For Ravens, second-day choices are chance to get first-rate talent

Team gives later rounds more than a passing look

Nfl Draft

April 24, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

For all the focus on whether the Ravens will draft that elusive franchise quarterback with the 10th overall pick, team officials have tuned out the hype and dedicated equal energy to finding that sleeper on the second day.

"We devote almost the same amount of time," Ravens player personnel director Phil Savage said. "All the focus in the public eye is on the first round, but the later players get the same opportunity to be read in our room as the first pick of the draft.

"Obviously, we're going to have eight or nine reports on a Carson Palmer, whereas Chad Williams [a sixth-round pick last year], we are only going to have two or three reports. But all the players get a fair shot at it."

Edwin Mulitalo, Brandon Stokley, Ed Hartwell and Adalius Thomas, all starters from a year ago, were recent second-day draft choices. The Ravens have two fourth-, two fifth-, a sixth- and two seventh-round picks.

On Sunday, when those rounds will take place, players such as North Carolina receiver Sam Aiken or Virginia receiver Billy McMullen could be on the Ravens' radar after productive, if not spectacular, college careers.

Aiken played in relative national obscurity with the Tar Heels, who finished 3-9 last season and played with two quarterbacks. He led North Carolina with 46 catches for 789 yards and eight touchdowns but lacks the speed (4.64 seconds in the 40-yard dash) teams are looking for, which is why he is projected as a middle-round pick.

"Sam's got good size, good speed, is tough and has some quickness," receivers/quarterbacks coach David Shaw said. "He's one of those guys that is lumped in those middle rounds that's got a chance to make an impact some place next year."

Aiken, 6 feet 2, 209 pounds, is part of an inordinate number of bigger receivers who are projected to impact the middle-to-later rounds. As many as 16 receivers 6 feet or over could be selected on the second day.

McMullen, 6-3, 210 pounds, is well thought of by the Ravens, but a dislocated elbow in his team's bowl game last season may hurt his overall draft status.

His time in the 40, which is in the same range as Aiken, has also hurt his stock, but he did lead the Atlantic Coast Conference in receptions (83), receiving yards (1,060) and touchdowns (12) as a junior before falling off somewhat as a senior.

"Billy McMullen was a good player at Virginia and could possibly go in the third round," Savage said. "He's another tall receiver that has good hands and does some things after the catch that you like, in terms of breaking tackles and things."

Last year, the Ravens had eight second-day picks and received significant contributions from four of them. Punter Dave Zastudil (fourth round) appeared in every game, Lamont Brightful (sixth round) was the primary kickoff returner, Chester Taylor (sixth round) emerged as the backup running back and Williams (sixth round) proved to be a valuable player on special teams.

Seventh-round pick Wes Pate was the only draft choice not to make the team, but that likely will not dissuade the Ravens from taking a chance on another quarterback, especially if they bypass one earlier.

The Ravens may look at one of the most productive quarterbacks in NCAA history in Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury, who most experts have rated as a sixth- or seventh-rounder. He holds seven NCAA records, including pass completions (1,222) and attempts (1,883).

His arm strength, though, is far below average.

Even if Kingsbury is not the answer, drafting a quarterback late may not be such a bad option. Five of the nine top-rated passers in the AFC were drafted in the fourth round or later.

"The one thing you can never knock is production, and [Kingsbury] had it," Shaw said. "And it's not just good production, it's huge production. Somebody is going to get a steal with him. He's smart and accurate. They talk about his arm strength, but arm strength is subjective depending on what offense you run."

Few players have ever topped the production of quarterback Curt Anes and receiver David Kircus - the dynamic combination that set Division II records at Grand Valley State. Anes threw 48 touchdown passes last season and Kircus caught 35 for an NCAA all-division record.

NOTE: The Ravens' Spring Football Festival will be held Saturday at Ravens Stadium. More than 20 players and cheerleaders are expected to attend. For more information, call 410-261-7283.

Draft data

Rounds 1-3: Saturday, noon-10 p.m.

Rounds 4-7: Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Ravens' picks: 10, 41, 77, 109, 134, 146, 173, 182, 223, 250, 258

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