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Ravens roll dice with Texas Southern cornerback Tray Walker

Posted on 02 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Looking to add depth to their secondary following last year’s nightmarish run of injuries, the Ravens rolled the dice on Texas Southern cornerback Tray Walker with the final pick of the fourth round.

At 6-foot-2 and 191 pounds, Walker brings good size and could be used in press coverage. His selection continues the Baltimore tradition of not being afraid to draft FCS-level players as the organization has taken at least one in the fourth round in four straight years. In 42 career games at Texas Southern, Walker grabbed nine interceptions and made 159 total tackles.

As is frequently the case with players coming from the FCS level, Walker was not a well-known draft prospect and was projected by some to be selected in the final round or two or to be signed as a priority free agent.

“I was not highly recruited,” said Walker when asked about playing for the Tigers in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. “I was overlooked. I was a safety in high school.”

Cornerback was regarded by most as the Ravens’ third-biggest need behind wide receiver and tight end, the positions they drafted in the first and second rounds, respectively. Five cornerbacks ended the season on injured reserve including starter Jimmy Smith and No. 3 option Asa Jackson.

Without any further additions, Walker would likely compete with Jackson and Rashaan Melvin for the No. 3 cornerback job behind starters Smith and veteran Lardarius Webb.

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allen

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USC running back Buck Allen bolsters Ravens’ depth

Posted on 02 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The unceremonious releases of Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce in the last eighth months made another running back a clear wish for the Ravens in this year’s draft.

They added to that position with the selection of USC’s Javorius “Buck” Allen in the fourth round with the 125th overall pick. The 6-foot, 220-pound back rushed for 1,489 yards and 11 touchdowns in his junior season before declaring for this year’s draft.

Allen initially figures to compete with 2014 fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro for the primary backup job behind Pro Bowl running back Justin Forsett, but he could project as the long-term starter in Baltimore. He ran a 4.53 second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine and is considered an ideal one-cut runner in the Ravens’ zone blocking schemes expected to continue to be used under new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.

“They pretty much said that they like the work I do out of the backfield and that I have great hands,” Allen said. “They said they were going to put my talents to use, so I’m ready to come there and do whatever I have to do to help the team win.”

He was the 11th running back selected in the 2015 draft.

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zadariussmith

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Ravens add Kentucky pass rusher Za’Darius Smith in fourth round

Posted on 02 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens began the final day of the NFL draft by filling the void of another free-agent departure with the selection of Kentucky defensive end Za’Darius Smith.

Chosen in the fourth round as the 122nd overall pick, Smith is expected to help fill the pass-rushing void left behind by Pernell McPhee. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound rusher was named the defensive MVP of the East-West Shrine Game and received a late invitation to the Senior Bowl.

In meeting with Smith, the Ravens made no secret about his versatility along the defensive line being an ideal replacement for McPhee. This gave the Alabama native a good idea about Baltimore’s interest in him.

“That’s all they talked about,” Smith said in a conference call with the Baltimore media. “I’m going to follow in his footsteps. A lot of people are going to be hearing from Za’Darius Smith as a Baltimore Raven.”

Smith did not begin playing football until his senior year of high school, but the junior college transfer emerged as a two-year starter at Kentucky where he collected a combined 10 1/2 sacks and 14 tackles for a loss in 2013 and 2014.

 

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Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis added to Ravens’ defensive line depth

Posted on 01 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens finally addressed their defense in the third round with the selection of Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis with the 90th overall pick.

And it’s clear the 6-foot-5, 320-pound lineman is out to prove to other teams that he shouldn’t have lasted so long on the board with some pundits previously projecting him to go as early as the end of the first round. Despite not having much contact with Davis during the evaluation process, the Ravens felt fortunate to have him fall into their laps.

