OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Needing to address the center position with veteran Matt Birk not getting any younger, the Ravens wasted no time on the third day of the draft by selecting Delaware’s Gino Gradkowski with the third pick of the fourth round.
Able to play both center and guard, the 6-foot-3, 300-pound Gradkowski will compete for the vacant left guard job as well as continue to develop at the center position. The younger brother of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, the Blue Hens product joins quarterback Joe Flacco in Baltimore.
“It’s a perfect spot for me,” Gradkowski said. “Come in and maybe play guard my first year and eventually take over at center, and that’s what I was looking to do. Get in behind a veteran like Matt Birk. I’m really excited to meet him and pick his brain about football. It’s a perfect scenario, and I just couldn’t be happier.”
Gradkowski was the second center taken off the board in the 2012 NFL Draft after Wisconsin’s Peter Konz was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the third round. The Houston Texans took the third center off the board with the pick immediately following the Ravens, grabbing George center Ben Jones with the 99th overall pick.
The Ravens showed plenty of interest in Gradkowski throughout the draft process as he reportedly made a pre-draft visit to Baltimore.
“I’m elated right now because Baltimore plays football the way it’s supposed to be played,’ Gradkowski said.
The Gradkowski pick at 98th overall was made possible by general manager Ozzie Newsome’s decision to trade the Ravens’ first-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings for the third pick of the second round (35th overall) and the third pick of the fourth round, where Baltimore grabbed the center.
A Pittsburgh native, Gradkowski began his collegiate career at West Virginia before transferring to FCS school Delaware due to a lack of playing time with the Mountaineers. He was a co-captain for the Blue Hens in his senior season.
Though he transferred to Delaware after Flacco was already taking snaps in Baltimore, Gradkowski is looking forward to potentially forming an all-Blue Hens quarterback-center combination in the future.
“I have heard a lot of great things about him, and I am excited to meet him,” Gradkowski said. “I feel like, from the things I have heard, we are very similar personality wise.”
Listen to Gradkowski’s conference call with the Baltimore media here.