Notre Dame receiver Tate zips into view

His 40-yard dash impresses

March 01, 2010|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | kevin.vanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

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 persuade someone to take a chance on him in the first round. Even Tate predicted in his interview that 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 likes most about Tate is his ability to play in space. He compared him to Ray Rice in his ability to make tacklers miss.

He'll get no disagreement from Tate.

"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 that of the rest of the wide receivers in the draft, although some of that credit has to go to Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, and the fact that Irish's defense was so horrendous that the team was 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 Arizona 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 Clausen has to scramble outside the pocket and find someone.

Berry a standout
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, plenty of people feel the best football player in the draft might be Tennessee safety Eric Berry.

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

Asked what he thought about the suggestion that he could be the next Reed - a six-time Pro Bowl selection, 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 be Ed Reed or better."

Repeat after me
Ravens coach John Harbaugh continued to repeat the organization's stance on backup 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 season's end 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'sbackup.

Harbaugh did say the Ravens would be open to making a move if it would benefit them, but it's unclear whether Smith would have trade value. In limited NFL action, he 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 Seattle Seahawks, 27-6, in his first career start, but beat the Pittsburgh 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."

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