With Combine Looming, Several Players Have Already Made Statements in Draft Season

February 10, 2011 | Glenn Clark

It’s been an eventful Draft season thus far.

National Football League personnel folks have made stops in Orlando, Florida; Mobile, Alabama and San Antonio, Texas for College All-Star Games; as well as a lesser-known stop at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona for the Eastham Energy College All Star Game.

The NFL Scouting Combine is roughly two weeks away at LucasOil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. It will be the final high profile opportunity for players to make a statement during Draft season. Following the Combine, Draft season will be all about Pro Timing Days on college campuses and private workouts at team facilities.

Before I continue, I remind you of the East West Shrine Game players we have already profiled, the NFLPA Game players we have already profiled, as well as the Senior Bowl prospects we have already profiled.

QB-Ricky Dobbs (Navy), Pat Devlin (Delaware), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), Josh Portis (California-Pennsylvania), Taylor Potts (Texas Tech)
FB
-Anthony Sherman (UConn)
RB
-Evan Royster (Penn State), Da’Rel Scott (Maryland), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), Damien Berry (Miami)
WR
-Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic), Terrence Toliver (LSU), Leonard Hankerson (Miami), Austin Pettis (Boise State), Denarius Moore (Tennessee), Owen Spencer (North Carolina State), Jock Sanders (West Virginia)
OT
-Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada), Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Nate Solder (Colorado)
C-Zane Taylor (Utah)
DE
-Justin Trattou (Florida), Allen Bailey (Miami), Eddie Jones (Texas)
LB
-Mark Herzlich (Boston College), Casey Matthews (Oregon), Adrian Moten (Maryland)
S
-Jermale Hines (Ohio State), Jaiquawn Jarrett (Temple), Maurice Rolle (Louisiana-Lafayette)

With no player movement since the last post, my team needs for the Baltimore Ravens remain the same…

1. Defensive End
2. Offensive Tackle
3. Wide Receiver
4. Cornerback
5. Fullback
6. Inside Linebacker
7. Safety
8. Center
9. Running Back
10. Quarterback

Here’s a look at 10 potential Ravens targets who have already impressed during Draft season. Thanks to NFLDraftScout.com/CBSSports.com, ESPN.com, Wikipedia, WNST.net (The AP), YouTube, NFLDraftBible.com and various official websites for their help in putting together these bios.

QB Christian Ponder (Florida State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCuu6UyO3B0[/youtube]

For those of us who have followed the ACC in recent years, we’re well aware that Ponder never really lived up to the hype and potential that surrounded him.

There was a time when he was believed to be a legitimate preseason Heisman Trophy candidate. Hell-there were probably two times when that was true. It just didn’t pan out.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t still develop as a QB, especially holding a clipboard behind an established starter like Joe Flacco.

Ponder had a solid if not spectacular season for the Seminoles in 2010, becoming the first FSU QB to beat both Miami and Florida since Chris Weinke. Some of his numbers suffered a drop-off however, as he completed 184 of 299 passes (61.5%) after completing 227 of 330 passes (68.8%) as a junior. His INT to TD numbers did improve, as he threw for 20 TD’s and eight INT’s a year after throwing 14 TD’s and seven INT’s.

Ponder has good size at 6’3″, 227 pounds and a strong arm. He had an exceptional week at Ladd Peebles Stadium, where he ended up being named MVP of the Senior Bowl. There will be some concern about Ponder’s health-he missed two games in 2010 as he battled an elbow injury, including the ‘Noles loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game. He’ll get poked and prodded a bit more than other prospects when he makes his trip to Indy.

If Ponder ends up being a 2nd or 3rd round guy (as many pundits believe he will be), he probably won’t be headed to Charm City. But if he were to slip to Saturday morning, he would be an intriguing option for GM Ozzie Newsome and company to consider.

WR Titus Young (Boise State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPM5ttLp_Qg[/youtube]

When I profiled fellow Broncos WR Austin Pettis before the Senior Bowl, I immediately got responses asking “what about Titus Young?”

I chose to profile Pettis (who won the “Hands” competition at ESPN’s All-Star Football Challenge last week in Southlake, Texas) first because I felt his size (6’3″) might be a more ideal fit for a team that desperately lacked a red zone target in 2010.

But in a similar way, Young could also address a significant need for the Ravens-a need for speed if you will.

Young is just 5’11″, 170 pounds-which won’t really separate himself from the team’s current top two receivers, Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason.

