Filling need, Ravens draft OG Grubbs
OWINGS MILLS, Md. - The Baltimore Ravens flirted with the idea of trading for quarterback Brady Quinn, then made the logical choice Saturday when it came time to use the 29th overall pick in the NFL draft.
Baltimore needed an offensive lineman, and Auburn guard Ben Grubbs was attainable. So Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome picked Grubbs, a three-year starter who did not allow a sack during his senior season.
Newsome makes a habit of selecting the best athlete in the first round, regardless of his position. On this occasion, need and availability went hand in hand.
"No doubt he was our highest-rated player at this point," Newsome said. "Sometimes you can get your highest-rated player to also fulfill a need. I guess we matched it this time."
When Newsome called Grubbs to tell him the news, the 6-foot-3, 315-pounder could tell from his caller ID that he was headed to the Ravens.
"When I saw Baltimore show up, I just started to holler and then my family members started hollering," Grubbs said. "It was a very exciting moment for me. I'm just thankful and blessed."
Earlier in the round, Newsome explored a trade for Quinn, who was projected to be picked in the top five but dropped all the way to 22nd before Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage worked a trade to grab the Notre Dame star.
"When (Quinn) started to come down in the draft we talked about it," Newsome said. "We did make some inquiries about him, and I applaud Phil for coming back in and getting him."
Newsome liked Quinn, but was unwilling to surrender a future No. 1 pick to get him. The last time Newsome traded away a No. 1, for quarterback Kyle Boller in 2003, he lamented being without a first-round selection in 2004.
"When you don't have a first-round pick, it affects your draft. It affects your draft preparation. And yes, that did play into our thinking," Newsome said. "The other part about that, you know, having given up the third-round pick for (running back) Willis McGahee, we don't have a lot of ammunition to move up. There was only so much we could do."
Newsome traded a third- and a seventh-round pick this year, and a No. 3 pick in 2008, for McGahee in March. Having done that, Newsome got Grubbs to make sure McGahee had ample blocking in front of him.
The Ravens traded their second-round pick to Detroit for the Lions' third- and fourth-round picks. With the 74th overall pick, Baltimore chose wide receiver and kicker returner Yamon Figurs.
Figurs, who played at Kansas State, scored the Wildcats' only touchdown against Rutgers in the Texas Bowl on a 76-yard punt return. He also ran the fastest time at the NFL scouting combine — a 4.30 in the 40-yard dash.
"He's very explosive. He has unbelievable speed and acceleration," said director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said.
Baltimore then traded the 101st, 166th and 203rd overall picks to Jacksonville for another third rounder and took guard Marshal Yanda of Iowa with the 86th overall selection. Newsome said Yanda can play guard but will be groomed to be a tackle.
Grubbs and Yanda will join an offensive line that lost guard Edwin Mulitalo and tackle Tony Pashos to free agency. After left tackle Joe Staley of Central Michigan was snagged by the San Francisco 49ers at No. 28, the Ravens were determined to take Grubbs, a converted tight end who ended his college career with 38 straight starts.
Newsome, an All-American at Alabama, laughed about picking an Auburn player for the first time since he began drafting for Baltimore in 1996.
"After 12 years, I finally drafted an Auburn player," he said, grinning. "Ben is a young man; when we talk about a Ravens-type player, he fits the mold. He's been a starter for three years, plays right or left guard, was very good in the run game and the pass game. So we're very excited about getting Ben, looking forward to having him here, and I'll probably catch a little flack in Tuscaloosa for a while."
Grubbs, a converted tight end, is the first offensive lineman selected in the opening round by Baltimore since Jonathan Ogden in 1996. Grubbs didn't visit the Ravens before the draft, but DeCosta knew all about him.
"He's very athletic. He's got a good base, he anchors well, strong hands, he's smart," DeCosta said. "He played extremely well at the Senior Bowl and looked excellent on tape. I think he's going to be a very good player."