Ravens tab Rice in second round

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens created some excitement with an unexpected second-round pick Saturday, drafting shifty, compact Rutgers running back Ray Rice to become Pro Bowl runner Willis McGahee's primary backup. At 5-foot-8, 199 pounds Rice is the Scarlet Knights' all-time leading rusher with 4,926 career yards and 49 touchdowns.

Rice was ranked as one of the top five running backs in the draft, and Baltimore got him by trading its 38th overall pick in the second round to the Seattle Seahawks to select him with the 55th overall pick in the second round. The Ravens also acquired the Seahawks' third-round pick, 86th overall.

"He's the right kind of guy, one of my favorite players in the draft," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "He's a 'red-star,' and most of you guys know what that is. Love the kid, he's our kind of player.

"He's got the right mentality to be a great special-teams player for us. He gives us a lot of value as a second running back and I'm very excited."

The New York native gained 2,012 rushing yards and scored 24 touchdowns last season. Rice was surprisingly durable considering his lack of ideal size. He could find a niche as a third-down back in relief of McGahee.

"I'm a patient runner," Rice told reporters last season. "When the game gets tough, I never get down on myself. The coaches believe in me, and I trust myself."

With former backup Musa Smith an unrestricted free agent that Baltimore didn't plan to sign, the Ravens didn't have any proven depth behind McGahee with just Cory Ross and P.J. Daniels under contract.

Now, the Ravens have acquired valuable insurance in case McGahee gets hurt and a potential future starter down the road.

"I think he has the durability," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "We like the way he runs. He has a very low center of gravity, so he doesn't take a lot of hits.

"He mainly delivers a blow instead of taking a blow. So, could he play a 16-game season? I think he can and be a guy that you would be very, very happy with. He brings the type of temperament and the type of character that we want on our football team."

Rice, who caught 37 career passes for 334 yards and one touchdown, was also recruited by Arizona State, Penn State and Syracuse. He was a central figure in revitalizing the Rutgers program under coach Greg Schiano. However, he could use some more experience catching the football out of the backfield.

"I just think he's our kind of guy," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "That's high character, he's tough, rough, loves to play football.

"He's from a great family, and he's not just a one-play playmaker. He's a durable playmaker. He's done it for a long time. He had a lot of carries at Rutgers. He's proven."

Rice started 37 out of 38 games, setting a school record with 300 career points. He piled up 5,260 all-purpose yards for an average of 138.42 yards per contest.

As a junior, he produced 1,794 yards and 20 touchdowns. He rushed for over 1,000 yards for three consecutive seasons.

Because of his multi-dimensional skills, Rice also is going to be evaluated on special teams as a kick returner.

"We just had that conversation," Harbaugh said. "He's definitely a return guy as far as having the ability. We're going to take a look at him there, too."

It helped Rice's cause that new Ravens offensive assistant Craig Ver Steeg recommended him. Ver Steeg was Rice's offensive coordinator and position coach at Rutgers.

"When I got asked what kind of kid he was, I definitely spoke up because I believe he is our type of guy," Ver Steeg said. "As that decision was made, we all jumped up pretty high. I think I jumped higher than anybody else."

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


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