Ravens' No. 29 position hasn't been prime spot

The Baltimore Sun

Some of the stories that keep NFL talent evaluators sweating on draft day have come with the 29th pick, the slot the Ravens will select from today.

A spot that has produced just four quality starters in the past decade is often remembered for such busts as Dimitrius Underwood and R. Jay Soward.

In 1999, the Minnesota Vikings drafted Underwood despite his coaches at Michigan State warning NFL scouts that the defensive end wasn't mentally stable enough to play in the league.

A day after signing a five-year, $5.3 million contract, Underwood walked out of training camp and never returned, saying he could not resolve the conflict between playing football and serving his Christian faith. Underwood, who later was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, was released by the Vikings later that month and has since attempted suicide twice.

In 2000, the Jacksonville Jaguars chose Soward even though the speedy wide receiver missed Southern California's summer practices because he wanted to pursue a career in rap music.

He caught only 14 passes for the Jaguars in a career damaged by an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Soward, who last played in an NFL game in December 2000, remains on the reserve-non football illness list after serving three suspensions by the NFL for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.

While Underwood and Soward are extreme cases, the 29th pick has generally produced more failures than dependable players.

Cornerback Chris Canty (New England Patriots in 1997), running back John Avery (Miami Dolphins in 1998) and offensive tackle Marc Colombo (Chicago Bears in 2002) never became full-time starters for more than a season for that team.

There is a sense that this slot could be undergoing a turnaround. Linebacker Nick Barnett (Green Bay Packers in 2003) and center Nick Mangold (New York Jets in 2006) have bright futures.

Still, the last Pro Bowl player to come from the 29th pick was cornerback Ashley Ambrose, who was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1992.


Don't count on No. 29

The Ravens have the 29th overall selection in today's draft. A look at the troubling 10-year history of that pick:

Year Player, Pos. Team Jamison Hensley's skinny

1997 Chris Canty, CB N. England Released after struggling for two years

1998 John Avery, RB Miami Disappointing journeyman played in NFL, CFL and XFL

1999 Dimitrius Underwood, DE Minnesota Bipolar disorder shattered career

2000 R. Jay Soward, WR Jacksonville Seemed to have more suspensions than receptions

2001 Ryan Pickett, DT St. Louis Developed into above-average nose tackle

2002 Marc Colombo, OT Chicago Didn't become a full-time starter until he left Bears

2003 Nick Barnett, LB Green Bay Steady, consistent linebacker on a bad defense

2004 Michael Jenkins, WR Atlanta Has never caught more than 39 passes in three seasons

2005 Marlin Jackson, DB Indianapolis Utility defensive back can play corner and safety

2006 Nick Mangold, C N.Y. Jets Surpassed expectations and will anchor line for years

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