Ravens targeting tight ends

OWINGS MILLS -- In the wake of Quinn Sypniewski shredding his left knee on the practice field Friday, the Baltimore Ravens' interest in drafting a tight end has increased exponentially. Even prior to Sypniewski tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, team officials were exploring the possibility of adding depth at the position.

Now, former Pro Bowl selection Todd Heap is the lone healthy tight end on the roster since backup Daniel Wilcox isn't completely recovered from offseason toe surgery.

That leaves the Ravens pondering their options, and they're primarily focusing on tight end prospects expected to be available during the second day of the draft.

"There's no doubt that there are some interesting guys," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said.

Because of Heap's receiving prowess and the injury to the 6-foot-7, 270-pound Sypniewski, the Ravens are probably more inclined toward blocking tight ends.

It's unclear how long USC tight end Fred Davis will last in the draft. At 6-3, 254 pounds with 4.74 speed, Davis has the physical skills and hands NFL teams are looking for.

"He's probably the best two-way tight end as a blocker and a receiver," DeCosta said. "He's a physical guy at the point of attack."

One player who could fit in well with Baltimore in the later rounds is Cal tight Craig Stevens, a hard-nosed 6-foot-3, 254-pound blocker.

Stevens' popularity is growing with recent visits to the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, St. Louis Rams, Cleveland Browns and New York Giants.

The Golden Bears' team captain caught just 51 career passes for 669 yards and seven touchdowns, but excelled in the trenches with 174 knockdown blocks. He flashed 4.59 speed at the NFL scouting combine and bench pressed 225 pounds 27 times.

"Craig Stevens is a very strong, point-of-attack blocker, a real asset to the running game," DeCosta said. "We think he's going to be very good."

Tennessee tight end Brad Cottam is massive at 6-7, 270 pounds, nearly identical dimensions to Sypniewski, and has 4.74 speed. Plus, he has a clean bill of health now after breaking his wrist last season.

Oklahoma's Joe Jon Finley is another huge target at 6-6, 251 pounds and is regarded as a strong blocker.

West Texas A&M Kolo Kapanui is a bruising blocker at 6-4, 275 pounds with decent hands, but the USC transfer isn't fast.

One big tight end that would seem to be of interest to Baltimore is Michigan State's Kellen Davis. However, the 6-6, 262-pounder has a reputation as a reluctant blocker who only got really motivated as a senior.

Maryland tight end Joey Haynos lacks speed and isn't regarded as a consistent blocker, but he's a hard worker and has rare size at 6-8, 260 pounds.

The Ravens met with Louisville tight end Gary Barnidge at the combine. He became one of Brian Brohm's most reliable targets last season with 53 catches for 655 yards and seven touchdowns.

At 6-5, 238 pounds, Barnidge is a versatile receiver whose blocking is still improving.

"He's very feisty, a great special-teams guy who catches the ball very well," DeCosta said. "He's very, very productive in the passing game, a highly-motivated kid with good intangibles. He's going to be an early second-day pick."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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