“I feel like I’m one of the best defensive tackles in this year’s draft,” said Davis, who didn’t think he was on the Ravens’ radar. “I saw a lot of guys that got picked ahead of me, and that puts a chip on my shoulder. I feel like, especially when I’ve got a chip on my shoulder, there’s nobody that can stop me. I feel like I’m that much of a dominant player.”

In his senior season with the Hawkeyes, Davis was named second-team all-Big Ten after collecting 36 tackles (nine of them for a loss) and two sacks.

Davis is considered a strong run-stopping lineman who will help fill the void of five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. The Ravens will likely count on 2014 second-round pick Timmy Jernigan to step into the 3-techinique spot, but his slighter build could be replaced by Davis in short-yardage situations next to nose tackle Brandon Williams. Davis expressed confidence that he’ll be able to play all over the defensive line, which is a valuable asset with defensive coordinator Dean Pees preferring versatility in the rotation.

The Ravens were impressed with Davis’ dominating performance at the Senior Bowl and were even more surprised to find his combination of size and speed available late in the third round. The defensive line faces a tall order in replacing Ngata’s production, but Davis sounded more than willing to embrace the challenge as the Ravens have now taken a defensive tackle in the second or third round in each of the last three drafts.

“Somebody has to carry the fire, somebody has to make the tradition go on, and why not be me?” Davis said. “I know they’ve got other guys up there [like] Jernigan. Those are terrific players. I plan on learning from those guys that have already been there and know and played next to Haloti. He’s a great player, but he’s human just like we both are. And if he can do it, I feel like I can do it.”

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johnsonos

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Five questions pondering Perriman, Orioles bullpen, others

Posted on 01 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Every Friday, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Ravens or Orioles (or a mix of both).

Five questions …

1. Is it just me or has Central Florida quietly produced some quality NFL players in the last 20 years? Not exactly known as a college football powerhouse, the Knights have played at the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level for just under two decades, but their list of NFL players includes the likes of Brandon Marshall, Daunte Culpepper, Kevin Smith, Asante Samuel, Blake Bortles, and Mike Sims-Walker. First-round pick Breshad Perriman became the third former UCF player on the Ravens’ current roster, joining wide receiver Kamar Aiken and offensive lineman Jah Reid. Of course, Baltimore can only pray that Perriman works out a lot better than Reid, who has been a major disappointment as a third-round pick in 2011.

2. Is it just me or is Steve Pearce quickly becoming the new Melvin Mora? As if Friday’s opener as the “home” team at Tropicana Field wasn’t strange enough, the Orioles started Steve Pearce at second base for the first time in his professional career — majors or minors. Fielding questions aside, it’s a creative way to get Pearce in the lineup as he’s essentially been supplanted by the hot-hitting Jimmy Paredes over the last two weeks. Through the first 21 games of the season, Pearce has now started at five different spots — both corner outfield positions, first base, designated hitter, and second base. If you’re wondering what could be next, Pearce has also appeared at third base in his major league career and once at shortstop in the minors. That versatility is just another reason why Buck Showalter likes having Pearce on his roster, especially if his bat can heat up to 2014 levels.

3. Is it just me or do the Ravens always seem to land a high-value player in the second round? Baltimore clearly needed to add a tight end with Dennis Pitta’s future unclear and Owen Daniels now in Denver, but few would have expected Minnesota’s Maxx Williams to still be on the board when general manager Ozzie Newsome moved up just three spots to grab him at 55th overall. It hasn’t worked out perfectly every year in terms of results, but Torrey Smith (2011), Arthur Brown (2013), Timmy Jernigan (2014), and Williams (2015) were all players linked to the Ravens in at least a few first-round mock drafts before Newsome ultimately nabbed each one in the second round. Pretty strong value.

