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Rough Draft for Ravens

Baltimore will wish it could rewrite this chapter of history

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Will Santonio Holmes provide the deep threat the Steelers want, drawing coverage away from Hines and Ced? Will safety Anthony Smith be able to replace the talents of Chris Hope? Will Florida State's Willie Reid be a viable kick- and punt-return threat in light of Randal El's departure?

In a word — beats me. Much as with the stock market, I believe the NFL draft is part preparation, part timing and part total crapshoot.

But the Steelers are much better than I am at playing the market, so there's reason to believe that the answer to all the above questions is yes — particularly in the case of Santonio Holmes. At any rate, far be it from me to question the combined wisdom of Kevin Colbert and Bill Cowher. The Baltimore Ravens, on the other hand …

Scouting and coiffure legend Mel Kiper Jr. once opined, "The Jets just don't understand what the draft is for." He could have said that of the Steelers' divisional rival this year, when Baltimore used its first-round pick to … add defensive beef up front.

With so many pressing needs, why go there? Are the Ravens the new Bengals? For decades the Bengals drafted one bust after another: Smith, Carter, Klinger and on and on. But that's come to an end as the Ravens take over Cincy's dubious role. In the land of crab cakes, the celebrity middle linebacker is king — or at least in charge of the scouting department.

See, Ray Ray wanted a defensive lineman, and that's just what he got in the form of Haloti Ngata, from Oregon. The real highlight of draft day was ESPN having a Ray Lewis interview at the ready in the event of such a draft pick. (The Worldwide Leader is so enamored with Lewis that I'm surprised we don't see Ray on ESPN commenting on women's tennis or NASCAR.) There was Lewis, opining that — as undeniable as his greatness is — he's not great enough to get through a block to get to the ball. He needs help.

My God, people, Ray Lewis needs help!

So the Ravens kowtowed to the head inmate and chose a D-lineman — one who by most accounts takes plays off. It left me scratching my head … and smiling. Can you imagine Kevin Colbert caving into pressure from James Farrior or Hines Ward?

Haven't the Baltimore bosses watched their quarterback play? Am I the only one who's seen game film on Kyle Boller? The Ravens scored an anemic average of 16.6 points per game, ranking in the bottom half of every offensive category. Compare that to the Steelers, who averaged 24.3 points per game, or the Bengals, who put up 26.3 points per game. Are the Ravens serious? Is Ozzie Newsome playing a joke on head coach and self-proclaimed genius Brian Billick? Nah, it's probably just more Baltimore hubris.

Even Karl Rove couldn't put enough spin on Kyle Boller to avoid the "bust" tag. So after doing nothing to address their offense in the draft, the Ravens are trying to broker a deal that would put all their eggs in Steve McNair's basket. The guy was great, but he's not even the basket anymore, he's Humpty Dumpty himself. No way can he last a full 16-game season.

Besides, even if they get McNair from the Titans, and even if I'm wrong about his durability, what about next year, and the year after that? The dirty birds will still be stuck with Boller. They should be looking to the future, to groom some young QB with McNair and Boller there to take a beating. Some young guy, like — oh, I don't know — Vandy's Jay Cutler, whom Denver moved up to get, even though its need for a QB is far less pressing than Baltimore's.

I don't know much about scouting, but I know that few things make me happier than the Ravens falling flat on their own beaks. Who knows how well the Steelers' picks will turn out, or how long the Matt Leinart-Paris Hilton tryst will last, but I predict the Ravens will be eating crow.

Good luck, and good night, Ray. And next time, be careful what you wish for.

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