So you know the NFL Draft is near. Every website is posting their mock drafts; my TV screen is covered in grease from having Mel Kiper Jr.’s locks on my screen so much, and the sports talk callers are all calling in with their opinions on potential Ravens draft picks. It seems like everywhere you look and every publication on the news stands (they still have news stands right?) has a mock draft. After dredging through the minutia of 2,356 NFL mock drafts, that’s the exact number I counted, I have decided to break down some of the players many publications are touting as potential picks for the Ravens. Today I will breakdown four of the most talked about wide receiver prospects in the minds of Ravens fans.
Darrius Heyward-Bey Maryland – Bey’s name has been perhaps the most popular among most Ravens fans due to his Maryland roots, blazing speed (4.30 40 yard dash), and the fact he fills a huge need as a big play receiver. I agree Bey would be an intriguing pick; he is a fairly big receiver at 6’ 1” and 210 pounds and he has the down field speed other Ravens receivers’ lack. Bey would give Joe Cool a nice target to unleash his rocket arm on and would open up a lot of plays in the middle of the field for other receivers and tight ends. While many fans are clamoring to see Heyward-Bey in the purple and black I find myself hesitant on using the 26th pick on a receiver who only 42 balls for 609 yards last year. I understand neither Jordan Steffy nor Chris Turner is Boomer Esiason but those numbers are simply unacceptable in a very weak ACC. I have also heard numerous scouts say that Bey’s ability to run routes is down right atrocious; speed is a nice attribute but no receiver no matter how fast will struggle to get open without the capacity to run crisp routes. I think Bey has more potential than any player the Ravens may have the opportunity to draft but I would like to see someone who is more ready to contribute to a team just minutes from the Super Bowl last year.
Odds of Ravens selecting Darrius Heyward-Bey: 6/1
Percy Harvin Florida – Harvin is another big play, super athletic player. He was a winner in college, a cliché but something that is vastly over looked when analyzing potential prospects. His versatility is a major selling point, at Florida, he lined up all over the field similar to Reggie Bush at USC. Harvin also possesses great hands and is extremely elusive in the open field with great downfield burst. Some of his greatest strengths are also some of his biggest draw backs for me. Harvin would lack a true position, is he a wide receiver or is he a half back; he falls into the Peter Warrick mold a little to much for my taste. He also has major durability issues; he struggled to finish season’s health at the college level, how will he play and be effective in 19 potential games in the NFL with superior talent on the defensive side of the ball? Overall Percy Harvin much like Heyward-Bey is an intriguing yet flawed prospect with a ton of upside. Odds of Ravens selecting Percy Harvin: 12/1
Hakeem Nicks North Carolina – Nicks is not as quick or fast as the previous two receivers but he is a far more polished route runner. His ability to run outstanding routes makes Nicks the most NFL ready of all the receivers in the entire draft. Nicks has exceptional hands and possesses the capability to make plays across the middle of the field. Nicks was tremendously productive in college as evident by his 1222 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns last year. He has great body control and has the ability to make the spectacular catch. Nicks has excellent leaping ability and would provide the big red zone receiver the Ravens have been searching for in players like Clarence Moore and Randy Hymes. While Nicks skills are NFL ready he doesn’t possess the burst or straight line speed to separate that some of the other receivers in the draft have. Hakeem also isn’t going to be a scary downfield threat and needs to work on his blocking skills to be become a complete NFL receiver. Overall I think Hakeem Nicks would be the guy I would be most happy with the Ravens selecting; he fills a huge need and can be a player that comes in an contributes on a playoff caliber team from day one.
Odds of Ravens selecting Hakeem Nicks: 6/1
Jeremy Maclin Missouri – I honestly do not see Maclin slipping all the way to the 26th pick, but I have begun to see more and more mock draft predicting the Ravens selecting him. Maclin may have the best combination of speed, quickness, and agility of any player in the draft. Although the Ravens signed Chris Carr to potentially return kicks Jeremy Maclin is an elite return man in the mold of Devin Hester. Maclin has decent size at just over 6’ and has remained fairly healthy in his college career. The most intriguing part of Maclin’s game is his ability to pick up huge chunks of yards after the catch. The only major drawback to Maclin as with many of the top offensive prospect is that he has only worked out of a spread offense that is far different from the offense installed by Cam Cameron last season. Maclin is probably the most intriguing prospect of the four receivers but the chances of him falling to the Ravens barring a trade look to be minimal.
Odds of Ravens selecting Jeremy Maclin: 20/1
Overall this year’s draft is full of talent at the wide receiver position. While I wouldn’t be upset seeing the Ravens select any of these players in the first round there may be better value later in the draft. We as Ravens fans know we can always expect one thing from Ozzie and his staff, they will take the best available player no matter position; a motto that has worked for over a decade now.