4. Is it just me or do the Orioles have too many attractive bullpen options at Triple-A Norfolk to waste much more time on the Jason Garcia experiment? Showalter offered an honest assessment of the Rule 5 pick last homestand in noting that his velocity has dropped from the spring, perhaps a sign of the organization having second thoughts about continuing to keep him on the roster. A peek at Norfolk might expedite that conclusion with a finally-healthy Steve Johnson posting a 0.73 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings this season. The Tides starting rotation also sports options with Mike Wright (2.29 ERA), Zach Davies (1.25 ERA), and Tyler Wilson (3.86 ERA) leading the way. Garcia has a 6.97 ERA and 8.61 FIP (fielding independent pitching mark), numbers so poor that you must ask if his potential ceiling is worth keeping him on the roster of a contending club.

5. Is it just me or does the NFL need to pick up the pace in announcing draft picks? One of my biggest pet peeves over the last few years is how easily the television presentation falls behind the pace of picks actually being turned in by the teams. Commercial breaks are unavoidable, but it becomes excessive when the announcement of a selection is delayed while the networks blabber on about something unrelated to what’s happening in real time. The NFL has effectively transformed the draft into a three-day marathon, but can we at least announce the picks in a timely manner to avoid logjams like what we experienced Thursday with the news of Perriman’s selection being out there for several minutes before it was announced by commissioner Roger Goodell? The event is long enough as it is without the additional dragging of feet.

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maxx

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Ravens move up to take Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams

Posted on 01 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome wasted no time addressing another major need as he selected Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams with the 55th overall pick of the 2015 draft.

A day after drafting Central Florida wide receiver Breshad Perriman in the first round, Newsome traded his original second-round pick (58th overall) and a fifth-round pick (158th overall) to move ahead of Pittsburgh — also coveting a tight end — to grab the talented Williams. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound target was the top tight end in the draft after making 61 receptions for 986 yards and 13 touchdowns in his two seasons with the Golden Gophers.

Williams said he tries to emulate the play of Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten and has also drawn comparisons to former Ravens tight end Todd Heap from many talent evaluators.

“I told everyone I was trying to be a starter right away,” Williams said in a conference call with the Baltimore media. “You have to have your goals and what you want to go for, and that’s what I want. I want to be a starter. I want to go in and prove that I can make a difference and help win a championship.”

An impressive playmaker as a receiver, Williams needs to work on his blocking ability, but his skill set is a critical addition due to the uncertainty regarding Dennis Pitta’s future and the free-agent departure of Owen Daniels. Second-year tight end Crockett Gillmore is more of a blocking-minded option at the position, making Williams the perfect fit for the Ravens’ West Coast offense.

Before running the 40-yard dash in an underwhelming 4.78 seconds at the NFL scouting combine in February, Williams was considered a surefire candidate to be taken in the first round, but the Ravens were ecstatic to see him linger long enough in the second to move up to grab him. Seventy-seven percent of Williams’ 36 receptions went for either a first down or a touchdown during the 2014 season.

“Quite honestly, I never dreamed that he would be there for us even in that range of players,” assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. “We thought he’d be gone. We thought conceivably in the first round, but definitely [in the] top 40 picks in the draft. We were happy to get him.”

Williams is a second-generation NFL player as his father Brian enjoyed an 11-year career as a center for the New York Giants. His grandfather Robert played quarterback at Notre Dame and was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1959, but he elected to instead go to medical school.

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New Ravens receiver Perriman likens himself to Julio Jones

Posted on 01 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Drawing predictable comparisons to Torrey Smith after being drafted with the 26th pick of the 2015 draft, new Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman envisions a higher upside for himself.

Asked which player he shares similarities with in the NFL, the Central Florida product likened himself to two-time Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones. At 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, Perriman’s frame stacks up favorably to the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Jones.

Baltimore hopes his kind of production will eventually follow as the Atlanta Falcons receiver has amassed more than 4,000 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns in only 49 career games.

“He’s kind of a big receiver like myself, but he can play as a small receiver as well,” Perriman said. “He can stretch the field vertically, he has great quickness, and he’s physical. That’s the one I like to compare myself to.”

