Friday, April 24, 2009

Free Kicks, Draft Preview Edition

Well, make this three weeks since you last got the sweet aroma of Free Kicks, and I am not sure if this will count as one. But the death of Nick Adenhart, me being overwhelmed with work-related activities and moving around (again) has put a delay into getting this up. I was going to talk about Vasquez going Pro, the NBA Playoffs, or even the tantalizing excitement of the Capitals getting knocked out in the first round, but then I realized… the draft is tomorrow and we haven’t broken it down nearly as much as we should have! So I have decided to highlight some of the players who have been linked to the Ravens’ 26th overall pick and given you my reactions. Let’s line up for the kick…

Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois: I have heard this one an awful lot, to be honest, and on some levels it does make sense. The Ravens could always use another cornerback, and Davis would fit the current situation. There has been a great deal of criticism about Davis’ fundamentals; that he lacks true cornerback skills but has hidden that with exemplary physical attributes. With the Ravens he would be able to gradually ease into his role behind Rolle, Washington, and Foxworth. However, I personally wouldn’t take the risk. Use a 4th or 5th round pick on a project corner who has measurables isn't necessarily smooth. Not your first rounder, and not when there are much more pressing needs on the team.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State: This one is clearly a reach, as it is highly unlikely that Pettigrew will fall to us. On the surface, I didn’t think we needed another tight end. Todd Heap is injury prone, but we have L.J. Smith to back him up… who is also injury prone. Additionally, both are approaching the end of their productive careers and the Ravens do not want to be left without a solid backup to enter the starting role. Pettigrew ran a disappointing 4.8 40 yard dash at the combine, but he played much faster than that. He was also a full package for the Cowboys, blocking and receiving in equal parts. Pettigrew is a consummate NFL style tight end, and it wouldn’t hurt to get Joe Flacco another target to throw to.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland: Okay Terps fans, stop salivating for a minute. This would answer the Ravens’ biggest need, but the question is… when? Bey needs a lot of work as far as route-running, and his speed may have masked other deficiencies. Additionally, despite the mediocre quarterback play, Bey completely disappeared for entire games, unable to get open- and it wasn’t just because he was triple covered. Many college receivers get additional attention and still are able to find a way to get noticed and get receptions. Darrius will need a lot of work, and it could be two or three years before he starts to contribute in a big way. Even then, there is a significant risk that he could wind up like another speedy wideout who shot up draft boards with a blazing 40 time, Troy Williamson. He could be a great pick, but he has a it of a red flag to me.

Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers: Britt is the opposite of Bey. Britt is a solid, polished route-runner with consistent college production. However, he lacks the top end, gamebreaking speed that the Ravens need to stretch the field on every play- I think we can all concede that sending Mark Clayton deep just isn’t natural. If Baltimore wants a rookie who can step in and contribute immediately, this could be the way to go. The only concern here is that Britt is more of a second round talent in my opinion, and this could be a stretch to take him here. If Ozzie wants Britt, he may want to trade down and wait to get him in the second round.

Percy Harvin, WR, Florida: This injury prone gamebreaker from Florida is a very interesting target. Harvin, if healthy, could answer the Ravens' problems at kick returner and deep threat, in addition to the plethora of roles he played in Gainesville. However, Percy seems to suffer from the greatest trouble a wideout can have- attitude problems. From all accounts teams are very concerned about his coachability and me-first outlook on the team, believing he is already a top flight receiver. He reminds me a lot of Heyward-Bey but has been used more underneath and even from the backfield- though it is unlikely that any NFL team would expose the 195lb receiver to that kind of punishment. The Ravens have to care about character, particularly if they are bringing in a loudmouth receiver who wants the ball. The last thing they want is Percy Harvin mouthing off to the press and putting Flacco and Harbaugh on ESPN for all the wrong reasons.

My take? I would take Pettigrew if he fell to us, stay away from Vontae Davis and Percy Harvin, trade down for Kenny Britt if a good deal presented itself and if not go with Darrius (if he is available). Will it go that way? If Ozzie this year is anything like he has been in the past, it won't be any of these players and will be someone we have never heard of who winds up a Pro-Bowler. Go figure.

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