Kiper gives his advice on Ravens draft pick

OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens have upgraded their wide receiver position to the point where expending their first-round draft pick is no longer regarded as a necessity, or a probability. Since the end of the season, the Ravens acquired Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin via a trade, retained veteran Derrick Mason and signed speedy free agent Donte' Stallworth.

Based on value, though, and the age of Boldin and Mason, Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas could suit the Ravens, in the opinion of ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

During a conference call Wednesday, Kiper stated his case that the Ravens should still draft a wide receiver rather than a tight end like Jermaine Gresham (Oklahoma) or a cornerback such as Kyle Wilson (Boise State) or Devin McCourty (Rutgers) or a defensive lineman like Terrence "Mount" Cody (Alabama). And he projected Michigan pass rusher Brandon Graham, a player the Ravens and other teams grade highly, to slip no lower than the Atlanta Falcons' 19th overall selection.

"Yes, definitely," Kiper said. "No question about it. Stallworth, you don't know what you're getting there. Hopefully, he stays focused. Boldin is a big, physical receiver. You want to develop a young receiver behind those guys, a young kid. They've tried, but none of these kids have panned out."

Thomas is regarded as an athletic developmental prospect at 6-foot-3, 229 pounds whose best football is ahead of him.

He's recovering from a broken fifth metatarsal of his left foot that required minor surgery with a screw inserted, and has been unable to work out for NFL teams. He's targeting April 12 for a Pro Day workout.

Thomas met with the Ravens at the NFL scouting combine.

"I know they run the ball a lot, but I feel like it would be a good fit," said Thomas, whose other combine interviews included the Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins.

Thomas has been linked to the Ravens in mock drafts, including Kiper's most recent prediction. He caught 46 passes for 1,154 yards and eight touchdowns last season. He has run the 40-yard dash as fast as 4.38 seconds prior to the injury suffered during training for the combine.

"He needs a little bit of time," Kiper said."He comes in off a broken foot, he comes in from a run-oriented offense where it was basically throw the bubble screen, let him run and use that 6-3, 225-pound frame and all that speed or throw it up deep to him.

"That was it; throw it up or short pass. In the NFL, he's got a lot to learn about route-running and the route tree. Demaryius Thomas would be a good receiver for the Ravens. Certainly, Demaryius Thomas would be a nice developmental wide receiver at that pick."

NOTE: Morgan State wide receiver E.J. Morton-Green is slated for a private workout with the Ravens next week as well as the Cincinnati Bengals and the Philadelphia Eagles. He's a 6-4, 215-pound downfield target who ran a 4.47 in the 40-yard dash for NFL scouts last month. Last season, he caught 24 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns.

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