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Albert McClellan Next Ravens Undrafted Starter?

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When Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was asked about who will be stepping in and getting the playing time that used to be delegated to outside linebacker Jarret Johnson, the first player brought up was Paul Kruger. However, Harbaugh also had some love for converted defensive end Albert McClellan.

"Albert McClellan will be in the mix, and others potentially, but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t rise to the occasion and have a heck of a year," Harbaugh said at last week’s pre-draft press conference.

Most fans remember McClellan for his surprise start against the San Fransisco 49ers in Ray Lewis' absence. McClellan played exceptionally well in that game especially considering it was his first start at inside linebacker at any level. In particular he played well against the run.

In a post a few days ago, while examining the Ravens options for early down run defenders, the thought of McClellan playing more of a significant role never crossed my mind. It very well should have though. He has been an outstanding special teams player for the Ravens since the team signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He has played sparingly on defense but when given the chance, played well in all phases.

In doing some research on McClellan I found this pre-draft scouting report at

2010 NFL Draft Prospect Scouting Report:

Albert McClellan, OLB, Marshall

Playing at what has been a relatively bad Marshall team, Albert McClellan has failed to garner the national attention that he deserves. Even as a freshman, the 6-2, 252 pound defensive end was a menace to the opposing offense. He started five games as a true freshman and totaled 40 tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks. It was the following season in 2006 when McClellan really came on strong and earned a variety of conference and national accolades. During that season, he led Conference USA with 19.0 tackles for loss and 11.0 sacks. He missed the 2007 campaign with a knee injury and that was one reason why his junior campaign in 2008 was not as promising as many had hoped. He overcame the injury and still earned first-team All-Conference USA honors, but he finished the year with just 2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. The injury can be partially to blame, but mostly the poor numbers were due to constant double teams. The same thing can be said for the 2009 season where McClellan has 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks through 11 games. McClellan should still be considered one of the top 15 senior defensive ends in this class when projecting to the NFL. If he has a good senior week and NFL Combine, his stock could shoot up fast and he could be gone by the second or third round. 1/24 Update: McClellan is seen as a tweener in the NFL right now and he will likely need to make the move from defensive end to outside linebacker. His workouts leading up to the draft will be the big difference. On many draft boards McClellan is way down the list and might not even be drafted, but he should move up to at least the fifth or sixth round once he shows the scouts that he has the skills to play as a rushing outside linebacker.

Standing 6'2" and weighing in at a solid 250 lbs. he definitely has the size needed to play a variety of positions on defense. In finding out a bit more about him, the thought of McClellan taking the place of Johnson as an edge setting run defender on early downs, becomes more and more intriguing. He himself proclaims to be an expert at setting the edge. Something Johnson truly mastered during his time here in Baltimore.

With Paul Kruger and Pernell McPhee more highly touted as pass rushing specialists, it could be McClellan that ends up as the "starter" at the outside linebacker position. Possibly only because the Ravens would chose to start the game in their base run defense. Again, not to say that Kruger could not handle being a four down player, I think that if defending the run were one of his strengths the team would have highlighted it more thus far.

"I’m going to set the edge on the run. Setting the edge is what I do," McClellan said on Friday.

"Hopefully I can compete for a position. That’s what we’re here for is to compete. So by me knowing as many positions as I can learn from [Defensive Coordinator Dean] Pees, it lends room for me to step up and take more responsibility."

Albert McClellan may prove to be another undrafted steal for Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore Ravens. And from the looks of it he has the confidence of his head coach and we will most likely see if he is up to the task in 2012.