Countdown: Landry Starts From the Start


*In the days leading up to the NFL Draft, takes a look at some of the successes from the Ravens' scouting department. On Monday, it was sixth-round draft pick Haruki Nakamura, who has exceeded expectations. *


In the fifth round of the 2006 draft, safety Dawan Landry was the choice.


The Ravens were in dire need of a safety in 2006 after letting Will Demps walk away via free agency during the offseason.

Luckily for the team, safety happened to be a deep position heading into that particular draft.

But as the highest-rated prospects began to come off the board, Ravens general manager **Ozzie Newsome** could have panicked as the number of elite safeties dwindled. Each time it was Baltimore's turn, a safety was not the best player available.

Chalk **Dawan Landry’s** arrival in Charm City up to being the best player there in the fifth round.

Now, some may say that a fifth-round draft pick might not be worthy to start opposite perennial Pro Bowler Ed Reed. Some would be worried.

The Ravens, though, knew they had a keeper in Landry.

"When you put the film on, he was a tough football player that spent a lot of time down low in the box," said Ravens Director of College Scouting **Joe Hortiz**, who was a member of the personnel department to identify Landry early. "He definitely wasn't afraid to mix it up as a sure tackler. His limitations were his top-end speed and overall suddenness in his play. That's probably one of the reasons we got him in the fifth round. He didn't have that elite speed and athleticism, but when you look at the film, he got the job done.

"It was kind of one of those things that the sum was greater than all the parts, and Dawan has proven that around here."

In fact, one could argue that Landry has outplayed the majority of safeties that came before him.

He was selected with the 146th pick, while players like Michael Huff (seventh-overall to Oakland), Donte Whitner (eighth, Buffalo), Ko Simpson (105th, Buffalo) and Pat Watkins (138th, Dallas) have all disappointed in one way or another.

Huff is reportedly on his way out of Oakland, Whitner and Simpson were both arrested for separate incidents in the past few years, and Watkins is basically a special teams player for the Cowboys.

Conversely, Landry started 30 games over his first two seasons, totaling 180 tackles, four sacks and five interceptions during that span.

It is hard to argue with his production. As the Ravens bided their time during that 2006 draft, their patience now seems prescient.

"Some of those guys that were taken ahead of him were more athletic guys," Hortiz explained. "Michael Huff ran very fast, so fast that we even talked about him being a cornerback. Ko Simpson was a guy that made a lot of big plays. If you look back at the draft, the guy that went before Dawan, Pat Watkins, was that tall, rangy guy that some people thought would be better.

"When the Cowboys came up in the fifth (round), we had a need at safety, but also had Dawan sitting high on the board. If you look at the way he came in and started as a rookie, I'd definitely say he's exceeded expectations, not only for us, but for the entire league."

Hortiz attributes part of Landry's success to his background as a quarterback. Originally recruited to play that position, the former star signal caller switched to defense in the spring of his freshman year and went on to start 37 of 50 games at safety.

Landry recorded 250 career tackles for the Yellow Jackets, the third-highest in school history for a defensive back.

"Being a quarterback was a tremendous help for him," said Hortiz of the bulky 6-foot, 220-pounder. "He had an offensive perspective to begin with to lay a foundation. Maybe he could see things a little bit quicker, things like play-action passes or route combinations. He's seen it through the eyes of the offense, and I think that allows him to get around the football and make plays."

Landry's 2008 campaign ended early and with a scare. In the Ravens' second game of the season, Landry was carted off the field after a running back's knee hit him on the crown of the helmet and he crumpled to the turf.

Jim Leonhard stepped in and boasted a stellar season, but Baltimore allowed Leonhard to test free agency and sign a lucrative free agent contract with the New York Jets.

Landry, meanwhile, is expected to make a full recovery and provide the thumping presence he brought into the league.

It's obvious that the Ravens believed in this less-heralded fifth-round pick when they first took him - a feeling that hasn't changed over the years.

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