Ravens' draft needs - Wide Receiver prospects

Wide receiver is a position where talent runs aplenty on draft weekend; seven receivers were taken in last years first round with a total of 13 during the draft's first day.  2003 saw a dozen chosen during the first day, which included the second and third picks of the draft respectively.

As excited Ravens fans and team officials watch the development of dynamic young receivers like Clarence Moore, while also holding high hopes for Devard Darling, one must wonder if receiver is a position the franchise will target in April's draft.

Although Moore has been in the endzone in recent games, the jury is out as to whether Baltimore really does possess a deep threat at the receiver position.  A wide out that stretches the defense and tests Kyle Boller explosive arm could also open up other avenues for the offense.  Such as taking the pressure off the running game or opening up the middle of the field for tight end Todd Heap.

The receiver class of 2005 is top heavy with talent and also includes a few wide outs that can stretch the field.  Here's a look at the top prospects. 

Full Name: Mark Clayton          School:  Oklahoma

Ht:  5-11        Wt:  187          40:  4.45        Yr: 5Sr

The Good: Game controlling receiver who consistently comes away at the difficult catch.  Settles into the open spot of the defense, goes up in a crowd and fearless over the middle.  Uses his body to shield away opponents, then easily adjusts backwards and catches the errant throw running full speed.  Terrific job contorting in midair for the difficult grab and concentration throughout the action.  Easily defeats jams at a lot of scrimmage or takes a pounding and holds onto the pass.  Possesses both strong and soft hands.  Very quick transitioning from making the reception to running after the catch and shows speed in the open field.  Plays with great balance and body control.  Has of sense of timing and anticipation laying out for the tough grab.  Solid downfield blocker.

The Bad: Must improve the footwork of his route running.  Lacks top size.

The Skinny:  While he has the advantage of playing in a passing offense, Clayton still possesses the physical skills and football wherewithal to make an impact at the next level.  Outstanding in the underneath coverage, Clayton is also deceptively fast and has the ability to break games wide open.  May not pass the eyeball test as far as size\speed numbers are concerned yet an outstanding prospect that justifiably deserves top 15 consideration next April.  

Full Name:    Braylon Edwards       School:  Michigan

Ht:  6-2.5       Wt:  209          40:  4.50       Yr: 4Sr

The Good:  Physically impressive pass catcher who can be a one-man show and dominant force.  Relatively quick releasing off the line of scrimmage, deceptively fast and stretches defenses vertically.  Accelerates down the sidelines then runs away from defenders.  Tremendous vertical leap climbing to snare the high ball.  Adjusts to the errant throw or deep pass and makes the reception in contorted positions.  Easily pulls the ball out of the air with several defenders draped on him.  Physically beats down opponents to make the reception and strong running after the catch.

The Bad: Lacks focus, concentration and not always on the same page as the quarterback.  Must be more cognizant picking up blitzes then becoming the hot receiver.  Needs to improve his route running; choppy into breaks and not sharp.  Must do a better job coming back to the quarterback and helping out.

The Skinny: Looking like a highlight reel at times, Edwards makes the tough reception on third down in the short field yet also displays the ability to break games open with long gainers down the flanks.  Possesses all the physical skills needed to be a dominant wide out and to his credit slowly pulling the pieces together.  Needs to smooth out the rough edges yet a prospect with a great amount of upside potential who could blossom into a Pro Bowler at the next level.  

Full Name: Craphonso Thorpe   School:  Florida State

Ht:  6-1         Wt:  189          40:  4.45   Yr: 4Sr

The Good: Big play receiver who is a complete wide out, displaying the ability to break games open or control them.  Quick footed, immediately gets off the line of scrimmage and a sharp route runner who separates from defenders exiting breaks.  Consistently makes the catch away from his frame.  Helps out the quarterback following the passer across the field and working to make himself an available target.  Elusive in the open and makes defenders miss running after the reception.  Correctly positions himself against opponents then high points the ball, coming away with the grab and extending to catch the ball.  Gets up in traffic to make the difficult reception downfield.  Displays both timing and anticipation.  Possesses the "get up and go speed" with the ability to run away from opponents.  Outstanding focus and concentration, continually making one big play after another.  Adequate job blocking downfield.

