Carroll County Times

Ravens interested in adding pass rusher via draft

INDIANAPOLIS - Paul Kruger's likely gone as a free agent. Terrell Suggs will be 31 in October and is coming off two major injuries. And Courtney Upshaw and Albert McClellan, while both solid against the run, are limited in terms of what they offer as pass rushers at this point.

And while outside linebacker isn't necessarily a primary need for the Baltimore Ravens heading into the NFL draft in late April, the team does appear interested in adding a pass rusher through the draft, possibly even at some point during the first three rounds.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome expressed an interest in adding another pass rusher at Baltimore's annual "State of the Ravens" press conference earlier this month and the team met with some of the top pass rushers in this year's draft this past weekend at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

"Obviously if they lose [Kruger], and then last year [Suggs] was out for awhile, so you can never have enough pass rushers in this league," said former Ravens executive Phil Savage, currently the executive director of the Senior Bowl. "It's a passing league and you can never have enough pass rushers. Anytime you can add one of those, you do it because you've got to have people that can pressure the quarterback."

Fortunately for Baltimore, and any other team in the market for a pass rusher, there's an abundance of options in this year's draft.

As many as 13 players that profile as rush linebackers in a 3-4 scheme are expected to go in the first two rounds of the draft, including seven that are expected to be selected during the first round.

"It's an exciting draft class as far as pass rushers," said Rob Rang, a senior NFL draft analyst for and "It's a strong draft, not only in terms of the top talent that's going to come off the board in the first round, but there's very good talent in the second or third rounds as well."

Florida State pass rushers Brandon Jenkins and Tank Carradine were among the players the Ravens met with at the combine. Both are expected to be selected during the second or third round of the draft.

Ohio State pass rusher John Simon, another projected second- or third-round pick, said he had a couple informal meetings with Baltimore at the Senior Bowl in January.

"They do sound interested, and I'm interested in Baltimore," Simon said. "They run a 3-4 defense, so I would imagine they want me at an outside linebacker position."

Simon was a three-year starter at Ohio State and a first-team All-Big 10 selection as a senior this past season. He had 16 sacks during his last two seasons with the Buckeyes, including nine as a senior.

Simon is viewed as being just an average athlete in terms of his speed and quickness, but he's touted as a strong, aggressive and relentless player.

Former Wisconsin tackle Ricky Wagner, also a member of this year's draft class, described Simon as "a special player."

Said Wagner: "He's kind of a [defensive] end, a tackle and a linebacker all mixed into one. He's a real hard-worker that never stops his feet. I've got a lot of respect for him. He gave me some trouble a little bit."

Jenkins and Carradine are both interesting prospects as well.

Jenkins was viewed as a possible early first-round pick before suffering a season-ending foot injury during the first game of this past season.

He had 13½ sacks as a sophomore in 2010 and eight as a junior in 2011.

"He's a great pass rusher," Carradine said of Jenkins. "He's a guy that got hurt, but he's ... healed now and he's going to do drills Monday to show teams that he's OK and that he's still the same Brandon Jenkins that he was before he got hurt. ... A guy like that, a team would get a great defensive end, a hybrid guy that can get things done."

Carradine, meanwhile, was projected as a likely first-round pick as recently as late November, but he now appears more likely to go in the second or third round after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee during the second-to-last game of Florida State's regular season.

But Carradine's a player that had 11 sacks in the Seminoles' first 12 games, and he said Saturday that he's a month ahead of schedule in his recovery and expects to be "100 percent" by April.

Dion Jordan (Oregon), Alex Okafor (Texas) and Sam Montgomery (LSU) are three pass rushers that have been mentioned as possible players of interest for the Ravens in the first round.