Ravens pleased with draft class

Street Talk Ravens pleased with draft class

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OWINGS MILLS – A rich draft haul that included shutdown cornerback Jimmy Smith and fast wide receiver Torrey Smith triggered smiles as the Baltimore Ravens’ front office huddled afterward.

And it eased the pain of director of player personnel Eric DeCosta, who’s getting around on crutches after having his Achilles tendon surgically repaired.

"I’m pretty good," DeCosta said. "Once we got the Smith boys, I didn’t have to take any more pain medication."

After landing Jimmy Smith in the first round following a fiasco involving a botched trade with the Chicago Bears, former University of Maryland star Torrey Smith in the second round and Central Florida offensive tackle Jah Reid in the fifth round, the Ravens wrapped up the draft Saturday.

They wound up with a productive possession wide receiver in the fourth round by selecting Indiana wide receiver Tandon Doss, another sizable mobile corner in Texas’ Chykie Brown and Mississippi State All-Southeastern Conference defensive end Pernell McPhee in the fifth round, athletic Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the sixth round and bullish Georgia Tech running back Anthony Allen in the seventh round.

"We didn’t make any errors," DeCosta said. "There was an error made, but earlier in the draft. Fortunately, that wasn’t our error. This year, the draft just fell for us the right way. We had some positions that we felt we needed to address to make ourselves a better team and really good players fell down to us.

"We got lucky this year in some respects. I think we were aggressive in our approach to the draft, knowing who we wanted. This is a big draft for us."

With no free agency signing period preceding the draft because of the NFL labor dispute that has caused a lockout, the Ravens weren’t able to fill holes on the roster until this week.

"We were able to address some needs," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "We think we added some quality depth to our football team. We are a better football team today than we were when we started out on Thursday night."

The Ravens wound up with Doss in part because of starting quarterback Joe Flacco.

Prior to the lockout, DeCosta had Flacco deliver a scouting report on six wide receivers projected for the middle rounds.

And Flacco sent DeCosta a message: Draft Doss.

"Tandon Doss was the top guy," coach John Harbaugh said.

At 6-foot-2, 201 pounds, Doss is regarded as a sure-handed wideout. He lacks blazing speed, but has run in the 4.4 range in the past.

An All-Big Ten Conference selection, Doss caught 63 passes for 706 yards and seven touchdowns last season despite playing with two sports hernias. He had surgery after the season and was unable to work out at the NFL scouting combine.

"What Joe liked about him is that he caught the ball away from his body," DeCosta said. "He was tough and very physical. He made the comment that he looked like the kind of guy that was easy to throw the ball to. That kind of stuck with me."

A junior, Doss declared for the draft to help out his mother and brother.

His mother raised him as a single parent because his father was in and out of jail. And his brother, Anthony, is a schizophrenic who has been in and out of jail as well as mental institutions, but is living at home now.

"I’ve been through stuff throughout my life," Doss said. "It made me a lot tougher, and I had to grow up a lot quicker coming from that with my family. Football has always been an escape for me.

"Every time I’m on the field, I always give 100 percent, my best. I clear my mind and focus on what I need to get done."

Doss finished with 154 career receptions for 1,854 yards and 13 touchdowns.

It didn’t hurt that Doss’ style is different than Torrey Smith, a 4.37 sprinter.

"Tandon is the opposite of Torrey," Newsome said. "We thought he would be a great complement to Torrey."

Doss was vouched for by Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean.

That came from Harbaugh’s family connections since Crean is his brother-in-law.

"He was their go-to guy," Harbaugh said. "He was the guy they got the ball every way they could. He wasn’t really a downfield guy, and I think it had more to do with their quarterback because he got the ball on screens, crossing routes, stop routes. Whenever they needed a play, they gave it to him."

Taylor had an accurate throwing session at the NFL scouting combine.

And the 6-foot-1, 217-pounder ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds and posted a 37 1/2 inch vertical leap, 10-6 broad jump and a 6.78 three-cone drill.

Named the Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year, Taylor owns the Hokies’ records for total offense, passing yards, rushing yards and touchdowns for a quarterback, touchdown passes in a season and career wins.

The Ravens have no intentions of playing him at another position.

