The Ravens filled the hole left by one legend, Ed Reed, on Thursday night.
On Friday, they moved up to the board to fill another.
The Ravens traded up in the second round and drafted inside linebacker Arthur Brown out of Kansas State with the 56th-overall pick. Baltimore gave up a fifth-round (No. 165) and sixth-round pick (No. 199) to move up six spots and take Brown.
Brown is considered a plug-and-play linebacker who could step in and potentially start at
“He’s a guy that we coveted,” Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said. “We thought he was one of the best inside linebackers in this year’s draft.”
Adding Brown and first-round safety Matt Elam allows the Ravens to address two of their most glaring needs at the top of the draft. They came into this year’s draft looking to strengthen the middle of their defense after losing Lewis, Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard and Dannell Ellerbe, and their first two picks go a long way in rebuilding that foundation.
“We’ve made some picks that we think strengthen the interior of our defense, and we’d like to continue to do that,” DeCosta said. “These guys really are stabilizing forces.”
Brown (6-foot-0, 242 pounds), was considered a first-round prospect by some draft experts, but he slid into the second round likely over concerns about his size. Getting him at pick No. 56 was a great value for the Ravens, who had him pegged as a potential target Thursday night.
“He was definitely a consideration for us in the first round,” DeCosta said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
The Ravens came into this year’s draft armed with 12 total picks, so they had the ammunition to package their late-round options to move up and get a player they wanted. Even after the deal, the Ravens still have eight picks for the final five rounds.
“We started to sweat a little bit as we started to see some good players coming off the board,” DeCosta said. “And the idea of not getting him was pretty scary, so we decided to make the move.”
Seeing the Ravens move up to take him in the second round meant a lot to Brown.
“It shows that they believe in me as a player and as a person,” Brown said on a conference call with Baltimore reporters. “Just having the opportunity that they’ve given me, with picking me where they did, just shows that they believe in me and I’m definitely ready to be a big part of this team.”
Part of the attraction to Brown was the leadership that he brings to the table.
He was a two-time captain at Kansas State, selected by his teammates the year after he transferred from the University of Miami.
“That speaks to the kind of kid he is,” DeCosta said.
Brown was regarded as a “Red Star” player on the Ravens’ board. That distinction is given to prospects who every scout agrees has the qualities of being a “true Raven.”
“He’s a great kid,” said Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz. “He’s a great leader. He passes all the intangibles: hard work, smart, tough, everything.”
Brown started his career at Miami and played two seasons for the Hurricanes. He ultimately decided to transfer to Kansas State to get closer with his family in his hometown of Witchita, Kan.
“It was a family-led decision,” Brown said. “During that time I was really in need of just some support and just of my family, and my father thought it would be best to come back home, and just the opportunity that lied there.”
In his two seasons at Kansas State, Brown started all 26 games and led the team in tackles both seasons. He finished his career at Kansas State with 201 total tackles, four sacks and five interceptions.
He played inside and outside linebacker, but the Ravens see him fitting as an inside backer within their scheme. While he’s been knocked for his size by some draft analysts, Brown isn’t concerned about it being an issue when transitioning to the NFL.
“Honestly I’ve never really considered myself to be a smaller linebacker, and to some that may matter, but you can never measure the heart of a man,” Brown said. “Really, it’s just about your willingness to put it all out and I’m willing to give it all up. That’s what I play with, my love and my passion and my heart for the game.”
Brown has drawn some comparisons to Lewis for his leadership and shorter stature, which hurt Lewis’ draft stock back in 1996. Brown shied away from that comparison, but is looking forward to competing for the job that Lewis held for his 17 seasons in Baltimore.
“It’s an honor to even be mentioned in the same sentence as him,” Brown said. “I have a lot of respect for Ray – not only the player that he is, but the person in which he presents himself to be. He’s truly had an impact on the game and on so many people throughout the game.
“It’s an opportunity to compete to play a great role in the defensive scheme, such as Ray did.”