Ravens looking for third WR, blocking TE

OWINGS MILLS -- There are absolute necessities on the Baltimore Ravens' draft agenda, and then there are luxuries.

Obtaining a third wide receiver candidate and a blocking tight end dips further into the second category because of more pressing needs at safety, quarterback and defensive tackle. That means Baltimore is likely to pursue receivers and tight ends later in the draft.

Although the Ravens haven't given up yet on third-year pros Clarence Moore and Devard Darling despite Moore's shaky hands and Darling's tendency to get hurt, their scouts are keeping close track of promising receivers like Western Michigan senior Greg Jennings.

Jennings caught 98 passes last season for 1,259 yards and 14 touchdowns, also handling return duties. The distinguished route-runner ran the 40 yard dash in 4.48 seconds at the scouting combine.

"He reminds me of Anquan Boldin," said Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta, referring to the Arizona Cardinals' All-Pro receiver. "He catches a lot of balls and he's very strong. He will probably go in the second or third round and would be an excellent third receiver."

Notre Dame wide receiver Maurice Stovall is an imposing target at 6-5, 222 pounds who thrived under new coach Charlie Weis with 60 receptions for 1,023 yards and 11 touchdowns. Because of his knowledge of the West Coast offense and ability to shield the football with his body from defenders to make up for his lack of ideal speed (4.58), Stovall is considered a solid prospect.

"He reminds me of a better version of Ernest Wilford from the Jacksonville Jaguars," DeCosta said. "He will probably be a third-round pick."
Michigan wide receiver Jason Avant has been sliding on draft boards because he ran a pedestrian 4.8 at the Wolverines' Pro Day, but was ultra-productive with 87 catches last year for 1,008 yards and eight scores.

"Jason Avant isn't the fastest guy, but he's a possession type who knows how to get open and knows how to play the game," DeCosta said.

Wisconsin's Brandon Williams is undersized at 5-9 and 177 pounds, but compact and quick. He has demonstrated a flair for the big play with 59 catches for 1,095 yards and two scores on punt returns last season.

"He's competitive and reminds me of a smaller Mark Clayton," DeCosta said.

DeCosta lauded obscure Colorado State player David Anderson as a potential sleeper.

"He's reminds me of Ricky Proehl or Brandon Stokley as a tough slot receiver with a special-teams presence and good hands," DeCosta said.

Miles Austin is a small-school standout from Monmouth (N.J.) who could project as an H-back because of his 6-2, 217-pound size and strength (22 repetitions of 225 pounds at the scouting combine).

"He's a big receiver who runs well [4.4 speed] and jumps well [40-inch vertical leap], but there's not a lot after the catch," DeCosta said. "He'll probably go in the fourth or fifth round. I would say he'll be in the league, but I don't know how he'll do."

Hofstra wideout Marques Colston has outstanding size at 6-5, 228 pounds with good speed [4.50], but is regarded as more of a developmental target because his routes need polish.

"He could start out as a fourth or fifth receiver and eventually develop into being the third guy," DeCosta said of the Harrisburg, Pa., native.

Because the Ravens feature pass-catching tight ends in All-Pro tight end Todd Heap and Daniel Wilcox and lost blocking tight end Darnell Dinkins in free agency to the Cleveland Browns, the team is also looking for a hard-nosed tight end that can block and play special teams.

"We're probably going to draft a tight end at some point in the draft," DeCosta acknowledged.

The Ravens are concentrating on larger run blockers such as Colorado's Quinn Sypniewski (6-6, 265) along with Jason Pociask (6-3, 265) and Owen Daniels (6-3, 250) of the Wisconsin Badgers.

"We're an organization that loves tight ends, probably because our general manager [Ozzie Newsome] was a Hall of Fame tight end and our head coach [Brian Billick] played tight end," DeCosta said. "It's a good group and someone picked in the second day should be able to come in and contribute as the second or third tight end and on special teams. We'd like it to be someone who's more inclined to the physical aspect, but if the best guy is USC's Dominique Byrd, then that's fine with us."


 

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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