Ravens pondering their receiver options

OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens' quest to solve their wide receiver predicament has been encumbered by multiple obstacles.<br><br> The lowest-ranked passing offense in the league from last season remains bereft of an elite receiver following a nullified trade for All-Pro Terrell Owens.<br>

Accompanying that negative factor is the modest contribution and development of former first-round draft pick Travis Taylor and the loss of Marcus Robinson to the Minnesota Vikings via free agency. 

The Ravens also lack a first-round draft pick after a trade last year with New England to draft starting quarterback Kyle Boller.

Logically then, the AFC North champions would appear to be a lock to draft a wide receiver in the second round on Saturday with the 51st overall selection.

However, that would likely be a mistaken assumption.

Because of USC sophomore wideout Mike Williams' exclusion from the draft and an anticipated run on receivers, the Ravens appear poised to exercise one of a few options:

One, the team could stick with its best-player-available philosophy and wait until the third round to take advantage of a deep receiver pool by picking a developmental prospect such as North Carolina State's Jericho Cotchery, Florida State's P.K. Sam, Syracuse's Johnnie Morant or Clemson's Derrick Hamilton.

"We aren't going to run out of wideouts," Ravens director of player personnel Phil Savage said. "If they're all gone, then I guess we're going to our wishbone offense."

Added Ravens coach Brian Billick: "Williams being out of the draft diminishes the receiver pool and it reduces the chances that one of the top-end receivers falls to us."

Two, the team could use a few of its 10 draft picks to try to trade up to draft Oklahoma State's Rashaun Woods, a proven pass-catcher with a reputation for high character who set an NCAA mark with seven touchdown catches against SMU.

Woods has excellent size at 6-foot-2, 207 pounds and erased questions about his speed with a clocking of 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine.

"Everyone saw what we saw at the combine," Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "He performed in front of 32 coaches and 32 general managers. Everyone can see what he can do on the football field."

Trading does appear to be a viable option. The Ravens have the ammunition of an extra fifth-round pick as compensation gained in the Owens' settlement.

Three, the team could stick with its value-first mantra and hope that LSU speedster Devery Henderson, a compact, converted running back, or polished USC wideout Keary Colbert are there at No. 51.

"Devery Henderson has outstanding track speed," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "He is a running back in a receiver's body."

Savage isn't sure that Henderson would still be available at that spot. He's even less optimistic that Ohio State's Michael Jenkins would be there at No. 51.

Colbert was the recipient of single coverage opposite Williams and took full advantage, setting the co-national champion Trojans' all-time receptions mark with 207 catches.

"Colbert can flat-out play," NFL draft consultant Gil Brandt said. "The game matters a lot to him. I like him a lot and he's going to make some team very happy."

Away from Williams' high-profile shadow, Colbert caught a touchdown pass in the Senior Bowl. He also raised a few eyebrows with a 4.4 clocking at a campus workout.

"Keary is a pro," DeCosta said. "He's a guy who could probably come in next season and compete for a starting position right away."

Virginia Tech receiver Ernest Wilford has excellent size at 6-4, 223 pounds, but he raised scouts' concerns when the converted defensive end only managed a 4.67 time.

"Ernest Wilford is not as fast as the other guys, but he has imposing size, is tough and has very good hands," DeCosta said. "He's another guy who we think can come in and back up and eventually develop into a starter for the Ravens."

The Ravens have a Pro Bowl tight end in Todd Heap. However, their returning receivers -- Taylor, Frank Sanders and Ron Johnson -- combined for just 54 catches and three touchdowns last season.

Baltimore has been burned in past drafts at receiver, including: second-rounder Patrick Johnson in 1998, fourth-rounder Brandon Stokley in 1999, Taylor, the 10th overall pick in 2000, and fourth-rounder Ron Johnson in 2002.

"Like a lot of positions, it is hit and miss," Billick said. "For whatever reason, receiver has been tough. I don't care if is the first round or anywhere on the first day. There is a maturation process."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


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