For Ravens, No Handy Solution

April 19, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Even if the Ravens can't complete a trade for the Arizona Cardinals' Anquan Boldin, team officials don't feel the pressure to select a wide receiver in the first round in next weekend's NFL draft.

"I would challenge you to go to those receivers that we have working right now in the offseason program and tell them we need a receiver and see their reaction," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said at the team's pre-draft news conference. "I like the attitude of those guys. We're looking forward to some of those young guys taking some big leaps in their second year.

"So, is wide receiver a great need? Anybody that's special can come and make this football team better."

The problem for the Ravens is that - outside of Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree and Missouri's Jeremy Maclin - it's tough to decipher which wide receivers are special and which ones are suspect.

Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey clocked the fastest time at the NFL scouting combine, but he was not a consistent pass catcher in college. Florida's Percy Harvin is elusive, but he has durability issues. North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks is physically and mentally tough, but he doesn't have prototypical speed. And Rutgers' Kenny Britt has great size and strength, but he hasn't shown great instincts at times.

"If you look at their history, they have found great players at the bottom of the first round, but I am not convinced it will be a receiver," said Nolan Nawrocki, the draft analyst for Pro Football Weekly.

Teams have become more cautious when it comes to drafting receivers in the first round. In fact, none were selected in the opening round last year.

Recently, there has been increasing talk that Harvin, Nicks and Britt could all fall into the second round. So, the Ravens could have a shot at one of them or Ohio State's Brian Robiskie with the 57th overall pick.

"They could slide. I'm not going to say they couldn't," said Joe Hortiz, the Ravens' director of college scouting. "But I couldn't tell you which one could."

The Ravens have taken a close look at all of the receivers who could be available at the bottom of the first round. The team held private workouts with Heyward-Bey, Harvin, Nicks and Britt.

"I think we know what to look for," director of player personnel Eric DeCosta said, "and hopefully we can get one of the guys that we like."

When it comes to receivers, the Ravens stress intelligence. They want someone who has that "gym rat" work ethic.

Ravens scouts are also scrutinizing the receivers' toughness, especially when the players need to come off jams at the line of scrimmage.

With a deep pool at receiver, the Ravens probably could find someone with those traits after the first round.

Some receivers who could be on the Ravens' radar include Robiskie, Georgia's Mohamed Massaquoi (second or third round), West Virginia's Pat White (middle rounds), Cal-Poly's Ramses Barden (middle to late rounds), Rice's Jarrett Dillard (middle to late rounds) and Southern California's Patrick Turner (late rounds).

In their 13-year draft history, the Ravens selected a receiver in the first round twice: Travis Taylor (10th overall, 2000) and Mark Clayton (22nd, 2005). Neither has caught more than 67 passes in a season.

While the Ravens might not take a chance on a receiver in the first round this year, the position could be the team's biggest need next year. Their top three receivers - Clayton, Derrick Mason and Demetrius Williams - could all be free agents by the end of the season.

"We're going to have to find some guys at some point," DeCosta said. "But I don't necessarily feel the pressure to do that this year."

history of ravens' draft haul

A look at the wide receivers drafted by the Ravens:

Receiver Yr. Rd. School Jamison Hensley's comment

Jermaine Lewis '96 5 Maryland Became invaluable returner

James Roe '96 6 Norfolk State 15 catches in three seasons

Patrick Johnson '98 2 Oregon Great speed; bad hands

Brandon Stokley '99 4 SW Louisiana Injuries derailed Ravens career

Travis Taylor '00 1 Florida Average receiver; not 1st-rounder

Ron Johnson '02 4 Minnesota 11 catches in two seasons

Javin Hunter '02 6 Notre Dame Later tried to convert to CB

Devard Darling '04 3 Wash. State 20 catches in four seasons

Clarence Moore '04 6 N. Arizona Couldn't go over middle

Derek Abney '04 7 Kentucky Too small and fragile

Mark Clayton '05 1 Oklahoma Jury is still out on him

Demetrius Williams '06 4 Oregon Can't stay healthy

Yamon Figurs '07 3 Kan. State Stock falling as a returner, too

Marcus Smith '08 4 New Mexico No catches in rookie season

Justin Harper '08 7 Va. Tech Injured reserve with knee injury

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