Although the Ravens drafted Colorado State-Pueblo center Ryan Jensen in the sixth round, Gino Gradkowski remains the frontrunner to replace six-time Pro Bowl selection Matt Birk at center.

The younger brother of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, Gradkowski was drafted in the fourth round last year out of Delaware as the center of the future. And Birk retired in February.

The 6-foot-3, 300-pounder gets high marks for his athleticism and his performance in the regular-season finale against a Cincinnati Bengals defensive line headlined by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins, but is slightly undersized.

"I think people probably look at Gino and think, 'Oh, he's kind of a small guy,'" Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said during The Baltimore Sun Sports Forum. "He's a small-school guy and he's probably not the biggest guy physically, but I think he's a gritty, smart tough guy, very quick-footed. He fits our zone blocking scheme very well.

"He's definitely going to have every opportunity to be a starting center for us this year. He's going to have some competition. He's got the right mentality, the right makeup, the drive to be a good player. He comes from a football family. He's an important piece of the puzzle."

Gradkowski spent his rookie season soaking up knowledge from Birk: learning how to snap the football precisely to quarterback Joe Flacco, how to diagnose defenses' blitz and stunt packages to make line calls, and acquiring the work habits of a professional offensive lineman.