Such a comparison may sound too ambitious for a player who competed in the American Athletic Conference, but the Ravens drafted Perriman with hopes of him developing into the high-impact No. 1 receiver quarterback Joe Flacco has never enjoyed in his career.

Perriman should appeal to new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, who coached big targets like Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in Chicago. Wide receivers coach Bobby Engram agrees with Perriman’s comparison to Jones, who was the sixth overall pick of the 2011 draft and led the NFC with 1,593 receiving yards last year.

“The same guy he mentioned, but you look at a guy like Alshon, [too],” Engram said. “There are a lot of bigger receivers in the league. To me, you take him as his own guy for his skill set and his ability. I’m excited for what he’s going to bring to the Ravens.”

Engram and Ravens national scouting direction Joe Douglas studied Perriman up close and personal during his pro day in which he ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.22 seconds. This came after he didn’t work out at the NFL scouting combine in February due to a hamstring injury.

Such a performance certainly helped solidify Perriman as a first-round pick, but the Ravens liked more than his blinding speed. And that includes the way he caught the football, which is a concern talent evaluators have expressed about the 21-year-old Georgia native. Several members of the organization have expressed confidence that Perriman can improve his concentration in order to limit the drops that occasionally plagued him in college.

“We saw a guy that moved really well. Quick, agile for his size,” Engram said. “He caught the ball fluidly. Obviously, he ran really fast and I think that got everyone’s attention, but that was just a piece of the puzzle. When you’re evaluating and look at a guy like Breshad, you try to gather as much information as you can and make that decision. I feel very fortunate that we have him in the building.”

The Ravens know that Perriman isn’t a finished product, which is part of his appeal after he caught 50 passes for 1,044 yards and nine touchdowns in his junior season. He must refine his routes after being asked to primarily go vertical in college.

Despite the question marks, the Ravens see a young receiver who’s only going to get better after forgoing his senior season. Upon being selected on Thursday night, Perriman received very clear advice from his father Brett, who played 10 seasons in the NFL.

“Celebrate it. Enjoy the whole process,” Perriman said. “But when the day is over, it’s really time to go to work.”

“I like that message from Dad,” Engram added.

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perriman

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Ravens swing for fences with speedy wideout Perriman

Posted on 01 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens swung for the fences with their first-round selection of Central Florida wide receiver Breshad Perriman on Thursday night.

Less than two months after watching speedy wide receiver Torrey Smith depart via free agency, general manager Ozzie Newsome came away with a bigger and faster version of the 2011 second-round pick who will immediately give the passing game a much-needed vertical threat. Of course, the Ravens’ struggles in developing talent at the position are no secret as Perriman became the first receiver drafted by the organization in the first round since Mark Clayton in 2005, making you wonder if it will finally be different this time around.

Clayton? Disappointing.

Their 2000 first-round receiver Travis Taylor? A flop.

No, we can’t forget the laundry list of disappointing names, even after Smith served as the exception to the rule over the last four years.

Baltimore hopes the son of former 10-year NFL receiver Brett Perriman becomes their greatest success story at the position yet after Smith left the franchise ranked second in all-time touchdown receptions and third in career receiving yards. The 6-foot-2, 212-pound Perriman is easily the most physically-gifted receiver the Ravens have drafted in their 20-year history after he ran the 40-yard dash in under 4.3 seconds at his pro day.

With the Ravens in desperate need of a receiver to blow the top off opposing defenses, the selection looks good on paper.

“I saw a big, fast, physical stallion,” said assistant general manager Eric DeCosta about his impressions watching Perriman’s game tape at Newsome’s urging in February. “A younger player; he’s going to get better. We’re very excited about him. He complements our group of guys extremely well. I think he’s a great kid, and I think he makes us a better football team.”

