Ravens pleased with draft haul

OWINGS MILLS -- Moments after completing a draft haul headlined by Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome could finally exhale.

One week removed from a revealing minicamp that exposed the Ravens' need for an influx of talent and depth at multiple positions, Newsome proclaimed a lot more satisfaction about the state of the roster after adding 10 rookie draft picks and trading a fourth-round pick for veteran cornerback Fabian Washington.

"I feel much better," Newsome said. "We addressed some needs. We got bigger, we got tougher, we got faster and we got smarter.

"One of the small advantages of changing a coaching staff is to have that minicamp before the draft where you get a chance to look at your football team and then you can realize some needs that you have before you go into the draft, and you can attack them."

The Ravens began that effort Sunday in the third round with the 71st overall pick as they tabbed University of Miami linebacker Tavares Gooden, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound defender who excels in pursuit.

Gooden needs to get stronger, but runs the 40-yard dash in the high 4.4s, has a 39 1/2 inch vertical leap and recorded a career-high 100 tackles last season as he shifted to middle linebacker.

Comparisons are inevitable to Ravens All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis due to the shared alma mater and Gooden wearing Lewis' trademark No. 52 for the Hurricanes.

"The only thing I told him is he couldn't have 52 when he gets here because that belongs to someone else," Newsome said. "Anytime you get someone from the Miami Hurricanes, you know you're getting someone who loves the game and runs to the football and understands how to play the game."

Gooden could eventually act as a potential successor to Lewis or Bart Scott as both inside linebackers are entering contract years. The Ravens targeted Gooden during a private workout last week.

"He's just a good football player, the guy's explosive," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "When he plays well, people will draw their own conclusions. He made huge strides from his junior year to his senior year in terms of really taking the next step in becoming an elite college linebacker.

"We love good, fast, aggressive linebackers in Baltimore. We know one when we see one."

Although the Ravens were glad to be able to use their second third-round pick on intimidating Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski, a 5-11, 215-pound professional boxer whose background prompted coach John Harbaugh to joke that the former Golden Gloves champion could be his bodyguard, they were disappointed that they didn't get a tight end.

One pick prior to Zbikowski, the Tennessee Titans selected Cal tight end Craig Stevens, a mauling blocker.

The Ravens were high on Stevens and could have used him since backup tight end Quinn Sypniewski recently suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament. It's believed the Ravens had Stevens on the phone when the Titans picked him.

"We still do not know the extent of Quinn's injury," said Newsome, who's evaluating free agent tight ends. "Just to be honest with you, that position that the guy got picked was at that position."

Zbikowski, who won his pro debut with a knockout at Madison Square Garden, recorded 300 career tackles, eight interceptions and returned three punts for touchdowns.

"Physical, fast and can run to the football," Newsome said. "Zbikowski can also be a backup returner for us."

With their next third-round pick, Baltimore drafted UTEP offensive tackle Oniel Cousins. The native of Jamaica is a 6-4, 310-pounder with a limited football background who began playing as a high school sophomore. The converted defensive tackle has potential, but lacks experience and polish.

"Oniel is an outstanding athlete," DeCosta said. "We think he has a lot of upside and should develop over time. He probably needs to get a little stronger, but we think the tools are there.

"He's a worker and has got the right temperament. He's a nasty player and we think he competes right away at the right tackle spot."

Baltimore drafted New Mexico wide receiver Marcus Smith in the fourth round. Smith is a 6-1, 220-pound converted running back who emerged as downfield threat last season with 91 receptions for 1,125 yards and four touchdowns.

He bench presses 355 pounds, is adept at special teams and caught scouts' attention with a standout performance against Jim Thorpe Award winner Antoine Cason.

"He's a slot receiver who has good size," DeCosta said. "He blocks real well and catches the ball in traffic. We felt like we wanted to bring a more physical receiver in here to compete for balls inside the numbers. He's a core special-teams player."

The intensity of fourth-round offensive tackle David Hale, a 6-6, 315-pound, four-year starter at Weber State, evoked comparisons to similarly-minded players. Hale isn't a great athlete, but has a rugged approach.

"David Hale is a right tackle who can play tackle and also guard," DeCosta said. "He is very physical, a mean, tough, nasty guy. He's in the same mold as Marshal Yanda and Tony Pashos."

In the sixth round, Baltimore drafted Cincinnati safety Haruki Nakamura, a potential special-teams standout like Zbikowski. A 5-10, 205-pound all-conference selection, he led his defense with 95 tackles while intercepting four passes and recovering four fumbles.

"I think you will see immediate dividends in terms of special teams," DeCosta said. "Looking at our special teams last year, I feel like personally I did a poor job of really bringing in some guys to help us. We changed that this year. We have a lot of enthusiasm for special teams."

In the seventh round, Baltimore drafted 6-4, 215-pound Virginia Tech receiver Justin Harper. He only had one good season, catching 41 passes for 635 yards and five touchdowns last year.

"We needed to add a big receiver to the group, and that's what we did with Harper," Newsome said.

With the Ravens' final pick of the seventh round, they picked Oklahoma running back Allen Patrick. The 6-1, 200-pounder is a converted safety with 4.45 speed who gained 1,009 yards and scored eight touchdowns last season.

"The draft is kind of like a chess game and we try to play it as smart as we can," DeCosta said. "I can say that all of our players came from our top 120, which is exciting. We tried to get big, fast, smart and tough, and I think we accomplished that.

"I think it's a lot of different, interesting guys. We have a great influx of guys who can help us Day 1, and also some developmental guys who can help us three or four years from now."

NOTES: Newsome said he still hasn't heard from offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, who's expected to retire. "Hopefully, he had a good round of golf today," Newsome said. "Right now if J.O. wants to come back, that's his option. If he decides he wants to retire, which he could do and walk away from the game, five years from now I'll be down at Canton waiting for him to get inducted." ... The Ravens have reportedly agreed to terms with undrafted Louisville tight end Scott Kuhn, Catawba quarterback Brad Roach and Syracuse linebacker Jameel McClain, among others. ... Former Ravens coach Brian Billick was hired by FOX as an analyst for eight games.

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

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