04/30/2012 - A closer look at the Ravens' picks: Round 4/98 - Gino Gradkowski, C/G, 6-3, 300, Delaware...Gradkowski is making an adjustment to a much higher level of football. Smart and tough, he's the younger brother of quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. - The Sports Xchange
Gradkowski grew up in Pittsburgh and originally enrolled at West Virginia, where cousin Carmen Connolly was a wide receiver. But it wasn't until Gradkowski transferred to Delaware that he emerged as an NFL prospect.
He was a two-year starter at Delaware, and was named to the 2011 AFCA FCS All-America team as a senior, voted on by the coaches.
"Gino had a phenomenal year, possibly the best for an offensive lineman that I've seen in my 10 years here at Delaware," said Hens coach Keeler. "The leadership that he provides to our team in the weight room and the locker room, not to mention his play on the field, makes him very deserving of being a first team All-American."
Gradkowski's versatility is what helped him line up several pre-draft visits with NFL teams. Primarily a guard for Delaware, he also saw time at center, which ultimately could be his primary position in the pros.
"I definitely take pride in being athletic," Gradkowski said. "I played basketball in high school. That's where I got my athleticism from. I'm good in space at blocking the secondary guys. I take a lot of pride in my ability to understand offenses and defenses. Mentally-wise, I bring a lot to the table."
"It's good that I played all three inside positions at Delaware. My versatility, bouncing around the inside, obviously helps. Anybody that goes to the NFL wants to be a starter. That's my goal. If I need to be that swing man as a backup my first year, that's fine. I want to compete for a starting job."
Gradkowski, the younger brother of Bengals quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, said he tries to emulate veteran NFL centers like Ravens six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk and Green Bay Packers center Jeff Saturday.
"Hopefully, I wind up on a team with a veteran guy," Gino Gradkowski said. "Baltimore would be a great situation for me. To learn behind Matt Birk would be awesome and be able to pick his brain."
Strengths: Smart, assignment sound blocker with good awareness, keeping his head on a swivel. Professional makeup and coachable with the desire to be the best and doesn't cheat his ability. Tough and gritty, playing with a chip on his shoulder. Versatile with playing experience at all three interior line spots. Heady with high football IQ and very good bloodlines. Prides himself on fundamentals and plays to his strengths, understanding what he's best at and where he needs to improve. Tough-minded with natural leadership qualities. Works hard to hone his craft and plays with a competitive drive and blue collar mentality.
Weaknesses: Only average size and length. Lacks overpowering strength to dominate defenders on brute power alone. Has stiff hips and lacks the fluidity or ankle flexion to quickly redirect his momentum. Not a natural knee bender and needs to be more consistent dropping his hips and anchoring at the point of attack. Tends to get grabby and rely on his upper body strength when beat, latching on and stopping his feet. Played at a lower level of competition and didn't face top defensive linemen week-in and week-out.