The Ravens used their first pick to end Sergio Kindle's free fall — the longest of any defensive player in this year's NFL draft — when they selected the talented but complicated Texas linebacker in the second round.
Some teams were scared off by Kindle's often-injured knee. Others were worried about his brushes with the law. As far as him fitting in with the Ravens' defense, there are no questions.
It takes only a few minutes of talking with Kindle to realize he already has the Ravens' swagger.
"I'm getting Rookie of the Year," Kindle said in a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "That's my goal."
The Ravens, who have four picks today, entered Friday by putting together a list of targeted players. At the top were five names.
"We got three of the five that we wanted," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Not only did we get players that we liked but we filled some needs."
Kindle, who was voted this draft's top 3-4 outside linebacker prospect in a poll of 17NFL scouts by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, fills a major pass-rushing need. The Ravens sacked the quarterback 32 times last season, tied for second-fewest in team history.
He has the size (6-3, 250) and athleticism (4.65 speed) that NFL defensive coordinators covet. He has 16 sacks and two forced fumbles in four seasons in the program that produced Brian Orakpo, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie for the Washington Redskins.
Newsome said Kindle will back up Jarret Johnson at outside linebacker this season and play special teams.
"He's one of my favorite picks of the night," said Jon Gruden, an ESPN analyst and n former NFL coach. "Every film I pick up, Sergio Kindle dominates. He's a perfect Raven."
Kindle will be charging after quarterbacks with a chip squarely on his shoulder. He said it was hard to watch the draft, where he was expected to go in the middle of the first round and not the middle of the second. "[I was watching] a lot of guys, in my opinion, that I was better than go ahead of me," he said.
Why was a top-25 prospect sitting there for the Ravens at the 43rd pick in the draft? The red flags include four procedures on his right knee, two car accidents (including a DWI charge) and a report he takes medication for narcolepsy (there are reports that he fell asleep during team meetings) and Attention Deficit Disorder.
After the third question regarding an issue with Kindle, Newsome said, "I'll tell you what, he's a pretty good player on tape."
According to ESPN, one team took Kindle off its draft board over concerns with Kindle's knee. It has been rumored that he needs microfracture knee surgery, which would knock him out for his entire rookie season. Newsome disputed that, saying he spoke with trainer Bill Tessendorf on Friday. "There is no need for any microfracture surgery at this point," he said.
Kindle said he doesn't think he needs surgery. "I guess when I get there, I'll let them look at it again and see what needs to happen," he said. "I feel like I can practice when the time comes."
Besides the knee, there have been character issues. Kindle was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated in July 2007. Two years later, he had a one-car accident in which he damaged a building and left the scene of the accident.
His explanation for driving into the building: He was texting while driving.
"It was a dumb move on my part," he said. "It was bad judgment on how far you can travel while looking down for a split-second in a car."
Kindle said he drew a diagram of the accident for team officials at his combine interview with the Ravens.
Kindle said his DWI charge in 2007 was "a poor decision on getting in the car after having some drinks."
"That was my fault," he said. "I feel like everything happens for a reason. The Lord puts me through those situations for me to learn and made me the man I am today. It made me tougher, it made stronger and made me smarter in my decision making. I am a better man for it today."
Asked about a report that Kindle takes medication for narcolepsy and ADD, Newsome and director of player personnel Eric DeCosta looked at each other before laughing. "If it was a concern, we probably wouldn't have picked him," DeCosta said.
Kindle has made strides off the field. He graduated from Texas in December 2009 with a degree in youth and community studies. He was on the school's athletic honor roll in the spring of 2008.
Newsome said the Ravens did their homework on Kindle. Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz is a close friend of Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.
"We are able to get information out of the University of Texas like no other organization can because of that relationship," Newsome said.
DeCosta called Kindle "a Ravens type of guy."
"He's confident in his ability. He's a competitor," DeCosta said. "Those are the kind of guys that we want. He's not a wallflower. He's got some personality. He's as tough as they come. Today when we woke up, I can tell you that we were excited about the opportunity to pick him today."