Eyeing draft for receivers, Ravens see lots of options

Team looks to add depth to roster with just two experienced wide-outs

April 17, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The run on wide receivers should start early in Saturday's NFL draft, but the Ravens are confident that they can land a quality pass-catcher.

Wide receiver is considered the strongest position in this weekend's draft, and the top four - Tennessee's Donte Stallworth, Hawaii's Ashley Lelie, Florida's Jabar Gaffney and Louisiana State's Josh Reed - should be selected in the first round. There is even a chance that six receivers could go in the opening round because the free-agent market hasn't offered much at the position.

Carrying only two receivers with game experience on their roster, the Ravens are one of many teams looking for depth at receiver.

"If one of the top guys make it to us, we'll take them [in the first round]," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' senior vice president of football operations. "We like to play with three receivers. So having a third one - especially one that could learn to be a good one - would fulfill a need."

Among that top group of receivers, it appears that only Reed could be had with the Ravens' 24th pick in the first round.

The best receiver in college football last season, Reed could fall this far down because of his height (5 feet 10) and lack of world-class speed. He probably would fit best as a slot receiver because of his ability to run short to intermediate routes.

The Ravens, though, are far from locked into taking a receiver in the first round.

"I think there is still some good receivers to be had in the second and third rounds as well as the second day of the draft," Newsome said.

In fact, the Ravens may prefer not to select a receiver first because wide-outs take longer than those at most positions to develop into impact players.

"I've gotten to experience some of them myself," Newsome said.

Unlike the college game, receivers in the NFL have to take into account the depth of the route and how the pattern could change based on certain coverages and blitzes.

"There are so many things you have to account for before the ball gets thrown that it makes the transition a little tougher," Newsome said. "Other than quarterback, receiver may be the toughest position that a guy has to play."

After that cluster of receivers, the Ravens have to weigh their options.

Pittsburgh's Antonio Bryant has breakaway speed yet teams have concerns about his character. Florida's Reche Caldwell runs great routes but has always been overshadowed by Gaffney in college.

Virginia Tech's Andre Davis has raw potential as a receiver and could be a big-time returner.

"He has instant speed," said Phil Savage, the Ravens' director of college scouting. "He can make a move and really accelerate."

Florida State's Javon Walker seems to rise to the occasion in games, but he needs to show that he can catch the ball consistently. His stock increased after the season as a result of impressive showings at the Senior Bowl, combine and on-campus workout.

"He caught a lot of passes, but he dropped a lot," Savage said. "But his drops are more concentration-oriented than bad hands."

The Ravens have also taken a liking to Michigan's Marquise Walker. While he won't get taken in the first round because he lacks big-time speed, he is a big possession receiver with impressive ball skills and hands.

"He made some of the best catches I've seen a collegian make in a long time," Newsome said.

NOTE: The Ravens have hired Darin Kerns as assistant equipment manager and Michael Pettine, who will work with the team's football video operations.

At a glance

What: NFL draft

When: Saturday (rounds 1-3) and Sunday (rounds 4-7)

Where:New York

TV: Saturday, ESPN (noon-7 p.m.); ESPN2 (7 p.m.-conclusion). Sunday, ESPN (11 a.m.-1 p.m.); ESPN2 (1 p.m.-conclusion)

Ravens' picks:

Rd. 1: 24th

Rd. 2: 56th

Rd. 3: 87th

Rd. 4: 123rd

Rd. 5: 159th

Rd. 6: 195th

Rd. 6: 206th

Rd. 6: 207th

Rd. 6: 209th

Rd. 7: 236th

Receiver picks A look at the Ravens' history at drafting wide receivers:

Year Player (round)

2000 Travis Taylor (1) 1999 Brandon Stokley (4) 1998 Patrick Johnson (2) 1996 Jermaine Lewis (5) 1996 James Roe (6)

On the board?

The Ravens have the 24th pick in the first round, the 56th pick in the second round and 87th pick in the third round of Saturday's NFL draft. Wide receivers who are projected to land in those rounds:

Round 1

Player, School Ht./Wt. Skinny

Josh Reed, LSU 5-10/210 Fearless over the middle

Antonio Bryant, Pitt 6-1/188 Emotional, streaky player

Reche Caldwell, Fla. 5-11/194 Changes directions with best

Round 2

Marquise Walker, Mich. 6-2/219 Makes acrobatic grabs

Javon Walker, Fla. St. 6-2/210 Not a burner but uses size

Andre Davis, Va. Tech 6-1/194 Needs some polishing

Tim Carter, Auburn 5-11/189 Flashy performer still evolving

Later rounds

Kelly Campbell Georgia Tech; Ron Johnson, Minnesota; Antwaan Randle El, Indiana; Cliff Russell, Utah

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