The Bad: Lacks the strong hands.  Possesses a tall thin frame and has difficulty in battles.  Still recovering from a broken leg which he suffered last year.

The Skinny: Possibly the most complete receiver in this draft, Thorpe previously displayed the skills to take over games as a deep threat or come up with the important reception on third down.  Thorpe possesses the skills that equate well to the next level and will be a productive NFL receiver though he is slow returning from the leg injury suffered a year ago.  May be downgraded due to a disappointing senior season yet will surprise in a positive way at the next level.

Full Name:    Mike Williams    School:  USC

Ht:  6-4.5       Wt:  230          40:  4.61     Yr: 3So

The Good: Big bodied, possession receiver unable to overcome several legal challenges to enter last April's draft.  Strong at the point, easily beats jams at the line of scrimmage and runs adequate routes.  Comes back to the ball, extends and comes away with the reception even when double-teamed.  Displays great power in all aspects and a dominant force.  Possesses soft hands, adjusts to the errant throw then looks the pass in. 

The Bad: Slowly releases off the line of scrimmage and not explosive.  Loses focus and concentration.  Not a burner that beats defensive backs downfield in foot race.  Does not attack blocking assignments.

The Skinny: Physically gifted and tremendously productive during his only two seasons at USC, Williams projects well at the next level as a prototypical possession receiver.  Made a poor choice battling the NFL in court last April and could pay a price next year as he will slip down boards.  Size is enticing as are his abilities in the red zone.  Could potentially develop into a tight end down the road.  

Full Name: Skyler Green          School:  LSU

Ht:  5-8         Wt:  190          40:  4.47    Yr: 3Jr

The Good: Explosive receiver that impacts the game returning punts.  Quickly gets off a line of scrimmage, runs solid routes and stays low on exit, coming back to the ball.  Immediately transitions from making the reception to running after the catch, keeps the play in bounds and works to pick up as much yardage as possible.  Runs well laterally and adjusts to scoop up the low throw.  On the same page as his quarterback and always working to make himself an available target.  Game changing return specialist.  

The Bad: Has a compact build yet short and has trouble against bigger defensive backs. 

The Skinny: Combining speed and explosion, Green has the abilities to quickly alter the momentum of games.  Does not possess the size to be a number one wide out at the next level but could develop into a solid second receiver who doubles as a team's return specialist.

Full Name:    Reggie Brown           School:  Georgia

Ht:  6-1         Wt:  197          40:  4.51      Yr: 5Sr

The Good: Athletic receiver that's displayed a steady line of progress the past two years.  Strong pass catcher and easily gets off jams at the line of scrimmage then fearlessly lays out to make the difficult catch in a crowd.  Takes a big hit yet holds onto the pass.  Does a good job extending to catch the ball away from his body. Quick in all aspects of his game, displays sharpness running routes and immediately transitions from making the reception to running after the catch.  Gets vertical and adjusts in midair to grab the errant throw.  Shields opponents away with his frame to protect the pass.

The Bad: Must do a better job reading defensive blitzes and becoming the hot receiver.  Lazily lets the ball get inside his frame at times.

The Skinny: Consistently improving his game, Brown is moving up draft boards and overtaking highly regarded teammate Fred Gibson.  Offers decent size\speed numbers and learning to play up to his athletic ability.  Could move into the top 60 selections with solid pre-draft workouts next February.  

Full Name:  Fred Gibson           School:   Georgia

Ht:  6-4         Wt:  195          40:  4.48      Yr: 4Sr

The Good: Athletically gifted wide out who displays flashes of being both a game controlling and game breaking receiver.  Beats opponents off the line, does a solid job running routes and quick footed into breaks.  Gets separation from opponents, displays timing as well as the ability to adjust then grab the errant throw.  Comes back to the ball displaying good eye/hand coordination, extends and shows soft hands with the ability to pluck the ball from the air.  

