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Kiper Gives Ravens a Solid "B"


The report cards are in, but wanted a closer look at a particular grade from the best draft analyst in the business, Mel Kiper, Jr. In fact, Kiper, a Baltimore native, invented the business. That's why his grade of a "B" deserved a little extra scrutiny. Here's what he had to say:

** Mel, in your final mock draft, you had the San Diego Chargers selecting Michael Oher 16th overall, but he ended up falling into the 20s. The Ravens then traded up from No. 26 to grab him 23rd. Were you surprised by his drop?

Kiper:"His fall didn't surprise me that much, but I was surprised that they didn't take [Illinois cornerback] Vontae Davis. I thought that was who they went up to get. When you look at Michael Oher, I thought he would go a little earlier, because after the top five left tackles, there was a drop-off.

"Buffalo could have taken him, but they opted to go with a pass rusher. San Diego took a luxury pick and got some insurance behind Shawne Merriman in Larry English. I had no problem with Oher being there, and thought the Ravens did a good thing in taking him in. What do you think of Oher fitting in at offensive tackle for Baltimore? You didn't have him listed very high on your board.

Kiper:"I had him at No. 29 on my board because of the lapses in concentration. He let some guys at the college level beat him, and in the NFL, you can't have that. These guys are the best in the world doing what they do. He had some great moment in college and was a great player overall, but he could frustrate you a little bit, because he got beat by guys he should have manhandled.

"On the other hand, he's a competitor, he's tough and aggressive. He was a guard before he was a left tackle and has the toughness to play right tackle, so he has some versatility. I just thought they were going with Vontae Davis, who was a risk-reward guy, too. He didn't play like the shut-down corner that he can be all the time, either." Selecting in the second and third rounds, the Ravens went with defensive end Paul Kruger and cornerback Lardarius Webb, respectively. What are your thoughts on them?

Kiper:"I like the Kruger pick, because he's going to be great on the defensive line when he bulks up to about 280-285 pounds. But, I love the Lardarius Webb pick a lot. He can help as a corner, a safety, a return man, a head-hunter on special teams. He's one of the toughest football players in the draft.

"As a sidenote, I called down to Nicholls State the other week to check a stat I needed regarding Webb, and I was told by someone there that Webb was spending time on campus as a volunteer coach at spring practices. He said, 'You don't need to call me Lardarius. Call me Coach Webb.' You know the Ravens love guys that are all about football, and he's a guy that is definitely about football all the time." Not many fans on a national level know much about Jason Phillips, the linebacker from TCU, but a lot of analysts had him highly rated. Why did he fall in the draft?

Kiper:"He should have been a third-round pick. He had a minor knee injury at the Combine, but I thought that wouldn't impact his draft status as much as it may have. He ran a 4.6 at the Combine [in the 40-yard dash], he's strong and he's an athlete. Look at his productivity! He was a 110-meter hurdler for his high school. Every year, he's gotten the job done. Last year, 13 tackles for a loss and 84 tackles. The year before, 10.5 stops for loss and 87 tackles. He's just a tackling machine.

"Fans might say, 'Oh, this is another Ron Rogers, but this is not Rogers.' [Ed. noted: Rogers was a sixth-round draft pick in 1998 who is still third-all time in Georgia Tech history with 435 career tackles]. He's a different kind of player, athletically and physically. With all the things Phillips has going for him - the toughness, the athletic ability, the smarts - I don't know what he's lacking." Do you see him making the Ravens' roster?

Kiper:"He was surrounded by some very good defensive tackles at TCU, and that freed him up. But you know what? That's what is going to happen in Baltimore. Every linebacker needs defensive linemen to help them, just look at what **Haloti Ngata** is doing for the Ravens. When you look at Phillips' total package, I was surprised that he went in the fifth round. Really, even if he does nothing, he only cost a fifth-rounder, so harm done, but I think we'll be hearing more about him."

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