The Baltimore Ravens headed into the offseason with one glaring hole to fill at linebacker.
Ray Lewis was a 13-time pro bowl middle linebacker for the Ravens, who retired this offseason. On Friday, the Ravens decided who would be replacing him.
Baltimore used the 24th pick of the second round to tab Kansas State’s Arthur Brown as its future at linebacker.
Brown wasn’t the only K-State player to go in this weekend’s draft, as Chris Harper was selected in the fourth round by the Seattle Seahawks. Fullback Braden Wilson went in the sixth round to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Quarterback Collin Klein was undrafted, but signed a free agent contract Saturday night with the Houston Texans.
Brown, who led the Wildcats with 100 tackles this past season, said it’s an honor to even be mentioned in the same sentence as Lewis.
“I have a lot of respect for Ray — not only the player that he is, but the person in which he presents himself to be,” Brown said in a conference call with Ravens’ reporters. “He’s truly had an impact on the game and on so many people throughout the game.”
Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta described Brown as a player they “coveted,” saying they believed him to be one of the best inside linebackers in the this year’s draft.
Brown was considered to be a first-round prospect by some draft experts, but he slipped into the second round. When he was still available later in the second round, the Ravens traded up to the 56th-overall pick to select him.
DeCosta said Brown was a first-round consideration for the Ravens, and they traded up to take him late Friday night, fearing that he might not last too much longer.
“We started to sweat a little bit as we started to see some good players coming off the board,” DeCosta said in a story on the Ravens’ website. “And the idea of not getting him was pretty scary, so we decided to make the move.”
Brown said it meant a lot to him that the team was willing to move up to get him.
“It shows that they believe in me as a player and as a person,” Brown said. “Just having the opportunity that they’ve given me, with picking me where they did, just shows that they believe in me and I’m definitely ready to be a big part of this team.”
Harper was another player who slid out of his spot and down to a team that had been looking at him closely leading up to the draft.
The Wichita native was expecting his name might be called in the second or third round. But as few wide receivers started to come off the board, Harper slipped to Saturday afternoon.
The Seattle Seahawks tabbed him with the 123rd overall pick of the draft, and the 26th of the fourth round, adding to an already deep group of receivers.
Harper said the Seahawks was a team that he spoke too often throughout the draft process. He also has some knowledge of Seahawks’ coach Pete Carroll, who recruited him to play at USC.
“I talked to them quite a bit, I had a meeting with them and then I talked to the scout a couple times,” Harper said in a conference call with Seahawks’ reporters. “I had a long meeting with them a couple days ago, and this was one of the teams I had circled. I watched them a lot this year and liked the way they played, and they saw it was a really good fit with the way I play.”
Harper led the Wildcats with 50 catches for 786 yards and three touchdowns this season.
One of the glaring questions about Harper was in his production level due to K-State’s run-based philosophy. Harper said he feels that playing in K-State’s offense made him better as a wide receiver.
With the Seahawks running the ball to the outside often, the ability to block is one of the most important traits for their receivers. Harper said blocking is an often-undervalued trait that he learned while playing for the Wildcats.
“I’m really comfortable (with blocking), a lot more comfortable than some guys because we ran the ball so much,” he said. “It helped me out to make me a more complete receiver.”
Harper came to the Wildcats after transferring from Oregon in a freshman season that saw him play both quarterback and receiver.
When Harper came to K-State, he intended to play QB again, but he said he struggled to recover his shoulder strength after an injury while at Oregon, and made a permanent switch to wide receiver.
Harper said that experience has helped him learn how to look at defenses differently than most teams.
“I see it from what the quarterback is seeing, and what he’s think at different times,” he said. “I understand the rotations and coverage’s. I’m a step ahead when I’m out there.”
Wilson, who was spending time with his family in Olathe when he was drafted 204th overall, told Chiefs’ reporters that he grew up a Kansas City fan, making the selection that much sweeter.
The Wildcats’ fullback also told reporters that K-State coach Bill Snyder’s demanding day-to-day schedule within the football program helped prepare him for the NFL.
Including Klein, a few other players landed contracts as undrafted free agents Saturday night — tight end Travis Tannahill with the Cleveland Browns, Justin Tuggle with the Houston Texans, running back Angelo Pease with the Green Bay Packers, Ryan Doerr with the Denver Broncos and Nigel Malone with the Indianapolis Colts. coach Pete Carroll, who recruited him to play at USC.