Notre Dame's Tate turns heads during workout

Wide receiver runs faster than expected, could be moving up

February 28, 2010|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Baltimore Sun reporter

INDIANAPOLIS — Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate has turned some heads here, at least after Sunday's performance in the 40-yard dash. Tate ran a 4.36 and a 4.37 in his two attempts, which might convince someone to take a chance on him in the first round.

Even Tate predicted in his interview he would probably run somewhere in the neighborhood of 4.5. He didn't do quite as well in the pass catching drills -- dropping several balls -- but most teams seem comfortable with his hands.

Percy Harvin, one of the players Tate thinks he compares favorably with, ran a 4.40 at the combine and a 4.32 at his pro day. Tate was a running back in high school, but made the transition to wide receiver fairly quickly. Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta said one of the things he liked most about Tate is his ability to play in space. He compared him to Ray Rice in his ability to make people miss.

"I'd say my biggest strength is being able to break tackles," Tate said. "If you go back and watch film, it's kind of tough for guys to tackle me. My speed has always been one of my strengths. Also my hands. I think I have a decent grip on the ball. Once it touches my hands it's not going anywhere."

Tate's production in college is far better than the rest of the wide receivers in the draft, although some of that credit has to go to Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Claussen, and the fact that Notre Dame's defense was so horrendous the Irish were constantly in shootouts. But it's hard to argue with 15 touchdowns. Tate is a very good athlete who probably could have had a career in baseball if he wanted to. (He was drafted by the Diamondbacks out of high school, albeit in the 42nd round.)

If you watch Tate's highlights from 2009, you'll see a lot of his big plays come when protection breaks down and Claussen has to scramble outside the pocket and find someone. (Tate was smart enough to come back to the ball when the play breaks down, but a lot of his catches came six and seven seconds into a play, and NFL quarterbacks almost never have that kind of time to find someone open.)

Berry good

Although it's a virtual lock that the first pick in the 2010 NFL Draft will come down to Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy and Sam Bradford, there are plenty of people who feel the best football player in the draft might actually be Tennessee safety Eric Berry.

Berry, a three-year starter for the Vols, is so athletic, some scouts feel he could play both corner positions as well as free safety or strong safety, depending on where a team needs him. Although it's a pretty high bar, one of the most frequent comparisons popping up for Berry is Ravens safety Ed Reed. Not only is Berry a playmaker, his leadership skills are highly regarded. As a sophomore, he was voted a captain by his Tennessee teammates.

Asked what he thought about the suggestion he could be the next Reed -- as six-time Pro Bowler, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year and a likely Hall of Famer -- Berry said he was comfortable with it.

"I think it's a fair comparison based on potential," Berry said. "Obviously Ed Reed has done a lot more than me in the NFL, but I feel like I can do some of the same things he has done. If you look at our track records and compare them, you can see that I'm on pace to to be Ed Reed or better."

Although Reed is currently mulling retirement, Berry isn't a candidate to replace him baring a surprise trade scenario. Most mock drafts project he'll be a top 10 pick, and perhaps even in the top five.

Repeat after me

Ravens coach John Harbaugh continued to repeat the organization's stance on back-up quarterback Troy Smith this week at the NFL Combine, saying he expects Smith to remain with the Ravens in 2010.

"I see him still with the team," Harbaugh said. "Troy Smith is a Raven."

Smith, a Heisman trophy-winning quarterback at Ohio State, caused a minor controversy at the end of last season when his agent, Ralph Cindrich, stated on Twitter that the quarterback was requesting a trade because he wanted the opportunity to start somewhere. The Ravens have said they plan to keep Smith as Joe Flacco's back-up.

Harbaugh did say the team would be open to making a move if it would benefit them, but it's unclear if Smith would have any real trade value. In limited NFL action, Smith has completed 54 percent of his passes and posted a 79.7 quarterback rating.

As a rookie in 2007, he started two games for the Ravens at the end of the year. He completed 32-of-60 passes for 370 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 48 yards in those two games, and did not throw an interception. The Ravens lost to the Seahawks 27-6 in his first career start, but beat the Steelers 27-21 in the final game of the season.

"I think he's really a good quarterback," Harbaugh said. "I think Troy can play quarterback in this league as a starter. That's why we like him as our backup because at some point in time we're going to need a guy to win two, three, four games for us if Joe gets hurt. Although at the same time, I think we understand Troy's desire to be a starter. If something would work out where it's beneficial to the Ravens from our perspective and it gives him a chance to do that down the road somewhere, then we're interested in doing that. But Troy is our backup quarterback at this point and I don't think we're going to change that unless it benefits our football team."

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