Ravens O-Line "Gaithering" Youth

A godsend, possibly, but the Baltimore Ravens knew what they were doing when they decided to select former Maryland offensive tackle Jared Gaither in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL Supplemental Draft...

... Gaither, who was considered to be one of the top offensive tackle prospects in the country, was declared academically ineligible for the 2007 college football season, and instead of staying in school and returning to the Terrapins in 2008, he decided to enter the supplemental draft and start his professional career a year early.

Taking a player of Gaither's ability in the fifth round of a supplemental draft isn't much of a risk. Gaither, if he was available in next April's NFL Draft, was a sure-fire first-round selection. He's got all the physical tools (6-foot-9, 350-pounds) and excels as a pass blocker. He needs to develop his game as a run blocker, but that will come with coaching. Gaither figures to be a key part of the Ravens' rebuilding project on the offensive line.

Baltimore used its first-round pick in 2007 on former Auburn standout Ben Grubbs. Grubbs gives the Ravens a potential All-Pro at guard, and he, along with Gaither, gives the Ravens two building blocks on their offensive line for the future. Baltimore also used a third-round selection on former Iowa standout Marshal Yanda, who is currently listed as a backup at right tackle to veteran Adam Terry.

Jonathan Ogden
(Getty Images)
Starting left tackle and future Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden is currently on the physically unable to perform list with a toe injury, but he's expected back in a few weeks. If Ogden doesn't return to the Ravens at 100 percent, the selection of Gaither may come into play sooner rather than later. In an ideal world, Gaither would sit out a year and learn from a player of Ogden's caliber, but that seems to be wishful thinking.

"J.O. [Ogden] was ahead of where Gaither is now because of the years of playing," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "But Gaither shows that he belongs, and that's a start."

Ogden has been one of the most dominant offensive tackles in the NFL since he entered the league in 1996. The nine-time Pro Bowler has been hampered by injuries the past two seasons, and it appears his days are numbered as a starting tackle in the league. He solidified the Ravens offensive line for the last decade, and the transition from the Ogden era to a youth movement will have its ups-and-downs.

The Ravens have one of the youngest, if not the youngest, offensive lines in the NFL this season. Their depth chart at the moment starts: RT, Adam Terry (24-years old); RG, Chris Chester (24-years old); C, Mike Flynn (33-years old); LG, Jason Brown (24-years old); and LT, Gaither (21-years old). That's an average age of 25.

The Ravens coaching staff is asking the offensive line to raise their game to another level in hopes of competing for a playoff berth this season.

The former publisher of NFLDraftPro.com, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. He's also covered the NFL Draft for the Eagles' official website, PhiladelphiaEagles.com.

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