As all of you know, there are few people in the world who are bigger fans of the NFL Draft than I am. Last season, I profiled over 100 NFL Draft prospects in the months leading up to the big event at Radio City Music Hall. Some of those players eventually became Baltimore Ravens, including Michael Oher, Paul Kruger, Lardarius Webb, Cedric Peerman, Jason Phillips, Isaiah Williams, Graham Gano, Eron Riley and more.
And with NFL season now over here in Charm City, it is time to start looking ahead to the 2010 NFL Draft; which will be held April 22-24th again in New York. I like to call the next 3 months “NFL Draft Season”, as it is much more than just the 3 days that determine how teams will make their picks. The season begins with the announcements from underclassmen, then moves to college all-star games (including the Senior Bowl), the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis (which myself, Drew Forrester & Nestor Aparicio will be covering LIVE here on WNST.net), individual Pro Timing Days, and team interviews that all build to the 3 days in April.
We will be starting our weekly NFL Draft Preview segment on “The Comcast Morning Show” this week, the segment will air Wednesdays at 9:40am. This Wednesday, Chad Reuter from NFLDraftScout.com & CBS Sports will be joining us. Chad will be reporting to us live from Orlando, where the annual East West Shrine Game marks the start of College All-Star season. Two Ravens rookies (Jason Phillips of TCU and Dannell Ellerbe of Georgia) were participants in last year’s game, as well as former Terrapins C Edwin Williams, who played for the Washington Redskins this season. It is definitely worth paying attention to what is going on at the game.
As I did last year, I will rank the likely needs the Ravens face in the offseason. This list may be altered as players are released/retired/traded/signed/injured/etc.
1-Wide Receiver (This goes without saying, as the team currently has just Marcus Smith under contract.)
2-Tight End (They almost got Brandon Pettigrew last year, there is no doubt they will be looking at the position again this season. Todd Heap should be back, but LJ Smith is a free agent-and clearly Heap is getting no younger.)
3-Cornerback (While they likely think they have two capable starting CB’s on the team, there is no doubt that Ozzie Newsome and company would welcome another impact corner to a group that already includes Domonique Foxworth, Lardarius Webb and Chris Carr.)
4-Safety (Ed Reed’s future makes this a very crucial spot, as does the pending free agency of Dawan Landry. Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura appear to be part of the team’s future at the position, but having both as starters in 2010 wouldn’t likely bode well.)
5-Outside Linebacker/Rush End (Dwan Edwards is a free agent. Trevor Pryce may choose to retire. Terrell Suggs came in last season out of shape. Antwan Barnes is a restricted free agent. And no one needs to be reminded that this group struggled to get pressure on opposing QB’s during a large part of Greg Mattison’s first season as Defensive Coordinator.)
6-Kicker (Billy Cundiff will be an option for this team, but even he knows there will at least be competition for the job. It may come from a free agent kicker-Graham Gano comes to mind-but it may come from a rookie as well. OR the team may decide to go somewhere else altogether.)
7-Quarterback (Obviously Joe Flacco is THE guy, and the team would be fine with bringing back Troy Smith to back him up. But Smith’s agent made it clear they want him traded, and the Ravens may decide to give him his wish. John Beck remains in the mix, but the Ravens will have to give him a contract. The team could use strength at the position from a young QB if they decide to let Smith and/or Beck go.)
8-Interior Offensive Line (Matt Birk is not getting any younger, and Chris Chester may be up for starter money somewhere else. Marshal Yanda is also a RFA, so this team may need to add to the group-especially at Center.)
9-Exterior Offensive Line (Jared Gaither is a RFA-and the Ravens will have to make a difficult decision there. Someone will want to give him money, it’s just a question of whether or not the Ravens are the team that will want to do it. Behind Gaither and Oher, the Ravens are woefully thin-as Oniel Cousins was somewhat adequate, but nothing more.)
10-Punter (I can’t imagine the Ravens won’t bring back Sam Koch, but I have to put this position on the list-as if Koch gets good money elsewhere, the Ravens will have a major need at the position.)
