This is part 5 in a series chronicling the players whose names you should probably know before Roger Goodell heads to the podium April 25 at Radio City Music Hall. Here are Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4. Now here’s the list of players I’ve profiled for you….
CB’s Sean Smith (Utah), Alphonso Smith (Wake Forest), D.J. Moore (Vanderbilt), Vontae Davis (Illinois), Darius Butler (UConn), Jairus Byrd (Oregon), Kevin Barnes (Maryland)
WR’s Darrius Heyward-Bey (Maryland), Hakeem Nicks (North Carolina), Kenny Britt (Rutgers), Percy Harvin (Florida), Derrick Williams (Penn State), Kevin Ogletree (Virginia), Deon Butler (Penn State), Louis Murphy (Florida)
LB’s Clint Sintim (Virginia), Clay Matthews (USC), Larry English (Northern Illinois), James Laurinaitis (Ohio State), Darry Beckwith (LSU)
TE’s Brandon Pettigrew (Oklahoma State), Chase Coffman (Missouri), Travis Beckum (Wisconsin), Jared Cook (South Carolina)
K Graham Gano (Florida State)
DE Aaron Maybin (Penn State), Lawrence Sidbury (Richmond)
OT Eben Britton (Arizona)
C Edwin Williams (Maryland), Alex Mack (Cal)
S Louis Delmas (Western Michigan)
QB’s Brian Hoyer (Michigan State), Pat White (West Virginia)
Certainly there has been some action since last Thursday’s update; including the USC Pro Day and the Ravens’ annual “Liars Luncheon” Wednesday. While we may have not learned too much at the Luncheon; there were some interesting tidbits. Thanks again to the Carroll County Times for information on who the Ravens are interested in; and to NFL Draft Scout for information on the prospects’ numbers at the Combine, etc.
Tony Fiammetta (FB, Syracuse): The Ravens told the Frederick News-Post’s Stan Goldberg earlier this week that they viewed Fiammetta as a “sleeper” in this year’s Draft; but Fiammetta might be much more than that. The Walkersville High product his been solid during “Draft season”, with scouts impressed by his blocking and pass catching at the Senior Bowl. He posted a 4.58 time in the 40 during the Combine; and measured in a 6’0″, 242 pounds at Syracuse’s Pro Day. With Ozzie Newsome less than committal to the idea of bringing Lorenzo Neal back; Fiammetta could very well be an option for the Ravens, likely to go in the 4th or 5th round.
Beanie Wells (RB, Ohio State): The Ravens’ decision to bring in Beanie Wells for a visit this week might have caught some fans off guard, but it hits on a few strategies the Ravens are or could be envoking. One, the Ravens have always maintained that they will take the “best player available” in the Draft. Wells is obviously amongst the most talented players available this year; but there don’t appear to be a whole lot of teams looking for RB’s in Round 1. If Wells is available at 26; it is wholeheartedly conceivable that the Ravens will view him as the best available player. The immediate question fans ask is “where is there room for Wells on the Ravens’ roster?” Here’s a scenario: Should the Ravens choose not to bring back Lorenzo Neal, they will need a starting fullback. Le’Ron McClain could well move into that role again, being a fullback who gets a number of carries. If so, the Ravens would have to either decide to trust Willis McGahee (that seemed unlikely a season ago), give the job to Ray Rice (who REALLY doesn’t appear to have the size of an every down back), or bring in someone new. Wells has the ability to be explosive; he was considered to be the Heisman frontrunner before suffering a toe injury in Week 1. He’s 6’1″, 235, and ran a 4.52 40. The guy could be very special at the next level.
Greg Toler (CB, St. Paul’s): Toler is looking to become the first ever player drafted from St. Paul’s, a small rural school in Virginia. Toler has been compared to 2008 first round pick Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who came from a small school himself (Tennessee State, which isn’t as small as St. Paul’s-which I can honestly admit I had never heard of until the Ravens reported interest in Toler). Toler is a bit undersized (5’11”, 191); but is lightning fast (4.45 40). He did not garner a Combine invite; but he has worked out privately for the Ravens; as well as the Browns, Jets, Redskins, and Cardinals. He is not a lock to get drafted at all; but could end up working his way into the 2nd day; and could be a sleeper to make a roster.
Dan Gronkowski (TE, Maryland): Gronkowski was never a major numbers guy at Maryland; but was very consistent and was never afraid to make a hit. In fact, during an interview with Drew Forrester on “The Comcast Morning Show” this week, Gronkowski said he was proud of his blocking abilities, and knew it would help him improve his Draft status. Gronkowski was a rock star during the Combine; finishing 3rd amongst Tight Ends on the bench. His speed (4.79 in the 40) may not be earth shattering; but considering his sizeable frame (6’6″, 255), it’s still pretty impressive. Gronkowski is projected to go somewhere between the 3rd and 5th rounds; and could well be an option for the Ravens, who are believed to be interested in selecting a Tight End at some point during Draft weekend.
