Barnes, others to step right in to fill big shoes

The Baltimore Sun

No one on the Ravens is saying linebacker Adalius Thomas and fullback Ovie Mughelli are replaceable. But the team did its best yesterday to find their potential successors at those positions on the second day of the NFL draft.

With their first pick of the day - No. 35 in the fourth round and 134th overall - the Ravens selected linebacker-defensive end Antwan Barnes of Florida International. Three slots later, the team took fullback Le'Ron McClain of Alabama.

The club also added Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith with the final pick of the fifth round (174th overall) and Michigan outside linebacker Prescott Burgess with the 33rd choice of the sixth round (207th).

"We brought in some quality players as far as character is concerned," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "I think we'll look back on this draft three or four years later, and you're going to be able to look at a bunch of players that are going to be major contributors to a team that was 13-3 and hopefully has positioned itself to go deeper into the playoffs next year."

The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Barnes played defensive end for the Golden Panthers, registering 69 tackles (42 solo) and four sacks last season. Ranking third in what was formerly known as Division I-A with an average of 1.88 tackles behind the line of scrimmage per game, Barnes also recovered a fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown.

Despite his success as a defensive end in college, Barnes is projected as more of an outside linebacker who can be a situational pass rusher. The 6-3, 235-pound Burgess is expected to contribute on special teams and add depth at linebacker.

"For the first time, we felt like on the second day of the draft, some linebackers could be there that we would be interested in," Newsome said. "The draft took on that personality, but it just kind of fit basically what we felt like we needed to upgrade our football team."

McClain, listed at 6 feet and 257 pounds, is a punishing lead blocker who started all 13 games last season, compiling 64 yards on 11 carries. He also emerged as an option in the passing game, catching 20 passes for 175 yards and scoring three touchdowns.

McClain is expected to challenge incumbent Justin Green for the starting fullback job.

"Fullback obviously was a need for us, and we got the best fullback," said Eric DeCosta, the team's director of college scouting. "Anytime you can draft the best player at his position in the draft, that's saying something."

Newsome said the franchise would likely target undrafted free agents who could help add depth at safety and tight end.

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