Lawrence Phillips was the gutsy pick. But was the gutsy pick the right pick?

No way.

Not when Jonathan Ogden was still available when the Ravens made the fourth pick in the first round of the NFL draft yesterday.

Ogden is a fine choice as the first true Raven, and not just because Phillips came with off-putting personal baggage.

Ogden also makes sense from a football standpoint, which is what counts.

Offensive linemen are the foundation of any good team. They're like starting pitchers: You can't have enough of them, particularly good ones.

"Everything starts up front," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said yesterday.

Ogden, a huge tackle from UCLA, gives the Ravens' line a centerpiece for the next decade.

His blocking won't be as exciting as Phillips' running, but it will serve as a fundamental asset for the Ravens for years. How can you turn that down?

"He's a guy that can last 12 years for us," Ravens owner Art Modell said yesterday. "He's like [former All-Pro] Anthony Munoz. We'll start him off at guard and see where it goes from there."

Sure, there is always a chance Phillips will run wild for the Rams and become the next Emmitt Smith, and the Ravens will regret being scared off by his baggage, which, no doubt, they were at least to some extent.

Modell shrugged at the possibility. "The draft is a crap shoot," he said. "There are no guarantees."

But Ogden is close to one.

"You have to see the footage on him," Modell said.

"He is a rare individual from a mental and athletic standpoint," Marchibroda said. "The finest downfield blocker [among collegians] that I've ever seen on film."

Owners and coaches always offer such flattery on draft day, of course. What else are they going to say when they stake their reputations on a 22-year-old?

Still, there seems little doubt that Ogden is the real deal. Any scout worth a clipboard and stopwatch had him rated above all other offensive linemen in the draft.

Walking draft encyclopedia Mel Kiper Jr. had him rated as the best player in the draft along with receiver Keyshawn Johnson and linebacker Kevin Hardy, the first and second players taken yesterday.

Make no mistake: It was a stroke of good fortune for the Ravens when the defense-poor Cardinals unexpectedly passed on Ogden with the third pick to draft defensive end Simeon Rice, allowing Ogden to fall to the Ravens.

A stroke of luck just too good to turn down.