Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of player personnel, gave quarterback Joe Flacco a pre-draft assignment before the lockout: Scout a selected group of six receivers expected to be taken in the middle rounds and report back.
"Tandon Doss was the top guy," coach John Harbaugh said Saturday as the Ravens wrapped up their 16th draft.
In an offseason where the Ravens took away Flacco's quarterbacks coach and told him to wait another year for a contract extension, the organization granted one of his wishes with an Indiana wide receiver in the fourth round.
Doss is a 6-foot-2, 201-pound possession receiver who has drawn comparisons to T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who could have his roster spot on the Ravens taken by the 123rd player taken overall.
As the Ravens were selecting Doss, it didn't go unnoticed that he had been previously earmarked by Flacco.
"What he liked about him is that he caught the ball away from his body," DeCosta said. "He was tough and very physical. He made the comment that he looked like the kind of guy that was easy to throw the ball to. That kind of stuck with me."
Doss decided to enter the draft because he wanted to make enough money to support his mother, who raised him as a single parent, and his brother Anthony, who has medical issues.
Anthony has been diagnosed as a schizophrenic and has been in jail as well as various mental institutions. His brother is currently living at home.
"I've been through stuff throughout my life," Doss said. "It made me a lot tougher, and I had to grow up a lot quicker coming from that with my family. I feel like football has always been an escape for me. Every time I'm on the field, I always give 100 percent — my best. I clear my mind and focus on what I need to get done."
Projected to go as high as the second round, Doss slid in the draft because he lacked the "wow" factor, as some scouts described it. He isn't the type of receiver who will accelerate past cornerbacks or explode out of cuts.
Draft experts rave about Doss' instincts. He's crafty at working the inside, understanding the coverages and finding soft spots in the zone defenses.
While he only averaged 12 yards per catch at Indiana, he caught 77 passes in 2009 and 63 passes in 2010.
Doss is the prototypical sure-handed receiver who lives on catching passes underneath when defenses are worried about getting burned deep by other receivers.
"Tandon is the opposite of Torrey [Smith, the Ravens' second-round pick]," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "We thought he would be a great compliment to Torrey."
Doss might not have the same flash as Smith, but he does have more slashes. He carried the Hoosiers at times as a receiver/rusher/returner.
He led the Big Ten in all-purpose yards for the second consecutive season, ranking fifth nationally at 175.8 yards per game.
Harbaugh got an inside scouting report on Doss from Tom Crean, the Indiana men's basketball coach who is Harbaugh's brother-in-law.
"[Doss] was their go-to guy," Harbaugh said. "He was the guy they got the ball every way they could. He wasn't really a down field guy, and I think it had more to do with the quarterback because he got the ball on screens, crossing routes, stop routes. Whenever they needed a play, they gave it to him."
Doss' success is more impressive considering he played with two sports hernias last season. He had surgery on both groins after the season, which caused him to miss the scouting combine in February.
While some teams passed on him because of those injuries, Harbaugh said it was a positive because it showed his toughness.
"There is always disappointment," Doss said about dropping farther than expected in the draft. "You feel like you're better than some of the people that have been drafted. I feel like Baltimore is a good fit for me, and I'm excited to get things rolling."