Baltimore Ravens: Could They Stack Up On Defense In The First Round?

Bleacher Report Senior Writer IMarch 11, 2009

USC star Rey Maualuga is the No. 1 inside linebacker in this year's draft. He was the most feared player to run at last season, which explains why he had only 79 tackles and two interceptions, rather mediocre statistics for the No. 1 inside linebacker. Maualuga's hits are bone crushing, ego shattering and turn heads.

Maualuga has been dominant throughout his career and some of his hits are still quite popular on YouTube. Maualuga is known for his intensity, something Ray Lewis would welcome with open arms.

USC could be known as the second "Linebacker U", as it has produced Lofa Tatupu, Willie McGinest and Junior Seau. 

In 2005, Maualuga was very good for the Trojans, making the Freshman All America team, as he racked up 37 tackles, one interception and one sack. Maualuga was already feared, and he had played just 13 games!

However, he was known for his reckless partying around campus, which led to a fight at a Halloween Party and an arrest.

He got counseling, and even went to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and seemed to be a changed man, saying: "You learn that you're only given a certain number of chances. If you keep going back to the same things you were doing, it shows that you don't learn from anything."

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

He returned in 2006, totaling 78 tackles, two sacks and one interception. He was nominated for the Butkus Award (best college LB) and made the second team All-Pac 10.

Despite being a feared and well-known, he made his first start because of injured senior Oscar Lua. After Lua got drafted by the New England Patriots in 2007, Maualuga exploded.

He had 79 tackles, six sacks and one interception. Maualuga was named a preseason All American by numerous college analysts. After the explosive season, he was All-Pac 10 for the second season in a row. After the 2007 season, Maualauga's expectations for 2008 were sky-high.

Maualuga, yet again, was dominant. He finished with 79 tackles, two interceptions and one touchdown. Against Penn State in the Rose Bowl, he was all over the field, finishing with six tackles and one pass deflected, winning Defensive Player of the Game.

While his numbers aren't as gaudy as other linebackers in the draft such as Frantz Joseph or James Laurinaitis, the reason for this is the fear instilled in people who run at Rey.

There is no question Rey is the biggest hitter in the draft.

Just ask Justin Forsett, Pat Cowan, Juice Williams, Rudy Carpenter or Kenny Alfred. You would think with the way people fear Rey and what happens to those who don't, he would be a top ten pick. That's where you're wrong.

NFL teams worry about his 2005 arrest and the fact that after running the 40-yard dash, he hurt his hamstring. So, Maualuga could be a pick ideal for one team and one team only: the Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens lost a very good linebacker in Bart Scott, who fled Baltimore to follow defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to the New York Jets. Therefore, the Baltimore Ravens aren't certain who will fill in for Scott.

If the Ravens aren't able to get Maualuga or pass on him, Tavares Gooden, Antwan Barnes or Brendon Ayanbadejo will fill in. However, Maualuga would be a better option.

He's a ferocious hitter, so he'd fit in incredibly well with the Ravens defense. Maualuga personally reminds me of Ravens linebacker and NFL legend Ray Lewis. In 1996, Ray Lewis was a draft prospect coming out of "The U" we know as Miami.

Lewis was also "small", at 6'0". Because of the lack of height, he was drafted 26th overall.

If we had a re-draft today, I don't think Ray would be drafted six picks before the last. The Ravens have the 26th pick this year, as they did in their first year in franchise history when they selected Ray, the future face and leader of the franchise.

Let's celebrate a 13-year anniversary by selecting another linebacker with the first pick.

The only concern Maualuga brings is: will he fall to the Ravens? With the stock-killer we know as the NFL Scouting Combine, it's likely Maualuga will. He can be the future leader of the Baltimore Ravens and he can learn from one of the best to ever lead a group of men for three years.

Maualuga could replace Bart Scott and the Ravens would have one of the most dangerous linebacking cores, with Jarrett Johnson, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Maualuga.

While the Ravens have some big needs offensively, like wide receiver, tight end and right tackle, the Ravens foundation is defense, and they can't rely on Tavares Gooden or Antwan Barnes to step into Bart Scott's shoes. Maualuga, however, has the talent, leadership and strength to do so very accordingly.

Before the 2008-09 college football season started, Maualuga was considered a top five pick. Now, it's possible he'll fall all the way to the Ravens. Maualuga is getting snubbed of a higher pick because of combine struggles and standing at just 6'2".

However, in every game he has played in the last two years, he's dominated the opposition and running backs don't dare run at him.

The Ravens should address their other needs (WR, TE, RT, CB) later in the draft.

Imagine this:

1 (26): Rey Maualauga, LB, USC

2 (57): Brian Robiskie, WR, Ohio State

3 (88): Shawn Nelson, TE, Southern Miss

4 (119): Mike Mickens, CB, Cincinnati

5 (140): A.Q. Shipley, C, Penn State

6 (171): Garrett Reynolds, OT, UNC

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!