas, Boise State's Orlando Scandrick and Eastern Kentucky's Antwaun Molden.

"I think people would say cornerback would be a need," DeCosta said. "I think we tried to address that a couple years ago, and the jury is still out on some of those guys we brought in. There is work to be done there."

It's considered unlikely that Baltimore would draft USC linebacker Keith Rivers at No. 8 even though DeCosta called him a "safe, no-brainer type pick."

If the Ravens miss out on Ryan following Steve McNair's abrupt retirement, they won't be out of the market for one of the top four passers.

Drafting 38th in the second round, Baltimore might need to maneuver upward to ensure they obtain one of the next three quarterbacks ranked behind Ryan.

It's believed the Ravens prefer Delaware's Joe Flacco's and Michigan's Chad Henne over Louisville's Brian Brohm after conducting private workouts and visits with each of them. They have done additional research this week on Flacco, a potential late first-round pick.

Flacco has ideal size and the strongest arm, but will need time to develop. Henne has the big-school pedigree and intangibles, but has been banged up in college and is regarded as an average athlete. Brohm is the most accurate passer, but lacks elite arm strength.

"We like them all," DeCosta said. "What we have to do is try to fit them with all the other players in the draft."

Out of the Ravens' seven top 10 picks, five have earned Pro Bowl distinction, including Ogden, McAlister, Jamal Lewis, Peter Boulware and Suggs. That's the most of any team during the past dozen years.

"We just rate the players," DeCosta said. "There's no science to it. The elite players really show up. Just like when you're driving down a neighborhood, you see a million-dollar home versus a $300,000 home, and you know which is the million-dollar home."

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


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