With all of this in mind, I present my first 10 profiles of the 2010 NFL Draft season. These are all players who are participating in this week’s East West Shrine Game. Thanks to NFLDraftScout.com, Wikipedia, and my own personal conversations with scouts from around the NFL for help with information gathering.
WR Freddie Barnes (Bowling Green)
His numbers this season were jaw-dropping. His 155 catches were a NCAA record. His 1,770 receiving yards were a Falcons school record. His 19 TD’s lead the FBS. But his size isn’t necessarily ideal. He’s just 6’0″ and 212 pounds. The Ravens will absolutely need a more sizable threat at WR, but they will also likely need more than one addition to the group. Barnes looks like a lower round pick right now-but he had a huge game in the Humanitarian Bowl, and started practice in Orlando with a bang. A combine invite and solid performance could vault him up boards. One scout told me he could be Anquan Boldin-esque. Everyone in the country would like a player like that. Barnes is VERY athletic, he played QB and basketball in high school in Illinois.
TE Andrew Quarless (Penn State)
If the Ravens are interested in an impact receiver at the TE position, Andrew Quarless might not be the guy. Quarless had his best statistical season in 2009-hauling in 41 passes for 536 yards and 3 TD’s. But in his 4 year career, Quarless caught just 87 balls for 1,146 yards and 8 TD’s. However, his numbers-and his size-don’t differ THAT much from Pettigrew, who was a Top 20 pick just a season ago by the Lions. Heck, he may even be a bit quicker. But his rap sheet includes a DUI arrest, an underage drinking citation, and marijuana possession. He needs to prove his strength in the months leading up to the Draft, as his frame and ability could very well help him rise to the 2nd night of the Draft (now rounds 2-3). He may well be a guy who would already be a high level prospect had he not been splitting time with Mickey Shuler Jr. during his career in Happy Valley.
S Kam Chancellor (Virginia Tech)
Chancellor has admitted to trying to mold his game after late Skins Safety Sean Taylor, and with good reason. Chancellor is an all-around tough Safety; measuring in at 6’3″, 232 pounds with a great burst as well. Likely a Day 2 pick, Chancellor was an All-ACC performer with experience at both safety positions and also at CB during his career in Blacksburg. He recorded 204 tackles during his Hokies career, along with 6 interceptions, but did not return any for scores. He is also a gifted athlete, having played QB during his HS career in Norfolk.
DE Greg Hardy (Ole Miss)
If he was fully healthy, Greg Hardy would almost certainly be a 1st round pick. But even with the wrist injuries that forced him to miss more than a quarter of his senior season and the ankle troubles that plagued him throughout his Rebels career might not keep him from hearing his name called Thursday night. Mostly because he managed to pile up 26 sacks during his time in Oxford, to go along with 38.5 TFL’s, 6 forced fumbles and in interception. The Ravens won’t have to go far for a scouting report on Hardy, as his former Mississippi teammate Michael Oher was also a teammate in high school at the Briarcrest Christian Academy in Memphis. He checks in around 6’4″ and somewhere between 260-275 pounds; making his measurements at the Combine and his Pro Day all more important.
TE Richard Dickson (LSU)
At 6’3″, 245 pounds; Dickson is likely not going to be a traditional TE, but more likely a FB/H-Back/TE hybrid. The NFL scout I discussed Dickson with said the inevitable comparison is Chris Cooley; but Dickson has to prove himself to be an explosive threat. Dickson’s senior season failed to match the production of his sophomore and junior seasons, as he averaged 350 yards receiving and 4.5 TD’s during his middle seasons-but fell off to just 157 yards and 0 TD’s in his final season in Baton Rouge. Despite the drop-off, he finished his career as the most prolific TE in Tigers history.
