Ravens may have to reach to get receiver they want

There's some unproven talent in the draft — like Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill — but is the risk worth it?

April 09, 2012|Mike Preston

Ever since the 2011 season ended, the Ravens have talked about acquiring another wide receiver. But with the free agency list depleted and the Ravens drafting late in each round, it's doubtful they can make a big splash.

But the most intriguing receiver who might be there or close to where the Ravens draft in the first round (29th overall) is Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill. He is 6-4 and runs a 4.36 forty-yard dash, which makes him the perfect complement to Torrey Smith at the other outside receiver position.

Hill had only 26 receptions for 820 yards and five touchdowns last season, but that's because Georgia Tech runs an option offense. Hill performed well at the scouting combine.

The Ravens have virtually no shot at Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon or Notre Dame's Michael Floyd in the first round, but Hill, LSU's Rueben Randle or Rutgers's Mohamed Sanu could be first- or second- round targets. The Ravens might move up a couple of spots to get Hill.

All three are tall, and could replace veteran Anquan Boldin after next season.

"He's an explosive guy who plays in that triple-option offense and really jumped off the film in terms of vertical speed," said Ravens director of college scouting, Joe Hortiz, of Hill. "He's raw, like a lot of guys are who have come out of that offense. Their route polish isn't quite there, but his athletic traits are really outstanding and exceptional, rare for the position. It would be a process of him picking up an NFL-style offense, learning how to read defenses."

"[Mohamed] Sanu comes more from a pro-style offense. He certainly has the size. He's not quite as explosive as a Stephen Hill, but he's a guy who can catch a ball really well," said Hortiz. "He understands how to use his body and get open, work underneath. They are both talented guys, a little bit different types of players. Randall, he's more pro-style. They run a lot of that zone-read, depending on the quarterback, but he's explosive and he's been a playmaker there at LSU."

Safety needed

This is a critical draft for the Ravens because they have eight picks and will have to replace several more starters at the end of the season.

Included on the list of possible players leaving are safeties Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed, both in the final year of their contracts.

It's interesting to watch general manager Ozzie Newsome's response whenever he is questioned about Reed's future.

Newsome stared at a reporter recently when asked about Reed possibly retiring again. He seemed stunned to think anybody would take Reed's hinting about leaving the game seriously.

So did I.

"I have not had a conversation with Ed since our last game, to be honest," said Newsome. "As of right now, whoever we play in that first game this year, I anticipate Ed Reed being our starting free safety. That's as much information as I have at this point."

Bisciotti's call

There is a belief around town that Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti does not participate in player negotiations, but he does make his feelings known.

He wasn't in favor of paying former left guard Ben Grubbs close to the same money as starting right guard Marshal Yanda (5 years, $32 million) because he didn't want so much money invested in two guards.

Grubbs went to New Orleans for a deal valued at $36 million over five years. And, unfortunately for the Ravens, they might not recover from Grubbs leaving for another year or two.

Trouble with Sooners

The Ravens haven't fared well with drafting Oklahoma players recently. The list includes guard Chris Chester, receiver Mark Clayton and linebacker/defensive end Dan Cody.

Cody was injury prone and Chester got pushed around at guard because he was too light. Clayton was also considered small, dropped some big passes in big games and was hampered by hamstring injuries throughout his career in Baltimore.

They were all good people, not-so-good players.

Billick's role

When asked recently how current head coach John Harbaugh differed from predecessors Ted Marchibroda and Brian Billick in their involvement in the draft, Newsome was kind to Billick.

"Brian got to the point where he really trusted us. He trusted the process, and we would bring him in when needed, and he enjoyed the aspect of personnel," said Newsome.

That's funny, because everyone at The Castle knew that when it came to the draft, Billick didn't study tape and had no clue. He wouldn't have known a draft pick from a draft dodger.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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