But Young is much quicker than either of those two, as he is expected to be able to post a 40 time in the range of 4.40 or perhaps even better. If he does, he could end up stretching the field in the way Donte’ Stallworth was unable to.

Young posted a combined 2,488 yards of offense and 22 TD’s between his junior and senior seasons at BSU. He was clearly a benefactor of playing with Pettis and QB Kellen Moore and probably from playing against WAC defenses as well. But much like you can’t teach size, you certainly can’t teach speed.

If Young posts the times we expect him to at the Combine and/or his Pro Day, he’ll end up being a particularly likely choice for Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz and company on Friday night.

WR Vincent Brown (San Diego State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftMEiRffEDg[/youtube]

The city of San Diego has had a good run with Wide Receivers named Vincent.

But unlike the Chargers’ Vincent Jackson (6’5″), Brown’s size (6’0″) won’t be what teams who consider selecting him will be looking to add.

Instead, Brown’s hands and speed will be what teams will be looking for if they add him to their roster. Brown showed off both of those attributes in impressive ways during Senior Bowl week.

Brown had a hell of a senior campaign for the Aztecs, catching 69 balls for 1,352 yards and 10 TD’s; finishing a SDSU career where he caught 209 balls for 3,110 yards and 23 TD’s.

The question for the Ravens will be whether or not Brown could really separate himself from the likes of Mason and Boldin in the teams’ receiving corps. He’s fast, but he doesn’t appear to be as fast as even a receiver like Young.

That’s of course why Brown will likely stay on the board a bit later than Young. That could make him an intriguing option for the Ravens should he stick around until Saturday.

RB Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVPuzPacWDY[/youtube]

If not for an ankle injury in 2009, Hunter may have entered the Draft as the top back on the board.

Consider these numbers: In 2008, Hunter produced 1,753 yards of offense and 17 TD’s. In 2010, he bounced back to churn out 1,649 yards and 16 TD’s.

There’s just that pesky 2009 season that’s mixed in-where he missed six games and tallied less than 500 yards of total offense.

Hunter has been one of the most exceptional football players to watch in the country during his time in Stillwater. His big games haven’t just come against lesser opponents, either. In the Cowboys’ loss to Nebraska last season, he ran for 201 yards and two TD’s against a Cornhuskers defense that was amongst the best in the Big 12.

The strange thing about Hunter is that despite being about the same size as Ravens RB Ray Rice (they’re both listed as 5’8″), Hunter was much more of a runner than an all-around offensive threat. Combining his sophomore and senior seasons, Hunter ran the ball 512 times while he caught just 42 passes.

I would assume that at the NFL level, Hunter’s size will dictate a need to be more of an all-around weapon. If that’s the case, he might not be the type of runner to match Rice in Cam Cameron’s offense.

But if NFL teams believe he can be an every down runner despite his size, Hunter could very well be a Friday night option for Baltimore.

DE Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=St9j5K6STws[/youtube]

If I were to describe Kerrigan in just one word, I think the word I would choose would be “monster.”

This guy is an absolute beast.

The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year tallied 25 sacks between his junior and senior seasons with the Boilermakers; and finished his career as the all-time conference leader in forced fumbles.

The only question for the Ravens about this pass rushing machine is whether or not he can stay on the edge should he be added to Chuck Pagano’s defense.

The Ravens HAVE to find a rush end this offseason. Terrell Suggs is going to remain their rush backer-although they might want to consider adding depth there in case Sergio Kindle never gets to a football field.

Kerrigan showed up at the Senior Bowl having LOST weight and taking stand-up snaps at OLB. For a player that will almost certainly go in the first round, the Ravens would need him to be able to stay on the edge and play the position they used to count on Trevor Pryce to handle.

If he can stay on the edge, Kerrigan could very well be handed a purple jersey (as long as he stays on the board) when the Ravens pick 26th.

RB Roy Helu Jr. (Nebraska)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6NDCE-A1qw[/youtube]

In an option offense, sometimes the numbers accumulated by a running back can be dismissed.

From his sophomore to senior seasons in Lincoln, Helu total 3,195 rushing yards and 27 TD’s. It was an impressive run.

Pun intended.

Much like Hunter, Helu was much more of a runner than a pass catcher in the Huskers offense. Helu’s advantage is that he’s bigger (6’0″, 220 pounds) than Hunter and has shown better durability. If the Ravens are looking for a back more in the vein of Willis McGahee-Helu could well be the guy.

On the surface, it appears as though Helu would be a good fit in John Harbaugh’s locker room as well. Helu was very involved in Nebraska’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and made visits to area hospitals.

