'Get Joe some help,' ESPN analyst says

March 02, 2010|By Mike Preston

As far as ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. is concerned, the Ravens' top mission during the NFL draft will be to find quarterback Joe Flacco some talented receivers.

Forget about a cornerback and pass rushers. Those are secondary issues. The main emphasis should be allowing your franchise quarterback to grow.

There wasn't much room in that area a year ago, Kiper said.

"Before the last regular season started, I went on record and said the Ravens had the worst receiving corps in the NFL," said Kiper, who resides in Harford County. "They had Derrick Mason, a No. 2 playing No. 1. Mark Clayton never caught on, and Demetrius Williams didn't live up to his potential. Kelley Washington was solid at No. 3, but they might let him go with Williams during the offseason.

"Selecting offensive tackle Michael Oher last year helped in pass protection, but in a league that has gone pass-happy, the Ravens rely on running back Ray Rice. They've got to get Joe some help. When you don't, it stunts the growth of really good quarterbacks."

The Ravens have the No. 25 overall pick in the draft, and Kiper says they could fill most of their needs as far as finding a receiver, tight end and cornerback.

According to most draft experts, Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant is the best receiver coming out of college, and he'll probably be gone by the time the Ravens select.

But Kiper says the Ravens don't need to trade up to get a quality receiver. He expects a lot of defensive players to be taken in the first round, and the Ravens should just hold still.

"The Ravens could trade up, but it is too costly," Kiper said. "There are more health issues regarding this draft, particularly of possible first-round players, than I've seen in quite a while. So, do you trade up to get Bryant, who has had his own health issues?

"I think if the Ravens stay where they are, then they can get a quality receiver like a Demaryius Thomas out of Georgia Tech or Arrelious Benn, from Illinois. Either one of those guys could help the Ravens."

Or, Kiper said, the Ravens might opt for a tight end in the first round, such as Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham. If the Ravens take a wide receiver, they might take a tight end in the second round.

Kiper likes Arizona's Rob Gronkowski, Pittsburgh's Dorin Dickerson and Florida's Aaron Hernandez, even though Hernandez is more of a receiver than a blocker.

" Todd Heap had a solid-to-OK season, but his age has become a factor," Kiper said of the Ravens' starting tight end. "L.J. Smith gave them nothing at that position. So, it is of vital importance that the Ravens get multiple receivers out of this draft, I'd say at least two, to improve the play of their quarterback and the passing game."

The Ravens would like to come out of the April event with a cornerback, too. Lardarius Webb had an outstanding rookie year in 2009, but he tore an anterior cruciate ligament late in the season. Fabian Washington, once a starting cornerback himself, also tore an ACL last season.

Veteran cornerbacks Chris Carr and Domonique Foxworth were playing reasonably well at the end of the season, but the Ravens need another cornerback in the mix.

Kiper said the Ravens can find one in the third or fourth round, just as they found Webb in the third last April out of Nicholls State.

Donovan Warren out of Michigan and Iowa's Amari Spievey, both of whom he labels as second-tier cornerbacks, would fit the bill.

"Just because we're projecting them as second-tier means we think they will go third or fourth round, but that doesn't mean they can't play," Kiper said. "Webb wasn't projected as a first-round pick last season, but he had a great year, and the Ravens hit on him.

"The Ravens are one of the better drafting teams in the NFL. You make your team with fourth- and fifth-round picks, and it helps if you can get a lot of those. The Ravens haven't had a lot, but they do well with the ones they get.

"Look through the years. They found guys that no one else wanted like Mike Flynn, Priest Holmes, a Bart Scott, Kelly Gregg, Jameel McClain, even a B.J. Sams. Sure, they will have their misses,but they are good at finding entities that no one else thinks can play."

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