Cal Poly wide receiver Ramses Barden (on left, sustaining hit) is a great draft prospect. Despite coming out of a very small school, he is the 12th best wide receiver prospect in a stacked wide receiver class that includes Michael Crabtree, Percy Harvin, Jeremy Maclin and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Last year, the Baltimore Ravens were a very good team, finishing 11-5. Quarterback Joe Flacco had 2,971 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. While the touchdown-interception ratio isn't incredible, it's much due to the fact that the Ravens don't have a tall receiver. Ravens No. 1 receiver Derrick Mason is still amongst the most consistent receivers in all of football, but he is 34 years old and won't be in the NFL for long. Former first round pick Mark Clayton has had one consistent season, in 2006. This year, Clayton had 41 catches for 695 yards and scored three touchdowns. He had some games where he shined and some games where he didn't catch a pass.
The Ravens will be very busy this offseason. Linebackers Bart Scott and Ray Lewis, safeties Jim Leonhard and Dawan Landry, punter Sam Koch and kicker Matt Stover are all free agents. Despite Baltimore finishing 11-5 last year, they have plenty of holes. They don't have a tall receiver, an elite corner and tight end is becoming an issue. The Ravens draft will be a big indicator in their success. My advice: take Ramses Barden.
The Ravens, as I mentioned, need a tall, playmaking receiver. Barden is 6'6", the tallest receiver in the draft, yet projects as a 3rd-5th round pick. The main reason for this is his route running isn't as crisp as those from elite schools like Ohio State, Florida, Miami, Tennesee, USC, etc. Also, being that he never faced a real elite defense this year, Barden won't be given the credit much deserved. Despite that, he is excited for the draft.
"I'm excited. Everything is sort of culminating, everything is adding up. It's not the be all end all but this is an important week for me," said Barden during a phone interview. "I'm going to make the best possible impression that I can to show that I'm a great value to any team that is looking to draft me." Barden claimed that the Ravens have even expressed interest in him, along with Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Dallas.
His level of competition might concern some scouts, but he has the tools to become a great professional receiver. He is tall, has great hands and if his route-running improves, he's NFL ready as far as I'm concerned. Scout.com's Ed Thompson compared Barden's leaping abilities to that of Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who fans were very familiar with during the playoffs and during this season.
During the Senior Bowl, he caught two passes for 20 yards, not bad for a guy from Cal Poly. "I think I did well at the Senior bowl. Scouts got to see me play against the rest of the elite players in the country and they saw what I can bring to a NFL club. I talked to almost every team but the ones that showed the most interest were the Dolphins, Seahawks, Cowboys, Ravens, Bucs, and Rams," said Barden.
Barden should make an impact with the Ravens and might have the opportunity to catch 50 passes as a rookie. Heck, he has the right quarterback. Barden has had plenty of good games, but when asked to describe which showed his talent, he said that Western Oregon and Weber State, he caught a combined 15 passes for 327 yards and six touchdowns.
Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome should do whatever he can to put Ramses Barden in Purple and Black next year. Right now, wide receiver is one of the Ravens main priorities.
The Ravens should pursue their more urgent needs first, such as cornerback and tight end. In the first round, the Ravens should select cornerback D.J. Moore out of Vanderbilt. Moore had six interceptions as a senior. However, his stock is climbing and could climb him all the way into the top 15 - out of the Ravens reach - but it's unlikely. In the second round, with the aging Todd Heap, the Ravens should select Chase Coffman out of Missouri. While Brandon Pettigrew out of Oklahoma State would be hard to pass up if he falls to the Ravens, it's very unlikely that will happen.
In the third round, Barden should get his name called by the Ravens. He reminds most scouts of Saints receiver Marques Colston, who averages 1,000 yards per season in his first three full years in the NFL. Hopefully, Ozzie sees what I see.