FSU's Warrick a nice catch if Ravens opt to pass on QB

January 03, 1999|By KEN ROSENTHAL

TEMPE, Ariz. -- He might be the most electrifying player in college football's national championship game, so he should be good enough for the Ravens, don't you think?

Florida State wide receiver Peter Warrick is only a junior, but he's likely to be a top-10 pick if he declares himself eligible for the NFL draft, and you-know-who picks 10th.

Chances are, the Ravens still will draft a quarterback first, but they've got countless options. Their new coach will help determine the team's direction. And their new coach might decide he wants a receiver at No. 10.

Especially when the receivers are as gifted as Warrick, North Carolina State's Torry Holt and Ohio State's David Boston -- and when the quarterbacks available in the later rounds might be as good as those in the first.

Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel, declined comment on specific names, but said this week that it was "definitely a possibility" that the Ravens would select a receiver with their first pick.

"I will take a player who I feel will come in and have an impact before I take a quarterback who we don't feel would fill our needs or be ready," Newsome said.

Three straight years, the Ravens have taken a player from a Florida school in the first round -- Miami's Ray Lewis (1996), Florida State's Peter Boulware ('97) and Miami's Duane Starks ('98).

Warrick, 21, could keep the streak intact, and he would be almost certain to enter the draft if No. 2 Florida State beats No. 1 Tennessee in tomorrow night's Fiesta Bowl.

"If we win this bowl, I'll have to weigh my options," said Warrick, who has a 2-year-old daughter, A'Lyric. "If I choose to go to the next level, I want to make sure I'm doing the best thing for Pete, because I have a little girl I need to take care of."

At 6 feet and 190 pounds, Warrick is smaller than Boston, the 6-3, 205-pound junior who caught 11 balls for 105 yards in Ohio State's 24-14 victory over Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl.

Every NFL team wants the next Randy Moss. The Ravens might prefer a bigger target to pair with the 5-7 Jermaine Lewis. But Warrick offers 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash, and his 37 1/2-inch vertical leap enables him to play big.

"If you have one-on-one coverage, you pretty much just throw it up and the chances are in your favor," Florida State quarterback Marcus Outzen said. "I've never seen a better playmaker."

Warrick has averaged 20.2 yards per reception and 102.7 receiving yards per game with two sophomore quarterbacks, Outzen and the injured Chris Weinke. He should make a quick transition to the NFL after playing in Florida State's pro-style attack.

The problem for the Ravens would be finding a quarterback to get him the ball. Jim Harbaugh can no longer throw. Eric Zeier is no more than a backup. A free agent like Kerry Collins would hardly be a long-term answer.

If the Ravens drafted a receiver first, they almost certainly would be obligated to take a quarterback in the second round -- assuming someone like Kansas State's Michael Bishop or UCLA's Cade McNown were still available.

Other options would be to forget the receiver entirely, trade up for a top-rated quarterback or package the first-round pick for an available veteran like Minnesota's Brad Johnson or Buffalo's Rob Johnson.

The hiring of Minnesota offensive coordinator Brian Billick or Jacksonville offensive coordinator Chris Palmer could make such a plan more appealing -- Billick is familiar with Brad Johnson, Palmer with Rob Johnson.

Brad Johnson is more proven, and getting him would probably be the best thing the Ravens could do. But what are the odds of such a deal transpiring with so many teams desperate for quarterbacks?

Chances are, the Ravens will stay at No. 10, and face the choice of say, a quarterback like Oregon's Akili Smith or a receiver like Warrick. If they believed that Smith was a reach, they could take the receiver.

Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. rates Holt fifth, Warrick sixth and Boston eighth among his list of top 50 prospects, which includes underclassmen. Other draft services predict that Warrick could make the most immediate impact.

Florida State coach Bobby Bowden calls Warrick the most elusive receiver in FSU history. And even with Outzen making only his third start at quarterback, Tennessee is terrified of Warrick's game-breaking potential.

"What impresses you about him is the way he moves after he catches the ball," said Tennessee defensive back Dwayne Goodrich, the player expected to cover Warrick. "You can't relax."

Still, FSU's offense is so versatile, Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis plans to employ mostly man-to-man coverage, even though Warrick burned North Carolina All-America cornerback Dre Bly for three catches and 125 yards.

Warrick said he will make big plays, block for running back Travis Minor, "whatever it takes to win." Weinke, FSU's starting quarterback most of the season, went out of his way yesterday to praise Warrick's work ethic.

The FSU coaches weren't as effusive earlier this season. Warrick did not start Oct. 10 against Miami because of poor practices. He occasionally fails to make the third-and-eight catch, particularly against lesser opponents. "But that was early on," Weinke said. "Pete is a different guy now."

He can beat you throwing a 46-yard touchdown pass on a reverse, as he did against Florida. He can beat you rushing for a 19-yard touchdown, as he did against Georgia Tech. Or he can beat you in his usual manner, catching everything thrown his way.

He might be the most electrifying player in the Fiesta Bowl.

He can play for the Ravens, OK?

Pub Date: 1/03/99

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