Ravens fail to catch a break

Williams' absence hurts odds of drafting receiver

First pick may go to defense

Team may look at trade, free agency to fill hole

April 20, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The court ruling that blocked sophomore receiver Mike Williams from entering this weekend's draft added another obstacle to the Ravens' pursuit for an elite wide-out.

The team's chances of addressing its most pressing need decreased along with the receiver pool yesterday, when Southern California's Williams was among the college underclassmen barred from this year's draft.

With a first-round lock like Williams gone, the odds of one of the top seven rated receivers (University of Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald, Texas' Roy Williams, Washington's Reggie Williams, Wisconsin's Lee Evans, Louisiana State's Michael Clayton, Ohio State's Michael Jenkins and Oklahoma State's Rashaun Woods) falling to the Ravens' 51st overall pick seem slim.

"The chances of them getting to us diminish every time you take one away," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "If indeed Mike Williams is not going to be eligible for this year's draft, it's like someone throwing a team in with an extra draft choice because one more is gone."

As a result, the Ravens appear more convinced to go into a different direction with their top pick - perhaps defensive back or defensive line - and wait until the third or fourth round before drafting a receiver.

In addition, the Ravens will look to acquire a veteran wide-out through a trade or free agency after the draft to upgrade the NFL's worst passing attack.

That's why the news of Williams' ineligibility for the draft brought mixed emotions for the Ravens, who had supported excluding underclassmen from the draft.

"I think short term, the reaction is negative from us," Ravens director of player personnel Phil Savage said. "But I think long term, it's much better for everyone involved."

Ravens officials said allowing underclassmen to play in the NFL sends the wrong message to young players.

"As a former college coach, my biggest concern is that for every Maurice Clarett, there's going to be a dozen other guys that see this as an easy avenue and then falls off the face of the earth," Billick said.

The Ravens also support the decision because they said it's the best system to develop and dissect talent.

"For the good of the game, I hope this court ruling will stick for the long term," Savage said.

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