Perriman doesn’t come without questions as his highlight-reel plays and 20.8 yards per catch average at UCF the last two years were too often offset by inconsistent hands resulting in “concentration drops” as Newsome described them. Primarily used in the vertical passing game, the 21-year-old will need to prove he can run the entire route tree, something that prohibited Smith from becoming a bona fide No. 1 receiver in his time with Baltimore.

At the very least, the Ravens will break even if Perriman can be as good as Smith was over his first four years. The University of Maryland product may have only been a second-round pick compared to Perriman being a first-rounder, but the Ravens will pay the latter a fraction of the $40 million contract Smith signed with San Francisco in March.

Ultimately, Perriman’s selection represents the Ravens’ best attempt to find 30-year-old quarterback Joe Flacco a true No. 1 receiver. It doesn’t need to happen immediately with veteran Steve Smith still present to lead a young group of wideouts, but the Ravens haven’t aimed this high at the position at any point during Flacco’s career.

After Perriman caught 115 passes for 2,243 yards and 16 touchdowns in his three collegiate seasons — two of them playing with current Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles — it’s clear the Ravens envision much more after he declared for the draft as a junior.

“This is a developmental receiver who has gotten a lot better in the last two years,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He really played well in the last five or six games of this past season. We think he’s on the rise. He rose for a reason in the draft as far as in the past couple months in the draft process, and we are really excited about him as a coaching staff.”

The Ravens have found productive veterans over age 30 (Steve Smith, Derrick Mason, and Anquan Boldin) over the years and taken fliers on late-round picks such as Tommy Streeter, Aaron Mellette, and Michael Campanaro over the year, but drafting Perriman is their strongest attempt yet to find a top-flight receiver after using a second-round pick on Smith four years ago. His upside is easy to see, but receivers with his skill set are difficult to project as his hands could ultimately be his undoing despite such impressive physical gifts.

Perriman’s selection might ultimately prove to be a whiff, but Newsome hopes his speed, size, and football pedigree make for a winning combination while also maximizing Flacco’s ability in the prime of his career.

Selecting a receiver like Perriman is a risk, but it’s worth it if the Ravens can take their offense to the next level.

Sometimes you just have to try to knock one out of the park.

“I feel I had my best visit that I had by far [with the Ravens],” Perriman said. “That was actually the team that I was wishing to go to. I know it’s a great opportunity, and I can’t wait to get there.”

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perriman

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Ravens draft UCF wide receiver Perriman with 26th overall pick

Posted on 30 April 2015 by WNST Staff

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Ravens with six remaining picks in 2015 NFL draft

Posted on 30 April 2015 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 2 p.m. Saturday)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have six remaining picks in this year’s NFL draft.

With a clear need remaining at cornerback and other positional wants such as running back, edge pass rusher, safety, interior offensive lineman, and kick returner, the Ravens will be busy continuing to build a 2015 roster capable of making the postseason for the seventh time in the last eight years. Of course, general manager Ozzie Newsome will stay true to his draft board with a sterling record of success overly nearly two decades in Baltimore.

While player personnel assistants Corey Krawiec and Patrick McDonough will represent the Ravens at the draft in Chicago, Newsome and the rest of the Ravens brass will be working hard at their Owings Mills headquarters. Teams have 10 minutes to select a player in the first round, seven minutes in the second round, and five minutes in each of the remaining rounds.

Below is a look at where the Ravens are currently scheduled to pick:

Round 1 (26th overall): Central Florida WR Breshad Perriman
Round 2 (55th overall): Minnesota TE Maxx Williams
Round 3 (90th overall): Iowa DT Carl Davis
Round 4 (122nd overall): Kentucky DE Za’Darius Smith
Round 4 (125th overall): USC RB Buck Allen
Round 4 (136th overall – compensatory): Texas Southern CB Tray Walker
Round 5 (171st overall – compensatory): Delaware TE Nick Boyle
Round 5 (175th overall – compensatory): Tennessee State G Robert Myers
Round 6 (203rd overall): Georgia Tech WR Darren Waller

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