CB Devin Ross (Arizona)
I’m not certain that the Ravens are itching for another 5’11” CB at this point, but they could use depth at the position, and Ross will be available on Day 2 (if not Day 3). Ross will immediately be compared to fellow former Wildcats CB Antoine Cason (who just wrapped up his 2nd season with the San Diego Chargers), and the Ravens will inevitably try to compare him to another former CB who played in Tucson by the name of Chris McAlister-who just so happens to be the greatest CB in team history. Ross will benefit from having his name mentioned in the same breath as those two, because he doesn’t have a comparable resume. What he lacks in size, he’ll need to make up in quickness during Draft season-starting this week in Orlando. He recorded just 1 interception in his senior campaign-5 for his career. He’ll have to overcome the thud his college career ended on; giving up a 74 yard TD to Nebraska’s Niles Paul in a 33-0 loss to the Huskers in the Holiday Bowl.
LB Ross Pospisil (Navy)
I include Ross Pospisil on this list only because he’s the only “local” college football player participating in the East West Shrine Game. He’s certainly not a prospect to be drafted, but could be an option for the Ravens to take a look at after the draft ends. Just a season ago, Navy FB Eric Kettani and Slotback Shun White were picked up by the New England Patriots following the Draft, as they’ve decided to invest in the former Midshipmen and wait out the service time. Obviously, Saints FB Kyle Eckel previously was able to skirt service time after leaving Annapolis, but I don’t expect that from Pospisil. Ross did have 91 tackles on his senior campaign, including 6 TFL’s. He’s 6’0″ and 227 lbs., and is definitely capable of being a bruiser-but the Ravens would have to be willing to make a long-term investment in a guy that won’ t be able to help them anytime soon. It’s unlikely.
QB Daryll Clark (Penn State)
The funny thing about Daryll Clark’s draft profile is that there is nothing that immediately makes you say “no” about him. He’s a bigger kid (6’2″, 238); but he’s fairly mobile (expected to post a 40 in the 4.6 range) and certainly appears to possess a capable arm. Over his last 2 seasons, he’s completed 60% of his passes for over 5,500 yards and 43 TD’s. In the same time span, he was picked 16 times and was sacked 26 times. Certainly the O-Line play in State College didn’t help those numbers much. He was 22-4 as a starting QB-but his biggest knock is the 4 losses. Clark’s worst performances seemed to come in the most important games for the Nittany Lions-2 against Iowa (both ruining perfect seasons), USC in the Rose Bowl, and Ohio State with the Big Ten title still within reach. He’s not a perfect prospect, but for a likely Day 3 guy, he could certainly prove to be a capable player should the Ravens lose Troy Smith or John Beck.
CB Brian Jackson (Oklahoma)
You can’t help but get that “What’s not to like” feeling when you look at Brian Jackson’s status. He’s a bit taller (6’1″) than the Ravens’ Current crop of corners, with decent speed (expected to run in the 4.5’s) and has just 5% body fat on his 200 pound frame according to the Sooners. He has football in his blood-his cousin Chris Draft plays LB for the Buffalo Bills. He steadily improved as his playing time increased during his career (112 tackles and 6 picks over his final 2 seasons) and was a very solid special teams player to boot. So….”what’s not to like?” I posed the question to a NFL scout who pointed out to me that there has to be some level of concern stemming from a 2006 knee injury, and while he appeared to be solid, he was never outstanding. He’s had mixed results against his best competition, but did post an interception against Colt McCoy and Texas. Thought by some to be a Day 3 selection, the same scout told me “there’s NO WAY he’s getting past Friday night.”
S T.J. Ward (Oregon)
I have done a lot of research, and while I have no reason to believe T.J. Ward’s nickname is “Freight Train”, I have no reason why it isn’t……
I could go on with “big hit porn”, but instead I’ll move on the details. Ward is a tremendous talent, a likely 2nd round pick. If he weren’t 5’10”, his skill set might get him into Round 1. He recorded 180 tackles over his last 3 seasons in Eugene-along with a pair of picks and 6 forced fumbles. He did all of that despite missing a number of games due to knee and ankle injuries-which will hurt his Draft stock. Ward will absolutely be worth the risk to any team that picks him, but he certainly doesn’t come without red flags.