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DRAFT 2000

By Joel Kitay 3/3/00

Following a strong 8-8 record last season that led to a third place finish in the AFC Central, the Ravens have high hopes that the 2000 Draft will yield players who can turn the team into a playoff contender. The Ravens own a pair of first round picks, 5th and 15th overall, and own three of the top 45 picks in the 2000 Draft.

In the off-season, the Ravens' front office has focused on improving last year's 24th ranked offense. Expected improvement will come as current players become more comfortable in the second year of head coach Brian Billick's system. Quarterback Tony Banks, who went 6-4 as a starter, was resigned to a four-year deal, and the team made its biggest splash in the free agent market by signing the top-rated tight end, Shannon Sharpe. With seven Pro Bowls under his belt, Sharpe should give head coach Brian Billick his first consistent threat down the middle of the field. The Ravens lost OL Everett Lindsay and RB Errict Rhett to the Browns via free agency, but the team feels confident in replacing them through the Draft and free agency. One step in that direction was taken through the signing of former Redskins' OL Kipp Vickers.

In 1999, the Ravens' defense finished No. 2 in the league. Few changes are expected in 2000, especially since DT Larry Webster and DE Rob Burnett both signed new contracts during the free agency period. The only significant loss so far has been CB DeRon Jenkins, who signed with the Chargers as a free agent. Despite the loss, the Ravens are deep at the corner position, with former #1 pick CB Duane Starks expected to return to a starting role opposite last year's #1 pick, CB Chris McAlister.

People are predicting that the Ravens will focus on offense in the early rounds of the Draft. Vice President of Player Personnel Ozzie Newsome believes there is significant depth in the Draft on offense, especially for wide receivers and running backs. He is also hoping for continued success in finding offensive talent in the middle and late rounds. Past drafts have yielded starters such as C Jeff Mitchell (5th-'97), WR Jermaine Lewis (5th-'96), and G Edwin Mulitalo (4th-'99). With two number-one picks this year, the Ravens also have great flexibility for trades. The Ravens could use a young right tackle to back-up veteran Harry Swayne, as well as an interior lineman or two.

The Ravens' draft history has been an impressive one, especially in the early rounds. The teams five prior #1 picks, LT Jonathan Ogden, LB Ray Lewis, LB Peter Boulware, CB Duane Starks, and CB Chris McAlister, are all key starters who have combined to make eight Pro Bowl appearances so far in their young careers.