"We drafted him as a quarterback, and he was evaluated as a quarterback," Newsome said. "As far as him coming into our system, we feel like he has the skill sets to play the position and he also brings the added dimension of being a terrific athlete that can get out of the pocket and hurt people. He has the ability to do that also."

Last season, Taylor passed for 24 touchdowns and five interceptions, completing 172 of 284 passes.

He draws high marks from speed and elusiveness, rushing for 637 yards and five touchdowns last season.

Some draft analysts have knocked him for his throwing motion, but his accuracy has been sound.

Two seasons ago, Taylor completed 136 of 243 throws for 2,311 yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions with 370 rushing yards.

"I believe I can do it all, I believe I’m the most dynamic quarterback in the draft," Taylor said. "I have the ability to move the pocket and keep the play alive, and I also have the ability to stay in the pocket and make every throw that they ask for. My style is kind of a mixture of all.

Most teams have talked to me as far as a quarterback. I’m evaluated as a quarterback. After talking to the Ravens’ coaching staff, they look at me as a quarterback and want to mentor me and mature me as a quarterback. I wouldn’t classify me as a scrambler. I’m a guy who can move, but I’ve made throws from the pocket and I can do that."

Brown intercepted just two career passes, but is a strong, mobile cornerback.

"Chykie is a kid that started at corner, played at safety, brings some versatility," Newsome said. "We think he’ll be a really good special-teamer.

Brown was a former college roommate of Ravens linebacker Sergio Kindle, a second-round draft pick last year who missed his entire rookie season with a fractured skull that has endangered his NFL career.

"I just hope he comes back," Brown said. "I hope the old Sergio I know gets his head all straight and just comes back and is the Sergio that you all thought he would be. God knows, he’s a great player."

McPhee posted 91 tackles and seven sacks with 22 tackles for losses, 20 quarterback pressures and two forced fumbles in two seasons at Mississippi State.

At Itawamba Junior College after he was unable to enroll at Southern Miss due to academic issues out of high school, the 6-foot-3, 280-pounder had 32 ½ career sacks.

He chose Mississippi State over Alabama and LSU.

"Anytime you can find someone that has an ability to rush the passer, he brings value to us," Newsome said.

Added DeCosta: "We think he can get bigger to be more of a 3-4 end. What we like about him is he’s relentless, plays very hard. We had a chance to see him down at the Senior Bowl, and there were stretches when he had his way with some of the better tackles in the draft. We just like his motor, his mentality. He can rush the passer. We think this is a kid who has a lot of upside."

Allen is a 6-foot-1, 230-pound power back who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.56 second and registered a 41 ½ inch vertical leap and bench pressed 225 pounds 24 times.

A transfer from Louisville, the All-Atlantic Coast Conference running back rushed for 1,934 yards in two seasons at Georgia Tech. For his four-year career, he gained 3,036 yards.

He rushed for 1,316 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior.

"We think there’s some upside there being that he played in a wishbone," Newsome said. "Running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery made the statement to us last week when we were in meetings that if we backed this guy up six or seven yards from the ball, then he thinks he could add a lot to us as a running back."

NOTES: The Ravens are hoping to bolster their pass rush whenever free agency begins. "Yes, if we could get the opportunity to put ourselves in the position to get someone else, we would probably be looking at it very seriously," Newsome said. … DeCosta said that inside linebacker wasn’t a high priority for the Ravens in the draft. "Quite honestly, we like our guys," he said. "We’ve like our inside backers. We think they’re getting better. They’re young players on the come." … Secondary coach Teryl Austin tore his Achilles tendon last week and will undergo surgery soon. … The Ravens were able to give Jimmy Smith a playbook before the lockout resumed, but Torrey Smith didn’t get one since he arrived at the training complex Saturday. … Newsome said that Kindle’s unresolved status didn’t affect their draft strategy. "No, not really," he said. "Pass rushers are like corners. You don’t ever have enough of those guys." … Harbaugh said that he held a trade discussion in the fourth round with his brother, San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. However, it didn’t work out. "Apparently in our minds, they wanted too much," Harbaugh said. "And in their minds, we wanted too much."


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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors. 

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