The Bad: Inconsistent in almost every aspect.  Not always on the same page as his quarterback.  Lets the ball get inside him and drops a lot of the easy throws.  Lazily gets into routes.  Has had problems with injuries in the past.

The Skinny: At the top of his game Gibson is a receiver who can make the big catch during the critical moments of a contest.  He flashes the skills to break games wide open yet his career has been marred with inconsistency.  Physically, Gibson grades out high but his attitude and pre-draft interviews will dictate whether or not a franchise parts with a top 75-selection for his services in April.  

Full Name: Terrence Murphy         School: Texas A&M

Ht:  6-0         Wt:  190          40:  4.42                Yr: 4Sr

The Good: Terrific possession receiver with a good feel for the game.  Makes the tough reception with defenders draped on him, takes a pounding and holds onto the ball.  Comes back to the quarterback, uses his body to shield away opponents and displays a good sense of awareness.  Adjusts to scoop up low throws and displays the ability to get vertical then high point the errant pass.  Stays with the action and always working to make himself an available target.  Very reliable.

The Bad: Runs well for the stopwatch yet does not display a second gear or the ability to get deep separation.

The Skinny: A multi-purpose player, Murphy impacts the game at receiver or as a return specialist.  Hard working both on and off the field, Murphy is a productive skill player that consistently gets the job done.  Pre-draft workouts will dictate whether or not he ends up in a first-round next April.  

Full Name:    J.R. Russell    School:         Louisville

Ht:  6-3         Wt:  204          40:  4.55    Yr: 5Sr

The Good: Big-bodied receiver who consistently comes away with the reception.  Fluid releasing off the line of scrimmage, stays low exiting breaks and immediately positions himself to make the catch.  Uses his large frame to shield away opponents and looks the pass into his hands.  Shows excellent eye\hand coordination as well as focus.  Gets vertical or lays out and exposes himself to the big hit in order to make the catch.  Displays good ball awareness and a solid football player.  

The Bad: Not quick releasing off the line of scrimmage and more of a long strider with built up speed.  Does not have the ability to run away from opponents and not a deep threat.  

The Skinny: Reliable throughout college, Russell is a game controlling receiver who projects well to the next level as a possession wide out.  Solid in all areas of the game, he should be effective for a running offense that plays a ball control game.

Full Name:    Jason Avant   School:         Michigan

Ht:  6-1         Wt:  210          40:  4.43   Yr: 3Jr

The Good: Elusive pass catcher with outstanding size\speed numbers.  Finds the open spot in the defense, gets vertical then pulls down the high throw.  Solid footwork into routes, stays low on exit and displays both focus and concentration.  Quick footed, immediately gets to top speed and runs well laterally.  Effectively uses his body to shield away opponents and makes the reception in stride.  Sells routes, displays good eye\hand coordination and gets mid air to grab the errant throw.

The Bad: Not a wide out that consistently plays to his timed speed.  Must get better results blocking downfield.  Does not display strong hands.

The Skinny: Like teammate Braylon Edwards, Avant is an outstanding physical specimen with a good amount of upside potential for the next level.  Needs repetition to improve his overall game yet starting to breakout as a junior and as a result, catching the eye of NFL scouts.

Notes: Ohio State junior Santonio Holmes is a dynamic prospect that continually breaks games wide open with his big play abilities but has announced his intentions to return for his senior campaign.  Clemson senior Airese Currie is a track and field sprint champion with great timed speed yet a football player very rough around the edges.  Currie is still learning to translate his sprinters speed onto the football field.  Courtney Roby is another who times well (4.35) yet does not play to that speed.  A polished wide out, Roby could be a late riser as we moves towards April's draft.

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