Ravens' patience might pay off at WR spot

OWINGS MILLS – If the Baltimore Ravens intend to engage in a waiting game for a wide receiver in the NFL draft, this looks like the appropriate year to practice patience. <br><br>One of the most talent-rich and deepest positions available according to draft analysts attending the league's annual scouting combine in Indianapolis, this group of college wideouts contains multiple candidates for the Ravens' second-round draft pick.

Tall, sure-handed with a reputation for being explosive sprinters and leapers, as many as seven to eight prospects have been projected as first-round selections.

If imposing University of Southern California sophomore Mike Williams enters the draft and follows running back Maurice Clarett's footsteps, as published reports indicate he will, that would reshape draft boards. 

His inclusion would also push an already-crowded pool of receivers even further down, possibly toward the Ravens' first pick: 51st overall.

The hope is to identify an impact player, as the Arizona Cardinals did last year when they found NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Anquan Boldin in the second round.

"There are probably more wide receivers in this draft than any other that I can remember," said Gil Brandt, an NFL draft consultant who was the Dallas Cowboys' vice president of player personnel for three decades. "And there's a lot of depth at that position this year. We're able to find players like Chad Johnson further down the line. 

"Consequently, teams don't have to worry about taking a receiver with their first-round pick because there are that many good players to go around."

Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo told reporters this weekend that he considers this receiver class to be the deepest since 1988 when Tim Brown, Sterling Sharpe and Michael Irvin were the first three of six receivers selected in the first round.

Now that the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Williams might be available, it could push other intriguing players like Ohio State senior Michael Jenkins further down teams' draft boards.

After elite receiving standouts like Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald, Texas' Roy Williams and LSU's Michael Clayton, Brandt said there are several other worthy players to consider like Washington's Reggie Williams, Wisconsin's Lee Evans, Oklahoma State's Rashaun Woods, Jenkins, Texas' B.J. Johnson, LSU's Devery Henderson, Ohio State's Drew Carter, USC's Keary Colbert, Virginia Tech's Ernest Wilford and Washington State's Devard Darling.

Woods caught seven touchdowns in a game against SMU last year. He caught 102 passes in 2002.

Evans caught 64 passes for 1,213 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, rebounding from a major knee injury he suffered as a junior with the Badgers.

"Evans is very fast, very determined," Brandt said. "Evans is going to make some team very happy so long as he stays healthy."

Johnson was overshadowed by Roy Williams at Texas while playing with several quarterbacks. He caught 30 passes last season as Williams collected 70 catches for 1,079 yards and nine touchdowns.

Jenkins is 6-4, 218 pounds and caught 55 passes for 834 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

"I think Jenkins is a second-round pick who could sneak into the first round," Brandt said. "He really helped himself at the Senior Bowl, and so did Colbert. 

"I like Jenkins a lot, along with Drew Carter."

Wilford was measured at 6-3 and weighed in at 226 pounds at the combine. He averaged 16.1 yards per reception last year.

Washington's Williams, listed at 6-4, 230 pounds, caught 89 passes for 1,109 yards and eight touchdowns. 

"I think Reggie Williams is going to be a lot like Terrell Owens," Brandt said. "He drops a lot of passes, but I think you'll find that he'll be kind of like Cliff Brandt.

"He dropped a lot of passes when he first came into the league. By the time he left the league, he didn't drop anything. You can teach guys how to catch. You can't teach them to run."

A consensus All-American, Mike Williams hauled in 95 receptions for 1,314 yards and 16 touchdowns for the national champion Trojans.

Meanwhile, Colbert was a complementary target. He finished with 69 catches last year for 1,013 yards and nine touchdowns.

"Colbert is a guy who will come in and catch a ton of passes, but he doesn't have blazing speed," Brandt said. "I think he's a better player than Josh Reed, who Buffalo drafted a few years ago out of LSU."

Fifty wide receivers were invited to the scouting combine. Last year, 40 wideouts were invited to the combine and 27 were drafted.

"We'll look at all the positions," Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "One reason there are so many receivers at the combine is how much the colleges are passing."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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