As of right now Helu appears to be a Saturday selection. The Ravens have selected a later round RB from Nebraska in the past (Cory Ross) and didn’t have it necessarily pay off. That doesn’t mean they’d avoid Helu-they’d just hope for better results if they look in his direction.

TE Will Yeatman (Maryland)

yeatman

When a player has 21 career catches for 177 yards and one touchdown, he’s not likely a legitimate draft prospect.

But if there’s a position where it can be done, there’s no doubt the position is Tight End.

Much like players have made the jump from college basketball (San Diego Chargers TE Antonio Gates and New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham are two of the more notable), Yeatman will hope to show his athleticism in hopes of reaching the NFL.

Yeatman’s story is compelling. He was a football and lacrosse player at Notre Dame, but two alcohol-related arrests lead to his decision to leave the school. The Irish wouldn’t allow him to transfer to North Carolina, which lead him to College Park.

After getting on the lacrosse field, Yeatman finally returned to football in 2010. Unfortunately, a broken finger forced him to miss the majority of the season.

Yeatman made the trip to Phoenix for the Eastham Energy game and impressed. He made four catches for 49 yards in the game itself; but scouts were impressed with his 6’6″, 250 some pound frame and solid hands.

There will ALWAYS be a place in the NFL for a player like that.

The Ravens don’t necessarily need a Tight End after drafting Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta last year and adding Davon Drew to the active roster late in the season. That being said, the future Hall of Fame tight end running the team never seems to shy away from adding more.

Yeatman could be a late round or free agent steal. Todd Heap certainly isn’t getting younger. If he’s there, I would imagine the organization would at least make the consideration.

CB Anthony Gaitor (Florida International)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvgcDDD-jMI[/youtube]

The Ravens have lacked size in their defensive backfield; and a 5’10″ corner from FIU probably won’t fix that.

But as we’ve seen from stars like New York Jets CB Darrelle Revis, you don’t always need to be big to a Pro Bowl caliber player.

Scouts have often commented that the former Panthers CB plays like he’s 6’2″ instead of 5’10″. During his appearance at the NFLPA Game (former Texas vs. The Nation) at the Alomodome, Gaitor’s physicality on the line and ability to stay with receivers downfield impressed scouts.

Obviously there is a significant jump from the Sun Belt Conference to the NFL. Gaitor will be scrutinized a bit more because of the talent level he faced in college.

But he’s a guy that will likely stick around until Saturday in the Draft, and could be a steal if the Ravens think they’ll lose some combination of CB’s Josh Wilson, Chris Carr and/or Fabian Washington.

RB Alex Green (Hawaii)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8tLLVQzDTs[/youtube]

It would not be even a bit unfair to call Green a “late bloomer” during his Warriors career.

Entering his senior season, Green had ran for just 453 yards and two TD’s during his time in Honolulu. Seven games into his senior season, Green had yet to put together a 100 yard rushing game.

That all changed quickly.

On October 23rd, Green rushed for 172 yards and four TD’s against Utah State, starting a streak where he would run for 100 or more yards in four of six games. Highlighting that run was a 327 yard, three TD performance at New Mexico State.

At 6’2″, 230 pounds-Green has the ideal size to compliment Rice in the Ravens offense. Like Hunter and Helu, he was much more of a runner than “offensive threat” during his college career.

Before coming to Hawaii, Green helped lead California’s Butte Community College to a National Championship in 2008.

So he has that going for him. Which is nice.

He looks like he’ll be a late round pick in the Draft, which could put him right in the place where the Ravens could look to add a back.

WR Ryan Whalen (Stanford)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ik-LNTMYn50[/youtube]

In the past, the Ravens had easy access to Cardinal athletes-as John Harbaugh could just find out whatever he needed to know from his brother-Jim Harbaugh-who coached players like Whalen at Stanford.

The problem now is that Jim has taken over as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, and probably wants to keep as much scouting info to himself as possible.

Whalen had an impressive junior season in Palo Alto (57 catches, 926 yards, four TD’s), but an elbow injury hurt his numbers in 2010 (41 catches, 439 yards, two TD’s).

The problem for Whalen is that his size (6’2″, 205 pounds) and speed (expected mid 4.5′s 40 yard dash) wouldn’t really separate him from Boldin or Mason in Baltimore.

That doesn’t mean he couldn’t be brought in to give the team receiving depth-especially with TJ Houshmandzadeh and Stallworth possible departures.

Whalen would be an intriguing prospect for Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta and company the longer he sticks around into Saturday.

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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