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Scouting the Ravens' rookie draft class

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It's only midway through the preseason for the Ravens' rookie draft class, but it's been a mixed bag so far as they continue to learn on the job.

We caught up with Russ Lande, NFL draft expert for The Sporting News and a former NFL scout for the Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams, to discuss the defending AFC North champions' eight draft picks.

Second round: Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, Alabama, 6-foot-2, 272 pounds.

College: Second-team All-American, first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection had 141 career tackles, 17 1/2 sacks and 36 1/2 tackles for losses.

Preseason: Has been slowed by sprained right shoulder and reported to training camp at roughly 280 pounds and is trying to get down to a target weight of 270 pounds. Struggled to get off blocks against
Detroit Lions in NFL debut and recorded no tackles.

Lande: "When you look at him, he's a real physical kid, very strong with excellent use of his hands and good technique. He's never going to be a Terrell Suggs in terms of explosive edge ability. He's more of a strong, powerful, physical pass rusher along the lines of a LaMarr Woodley, but he wasn't as dominant as him in college.

"He's a high-character kid, very football smart. He fits what the Ravens want to do in terms of their scheme. I see him as a solid, workmanlike starter, but not a 12-to-15 sacks per year guy. He's a good solid football player who's excellent against the run."

Second round: Offensive tackle-guard Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State, 6-foot-5, 335 pounds.

College: First-team All-Big 12 Conference selection garnered some All-American notice.

Preseason: Has started at right tackle twice, drawing solid reviews with a powerful hand punch and quick feet.

Lande: "I think the talent is there. He has great feet, can bend his knees and has good, long arms. Physically, there's nothing he doesn't have. The biggest thing I saw in college was his competitiveness where he would kick his guy's butt in the first quarter and then coast and not play as hard. I see a lot of good things with him.

"If he competes hard and plays aggressive, he'll be a 10-year starter for them. He's got a tremendous punch. He can make it look so easy sliding out and picking up his man. He's got a violent hand punch. If he does it all the time, he's got All-Pro potential."

Third round: Running back Bernard Pierce, Temple, 6-foot, 218 pounds.

College: All-Conference selection rushed for 3,570 career yards, 54 touchdowns.

Preseason: Slowed by recurring hamstring injury, Pierce made his debut against the Lions and rushed for 1 yard on four carries with a long run of 7 yards as well as a loss of 14 yards when he tried to
bounce outside. Regarded as the favorite to emerge as the primary backup to Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice.

Lande: "He's a well-built guy, a little straight line and upright, very linear with not much cutting ability, but he can run through contact. He's perfect for Baltimore as a backup. I'm not sure if he's a guy you can count on as a starter. He's a really tough kid who will do what it takes to stay in the lineup.

"When you have a guy like Ray Rice, and there are so few guys like him, Pierce could be the perfect backup to give Ray a blow. He's never going to complain about his role and he'll be content to be part of a winning team. I think he's a great fit for the Ravens."

Fourth round: Center-guard Gino Gradkowski, Delaware, 6-foot-3, 300 pounds.

College: All-conference selection and first-team All-American selection who started 37 games after
transferring from West Virginia.

Preseason: Started opener against the Falcons and had some issues with line calls and picking up
blitzing linebackers. Has impressed coaching staff with tenacity and intelligence.

Lande: "When I watched him on film, the good testing numbers he had didn't correlate. He's a good enough athlete, but he's not special. Yet when you watch him work out, he looks like a dancing bear. I'd be leery of starting him early because he's a bit raw. In terms of two or three years down the road, he could surprise a lot of people. He's got a lot of potential. He's undersized, but he's so athletic he can make a lot of blocks that a lot of NFL linemen can't."

Fourth round: Safety Christian Thompson, South Carolina State, 6-foot, 211 pounds.

College: Second-team All-American selection, first-team all-conference choice recorded 141 tackles,
three interceptions, one sack and two fumble recoveries after transferring from Auburn.

Preseason: Has three tackles, including a big hit against the Falcons. Displaying signs that he can be an enforcer in run support and patrolling the middle of the secondary, but hasn't made plays on the ball.

Lande: "He's an interesting guy, good size and speed and he's a physical player. What you want to see from him is more playmaking ability to separate himself. That's going to be the key to whether he can become a starter in the NFL. He's a good athlete and he has a chance to do something."

Fifth round: Cornerback, return specialist Asa Jackson, Cal-Poly, 5-foot-10, 190 pounds.

College: Third-team All-American, three-time all-conference selection has 199 career tackles, eight
interceptions, 40 pass deflections, three forced fumbles, one sack, 14.7 career punt return average. Returned three interceptions for touchdowns.

Preseason: Returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown, but was nullified by a holding penalty. Two
tackles, one pass deflection against the Lions.

Lande: "Ideally, I look at him as a backup corner. He's a physical guy and really quick. He likes
to get his hands on receivers. I don't see top-end explosiveness and speed, but he's very smooth and fluid. He's not afraid to hit. He's a naturally smart kid. If he was bigger, I'd like to see what he could do at safety."

Sixth round: Wide receiver Tommy Streeter, University of Miami, 6-foot-5, 220 pounds.

College: Caught 52 career passes for 967 yards and nine touchdowns before declaring for the draft
after his junior season.

Preseason: Was targeted three times with no receptions against the Lions, caught two passes for 12
yards against the Falcons. Imposing red-zone target, but hands are inconsistent and seems to motor down out of his cuts.

Lande: "Big kid has Terrell Owens kind of size. He's a huge guy who can run real fast and has made highlight reel catches, but drops passes right in his bread basket. He's so raw, though. He's an upright guy in his routes.

"He runs with no body lean. He doesn't run with any good bend in and out of his breaks. He has to slow down to make a cut. He's so unsmooth. He's a project worth trying to develop. You might be better off cutting him and putting him on the practice squad."

Seventh round: Defensive end DeAngelo Tyson, Georgia, 6-foot-2, 310 pounds.

College: All-Southeastern Conference freshman selection played in 50 games with 79 tackles, three sacks, 8 1/2 tackles for losses, one forced fumble and 23 quarterback pressures.

Preseason: Two tackles in two games. Opportunity for roster spot increased when Ryan McBean fractured his left ankle.

Lande: "He's a good football player. He's not an edge guy at defensive end for a 4-3 team and he's not a massive defensive tackle for a 3-4 team, but he might be the perfect end for a 3-4 team. He's got real long arms. He stays on his feet really well. He's a really good two-gap guy.

"He figures out blocking schemes. He's a natural athlete who can run, but he doesn't have much real explosiveness. He chases down plays. He's a real intriguing guy. I wouldn't be shocked if he's one of those young starting guys in two or three years. He always hustles. The guy competes every single snap."

awilson@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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