Top prospects also give Ravens reasons to pass

M. Williams has sat 15 months

Clayton's small size is big issue

Focus: Recievers

April 20, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

When it comes to the receivers on the Ravens' draft wish list - Southern California's Mike Williams and Oklahoma's Mark Clayton - there are a couple of catches.

Williams, considered one of the few playmakers in the draft, has not played a game in 15 months. Clayton, who might be the most polished wide-out in this year's class, lacks ideal size at 5 feet 10.

Despite those concerns, both could upgrade a perennial weak position for the Ravens, who added Derrick Mason in free agency but probably need more help.

The Ravens' first choice presumably would be Williams, although positioning themselves to select him might prove costly. If he falls out of the top 10, the Ravens would have to give up their second-round pick to move from the 22nd overall pick to the middle of the first round to land him.

A complete player, Williams has great size (6-5) and deceptive speed. In two seasons at USC, he scored a school-record 30 touchdowns and recorded 12 100-yard receiving games.

"He's an intriguing guy," said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of college scouting. "He catches a lot of touchdowns and that's what we're looking for. A lot of guys are 6-2 and run a 4.4. But when it's crunch time, you want guys who will make plays."

Williams unsuccessfully fought to enter last year's draft after his sophomore season and couldn't return to USC because he had hired an agent. He said slipping out of the top 10 wouldn't come as a surprise.

"I can honestly say I've had a long time to go over the situation," Williams said. "Whether I'm top five, top 10, top 20, I mean, it doesn't really matter. I listened to [Falcons general manager] Rich McKay say at our [combine] orientation, it doesn't really matter where you're drafted as long as you go out, make plays and produce for your team."

Unlike Williams, Clayton probably will be available with the No. 22 pick.

He has the speed, vision and work ethic to become a Pro Bowl player. The problem is his subpar height and average leaping ability.

"He's an outstanding route runner, probably the best in the last couple of the years," DeCosta said. "He has great hands and great run-after-the-catch ability. He's just not a big guy."

Asked if it amazes him that teams are primarily looking for 6-2 receivers, Clayton said, "It doesn't surprise me because I play Madden [video game] a lot. When I'm drafting, I look for guys like that, too."

Scouts, though, believe Clayton offsets his size with toughness.

"It's my heart and my work ethic," said Clayton, who holds nearly every Oklahoma receiving record, from career receptions (221) to yards (3,241) to touchdowns (31). "I go out and every day I don't take a play off. I run my route. I block. Whenever the ball is in the air, I really believe it's mine no matter who's on me."

Beyond Williams and Clayton, the only other receiver the Ravens would consider taking in the first round is South Carolina's Troy Williamson. Alabama-Birmingham's Roddy White, the fifth receiver expected to be drafted in the first round, isn't viewed as highly by the Ravens.

Williamson likely will be picked somewhere after Williams and before Clayton. His stock soared after he was timed at 4.32 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine.

He has been so busy that he had to turn down four pre-draft trips because he had already booked seven visits (Cleveland, Chicago, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Houston and Washington).

"He gives you that raw upside," DeCosta said. "There's a few guys in the last 10 years that have his type of speed. He offers a huge, huge upside. If you hit on him, you get an elite type receiver."

The other receivers who will filter through the first day range from Miami's Roscoe Parrish, a big-play threat from a big-name school, to Hampton's Jerome Mathis, a small-school prospect with big numbers.

Mathis, who ran the 40 in 4.26 seconds, scored a touchdown every 4.4 receptions at the Division I-AA school. The Ravens have showed interest in him, attending his Pro Day workout.

Because receiver is considered one of the deepest positions in the draft, the Ravens likely will find value there in the first three rounds.

"We're not sitting here, fortunately, thinking, `This 22nd pick has to be a receiver,' " Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "But of the years that we've been doing this, it seems that you can conceivably get someone that can come in and impact your team in the first, second and third rounds."

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