Ravens Select Ngata: 'Big Block Of Granite'
Sunday, April 30, 2006
OWINGS MILLS, Md., April 29 -- The Baltimore Ravens found the big, run-stopping defensive tackle that they -- not to mention linebacker Ray Lewis -- had been searching for, selecting Oregon's 6-foot-4, 340-pound Haloti Ngata in the first round of the NFL draft.
"I think you win up front in football," said Eric DeCosta, Baltimore's director of college scouting. "This is a big block of granite. He's a guy that's tough to move and I think he's going to pose nightmares for teams in our division trying to get him off the ball and trying to run the football."
The Ravens were determined to land Ngata, so they swapped places with rival Cleveland. The Browns gave up the 12th spot for Baltimore's first- (13th overall) and sixth- (181st overall) round picks. Cleveland General Manager Phil Savage spent nine years in the Ravens organization, working closely with GM Ozzie Newsome.
"He was a guy that we wanted," Newsome said of Ngata, a consensus all-American and the Pac-10 co-defensive player of the year. "He fits us very well so, to me, it eliminated the risk of anybody else moving up or Phil taking him himself, which I don't know if he would have or not."
Baltimore, which started the day holding just two of the first 110 picks in the draft, traded its second-round pick (44th overall) to the New York Giants to gain an additional first-day selection. The Ravens received the Giants' second (56th overall) and third (87th overall) picks.
They took Oklahoma offensive lineman Chris Chester (6-3, 305) with the 56th selection and Northwestern State cornerback David Pittman (5-11, 182) with the 87th pick. Chester began his college career as a 240-pound tight end, but finished it as a guard and center.
"We love his athletic ability," DeCosta said. "He's a guy that we think has tremendous upside at the guard-center position. Some of the best linemen in football, you can go back and look, a lot of guys have started out as tight ends and just get bigger and bigger. With his athletic ability, it was very obvious that he was going to become a very good player."
The Ravens' defense has long prided itself on its ability to stop the run; in seven of the past nine seasons, Baltimore has ranked among the top five in the league in opponent rushing average. Ngata fits in to that category; he is big, strong (able to bench press over 500 pounds), and quick.
Ngata essentially replaces nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu, who signed with the Carolina Panthers during free agency. Kemoeatu, like Ngata, is mammoth (6-5, 350 pounds). But Kemoeatu joined the Ravens as a raw, undrafted free agent and developed into a reliable starter over four seasons. Ngata should be ready to contribute much sooner.
"Haloti was the 12th pick and Kemo was an undrafted free agent, so that says a whole lot," Newsome said. "He's better athletically than Kemo."
But one of the criticisms of Ngata, who played both defense and special teams for the Ducks, is that he has a tendency to take plays off. In a conference call with Baltimore-area reporters, Ngata himself admitted that is one of the things he needs to work on as he makes the transition to the NFL.
"I think I need to work on a lot of my technique and being more consistent," Ngata said. "Playing hard all the time, and not just when I want to."
Ngata's weight -- he says that he's around 335 pounds -- has also been an issue. But DeCosta pointed out that Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams, the two defensive tackles on Baltimore's Super Bowl team, were both "big, massive guys." Cleveland nose tackle Ted Washington is 6-5 and 365 pounds, and New England's Vince Wilfork is 6-2, 325.
"That's what their position specifically is, to take on two guys and stop the run," DeCosta said. "As long as he does that, I don't care if he weighs 480, [especially] if teams are averaging two yards a carry. Just to get back to that defense we had in 2000, that's what we expect him to do for us."
And that's what Lewis has been clamoring for. During the 2000 season, in which the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV and Lewis was the game's most valuable player, Baltimore set an NFL record for fewest rushing yards allowed (970). Siragusa and Adams anchored the defensive line and helped keep blockers off Lewis, who was able to roam the field to make plays.
But in a recent ESPN interview, Lewis complained the Ravens had gotten away from that formula and thus hindered his effectiveness.