Ravens acquire speed, toughness

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens nabbed the fastest player in the NFL draft Saturday night, acquiring Kansas State wide receiver and return specialist Yamon Figurs after trading down into the third round. Baltimore traded its second-round draft pick (No. 61) to the Detroit Lions, acquiring the 74th pick of the third round where they picked Figurs along with the 101st pick of the fourth round.

Then, the Ravens traded the 101st pick, fifth-round pick (166th) and sixth-round pick (203rd overall) to the Jacksonville Jaguars to draft University of Iowa offensive guard-tackle Marshal Yanda with the 86th overall pick of the third round.
Figurs is slated to compete with incumbent return specialist B.J. Sams, who is recovering from a fractured ankle that required surgery. Figurs registered the best time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine, a scorching 4.30 seconds.
"He's very explosive," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "Certain guys are fast and certain guys play fast. When you watch him on film, you see unbelievable speed and acceleration."
General manager Ozzie Newsome said that Figurs was a player they had graded highly enough to take at No. 61. Plus, Sams is heading into the final year of his contract.
"This is a guy who can provide a vertical presence as a receiver," Newsome said of Figurs.
Meanwhile, Sams also faces his second DUI trial since joining the Ravens with his next court date set for May 15 in Towson.
When asked if Figurs' selection was prompted by Sams potentially facing a suspension from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell under the league's conduct policy, Newsome replied: "That's in the league's hands. That's as much as I can talk about it because it's out of our control."
Figurs, who visited the Ravens' training complex prior to the draft, was an All-Big 12 Conference honorable-mention selection last season. He caught 28 passes for 418 yards and three touchdowns, returning two punts for touchdowns last year.
He averaged 14.7 yards on 22 punt returns. As a sophomore, he caught a career-high 31 passes for 483 yards.
At 5-foot-11, 174 pounds, Figurs was criticized by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper for having small hands and dropping passes at the scouting combine.
Figurs is regarded as an elusive wideout who runs sharp routes and rapidly gains separation and catches the football in stride downfield.
However, he doesn't always play to his impressive timed speed, according to scouting reports. He also reportedly lacks ideal upper body strength to escape from press coverage and struggles to block larger defenders.
At 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, Yanda is a versatile blocker with a reputed mean streak who was named All-Big Ten second-team last season. The former junior college transfer allowed just three sacks and one pressure last year and excelled at the Senior Bowl.
"He's a tough guy," DeCosta said. "We loved his demeanor, which makes a good offensive lineman. He plays a physical style, looks to finish.
"Tony Pashos had that same quality and we lost him. To have that personality, he brings a little presence and attitude that's going to help the team."
The Ravens, who had USC All-American center Ryan Kalil in for a prospect visit, opted to trade the pick after the Carolina Panthers selected Kalil with the 59th overall pick.
Then, Hawaii center-guard Samson Satele, who met with the Ravens at the scouting combine, went to the Miami Dolphins directly in front of Baltimore's second-round pick.
Newsome denied that those picks affected his strategy.
"No, we started to talk about moving back because we kept looking at a number of players available to choose from," Newsome said. "Getting the additional pick and getting one of those players provided more value to the team."
Rather than select Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards, the top remaining passer on most draft boards, Baltimore decided to go for the extra picks.
"We stayed true to our board," Newsome said. "Figurs was rated higher than Trent Edwards, so we stayed true."
NOTE: Baltimore signed exclusive-rights free agent cornerback Ronnie Prude.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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