Andre Smith (OT, Alabama): Winston Churchill created the famous “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma” line in 1939, but similar words could easily be used to describe Andre Smith. Smith had a TREMENDOUS season with the Crimson Tide; and was in the running to be the #1 pick in the Draft. But he was suspended for Alabama’s Sugar Bowl loss due to contact with an agent; left Indianapolis altogether during a disastrous weekend at the Combine; and showed up out of shape for his Pro Day putting up poor numbers in the 40 and on the bench. But Smith’s talent is still intriguing, and many still see him as a potential Top 10 pick. The Ravens are meeting with him; and if he falls, coming from Alabama certainly won’t hurt him in Ozzie Newsome’s eyes.
Brian Cushing (LB, USC): With 3 USC linebackers all expected to be selected in the 1st Round (Rey Maualuga and Clay Mattews are the others), there is an almost daily debate as to whom is believed to be the most talented. Cushing moved from DE to OLB last season; collecting 48 tackles, 3 sacks, and an INT. He has played all LB positions (as well as DE) during his career at USC. Cushing posted a 4.68 40 at the Combine; shouldering a 6’3″, 243 pound frame. Cushing has had injury issues during his career; but the biggest negative against him are the steroid rumors that have followed him during his career as a Trojan. While never testing positive; there has been an ongoing belief that Cushing has used illegal substances. In fact, NFL.com reported that an unnamed GM said Cushing has been rumored to have used steroids since high school (the report came out around the time of the Combine). While his talent might have him off the board before the Ravens pick at 26; individual concerns could lead teams to pass on him before the Ravens reach the podium.
Robert Ayers (DE, Tennessee): The Ravens have reportedly worked out Ayers (or are planning to work out Ayers); and there is an obvious connection. Ayers is represented by Eastern Athletic Services; a company based right here in Hunt Valley. Ayers has been a riser during Draft season; a player who was originally thought of as a likely 2nd round pick may now go as high as the Top 15. Ayers’ 2008 numbers are similar to those of Cushing (49 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT); but his size is clearly what scouts are drooling over. He’s 6’3″, 272 pounds; and ran a 4.77 40 at the Combine. Ayers was arrested in 2005 for aggravated assault; but stayed out of trouble after that. It seems more and more likely that he won’t be available when the Ravens pick; but they’re clearly interested, and could very well pounce should he fall.
Andre Brown (RB, NC State): The Ravens’ decision to work out Brown may be nothing more than a decision to give a former Baltimore kid (who spent a year attending Woodlawn High) the chance to hold another workout and get more experience. But it also might well be that the Ravens believe Brown could be a similar player in the 2nd round as Beanie Wells in Round 1. Brown was explosive at times during his career in Raleigh; combining for over 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in ’08 to go with 9 TD’s. He has a history of injuries (including breaking his left foot twice); but scouts love his 4.37 time in the 40. He’s 6’0″, 224 pounds; and has caught 54 passes over the last 2 seasons.
Mike Thomas (WR, Arizona): After putting up explosive numbers during his junior campaign (1,027 yards, 11 TD receptions); Thomas’ senior season was slightly disappointing, although productive nonetheless (826 yards, 4 TD receptions). Scouts are certainly most concerned about his size (Thomas is just 5’8″ and 195 pounds); but they are most excited about his speed (4.30 40). Sources tell me the Ravens haven’t shown as much interest in Thomas as other teams have; which may be a sign that the team is more interest in a big receiver early in the Draft. Thomas is projected to go anywhere from the 2nd to 4th round; and could also make an impact as a return man-which might have been more intriguing to the Ravens before they signed Chris Carr.
Mike Teel (QB, Rutgers): Teel is a reported Ravens visitor; which seems strange considering the team has re-signed Todd Bouman, giving them 3 quarterbacks on their roster. But this team has already looked at 2 quarterbacks (Brian Hoyer and Pat White); and Ozzie Newsome would not rule out the team drafting a QB. There are a few issues here. 1-the Ravens were clearly affected by the lack of depth at the QB position last year in Training Camp; forcing Joe Flacco to play an entire preseason game. If they can acquire a 7th round pick (or if Teel goes undrafted), he could be a prime candidate to help give the team depth in Camp. This could be an especially important advantage with the Ravens already having former teammate Ray Rice, and having the possibility of adding Kenny Britt in Round 1. Having a former teammate join them in Camp could help the growth of the former Scarlet Knights. Another issue that must be considered is how much the Ravens plan to use Troy Smith outside of the natural QB position. If the team intends to expose Smith more; they would be wise to add another quarterback as insurance. Teel is 6’3″, 225 pounds; and bounced back after a very difficult start to his senior season. He finished the year with 25 TD’s and 13 picks; but was also sacked 16 times and isn’t particularly mobile.