After not landing free agency's most decorated defensive lineman in tackle Warren Sapp, the Ravens may look to the second round of the NFL draft Saturday with hopes of finding the next best thing.
Strictly from a potential standpoint, that player could be Texas defensive lineman Marcus Tubbs, whom the Ravens think highly of and should have a shot at getting with the 51st overall pick.
Sapp signed with the Oakland Raiders last month before the Ravens got too heavily involved. That move may force the Ravens to take a flier on a player like Tubbs, whom a number of draft publications say is a boom-or-bust proposition.
"He's big. He's quick. He's very strong and is way tough to move," said Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta. "He's very athletic and dominant in some stretches."
But here is why Tubbs will likely not be a first-round selection.
"He takes some plays off," DeCosta said. "He's inconsistent. He doesn't shed [blockers] as easily as we like."
In the right environment and scheme, the Ravens believe Tubbs could become a high-caliber player as a defensive end.
He played both defensive line positions at Texas, where he recorded 77 tackles, 5 1/2 sacks, and forced three fumbles as a senior to earn Associated Press All-Big 12 second-team honors.
Still, to be just second team in his conference was considered a disappointment from a player in which so much was expected. The criticisms surrounding Tubbs are similar to the ones that haunted former Maryland tackle Kris Jenkins, who slid to the second round of the 2001 draft before becoming arguably the best interior defensive lineman in the league last year with the Carolina Panthers.
"He is an interesting guy, a guy with a lot of talent," Ravens defensive line coach Rex Ryan said of Tubbs.
"As far as the plays off, a lot of times 325-pound guys, they may look like they're loafing and are not putting it out down after down. But in college, you probably play 20 more snaps than you do in the NFL."
The fewer number of snaps and a commitment to prove his critics wrong was enough to turn Jenkins into a Pro Bowl player.
Randy Starks took over as the Maryland defensive line anchor from Jenkins and is rated along the same lines as Tubbs by draft experts. Starks is again looking to follow in Jenkins' footsteps as the next great Terps defensive lineman to make an impact in the NFL.
Starks is projected to go anywhere from the middle of the first round to the middle of the second. Regarded highly by the Ravens, Starks could be a welcome alternative if Tubbs has already been taken.
"Randy Starks is a versatile guy," DeCosta said. "He has played defensive end and defensive tackle for the Terrapins. He fits in pretty well for us as an end in our 3-4 defense."
Starks' attitude is different than that of Tubbs, but his upside is not as great. Considered a smart player with a solid work ethic, Starks recorded 73 tackles, 7 1/2 sacks and 13 hurries.
Though Starks and Tubbs were primarily tackles in college, the Ravens would play them at end.
"What I like are athletes, guys that have that athletic ability to do both," Ryan said. "To be able to play on the perimeter and mix it up on the inside, I think that is what those two guys give us. More than anything, you look for a guy that is an athletic, tough kid who is willing to do the dirty work. College tackles are more that way than those defensive ends that are running straight up the field all the time."
Washington's Tank Johnson could also be an interesting pick for the Ravens in the third round. Dogged with an even worse reputation for taking plays off than Tubbs, Johnson may slip all the way to the second day of the draft because of perception.
"Another guy that fits in for us is Tank Johnson," DeCosta said. "He is a defensive end/defensive tackle hybrid who tested well this spring. He does have the ability to penetrate and make plays.
"The defensive tackle position is one that we hope to address in the draft. We feel very comfortable in the depth at that position. We feel good about the depth in our established lineup, but there are some guys that we find intriguing."
Defensive linemen outlook
A look at the defensive linemen who may be available for the Ravens' second-round pick (51st overall):
Pos. Name School Ht. Wt. Skinny
DT Marcus Tubbs Texas 6-4 323 He will either dominate or be a bust.
DT Randy Starks Maryland 6-3 315 Stock dropped after so-so junior season.
DT Terry Johnson Washington 6-2 300 Risk player with talent but questionable work ethic.
DT Dwan Edwards Oregon State 6-2 310 Consistent but not spectacular.
DE Darrion Scott Ohio State 6-3 285 Can play end and tackle. Led great defense.
DE Antwan Odom Alabama 6-5 275 Will probably be off board but tough to pass up if not.
Defensive line picks
A look at the Ravens' history of drafting defensive linemen:
Pos. Player Year Round
DE Chris Ward 1997 7th
DT Leland Taylor 1997 7th
DT Martin Chase 1998 5th
DE Adalius Thomas 2000 6th
DT Cedric Woodard 2000 6th
DE Dwayne Missouri 2001 7th
DE Tony Weaver 2002 2nd
DE Jarret Johnson 2003 4th
DT Aubrayo Franklin 2003 5th