Eager Ravens trade up, get Ngata
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens left nothing to chance in their quest to snare Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata in the first round of the NFL draft.
Minutes before the Ravens were to be placed on the clock Saturday with the 13th overall pick, they traded up a notch with the Cleveland Browns and secured the 6-foot-4, 335-pound lineman.
Ngata was a first-team All-American, the Pac 10 co-defensive player of the year and a finalist for the Outland Trophy in his senior season. He is expected to provide much-needed bulk in the middle of the Baltimore line.
"This is a big block of granite, a guy that's tough to move," said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of college scouting. "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 believe Ngata is an upgrade from 350-pound tackle Maake Kemoeatu, who signed with Carolina as a free agent.
"Haloti was the 12th pick and Kemo was an undrafted free agent. That says a lot," Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "He's better athletically than Kemo."
"And he's much further along, physically and playing-wise, than Kemo," added Ravens coach Brian Billick.
Baltimore might have gotten Ngata with the 13th pick, but was unwilling to wait. So Newsome swapped first-round picks with the Browns and threw in a sixth-round pick, the 181st selection overall.
The trade was made with Cleveland general manager Phil Savage, who used to work under Newsome with Baltimore. It's the first time the Ravens and Cleveland have made a trade.
"Moving up to get him took the risk out of it. He was a guy that we wanted," Newsome said. "He fits us so very well. It eliminated the risk of anybody else moving up, or Phil taking Ngata himself -- which I don't know whether he would or not."
Baltimore figured the Browns might be looking for a replacement for defensive tackle Ted Washington, who's in the twilight of his career.
"Cleveland runs a 3-4 defense and has a 38-year-old nose tackle," DeCosta noted. "Ngata was clearly the best guy left on our board and there was a little bit of concern that Cleveland could take him. So it was a good trade to make."
Ngata was also delighted with the way it played out. He visited the Ravens before the draft and spoke with Billick and Newsome at the scouting combine.
"I was really hoping to go to Baltimore, especially since they're a defensive team," Ngata said in a conference call from Las Vegas. "I'm just really happy right now, and excited."
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is probably happy, too. Lewis spoke out recently about the need for Baltimore to beef up its defensive tackles, which would enable Lewis to roam the field in search of someone to tackle -- the formula that helped the Ravens win a Super Bowl in 2001.
Newsome said the Ravens had Ngata targeted long before Lewis spoke his mind.
"We put our board together on information we get from scouts and other people," Newsome said. "If Ray would have known Haloti, we would have used that. But it had nothing to do with that."
Although Ngata was lauded by the Ravens for playing both defense and special teams, he acknowledged that there were times when he was too tired to put forth 100 percent effort on every play.
"I think I need to work on my technique, be more consistent and play hard all the time -- not just when I want to," he said.
Responding to suggestions that Ngata might weigh too much, DeCosta said, "I don't care if he weighs 480 if teams are averaging two yards a carry. We want to get back to that defense we had in 2000; that's what we expect him to do for us."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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