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Ravens continue to host prospects as draft nears

Baltimore RavensFootballStephen HillPeter KonzDre KirkpatrickNFL

Pro Football Talk does an outstanding job of keeping track of all the reported visits between prospects and NFL teams leading up to the draft in late April, so hat tip to them for the compilation below.

The Ravens will host plenty more prospects in the weeks ahead. There is a lot that goes into deciding what prospects come to team facilities in the days before the draft. Obviously, teams want to get to know certain prospects better or have their doctors and trainers check out potential medical concerns. Some teams bring in certain guys as a smoke screen, hoping that the competition will believe that they’re all in on one guy while the player that they really want flies under the radar. Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta acknowledged last week that they bring in certain guys that they know they won’t draft, but the familiarity with them and vice versa will help the organization down the road.

 “You sort of play to your strengths and say, ‘Well, we like this guy. He knows that we like him. We have a relationship with him. We’ve worked him out. We got him into the facility. We’re going to try and get him as a [non-drafted] free agent,’” DeCosta said. “Sometimes when we actually bring a player here, it’s not necessarily because we’re going to draft him, but it’s because we really like him as a free agent. It’s worth it to us to bring him here to see this building because we know that it’s going to give us an edge in free agency versus these other teams.”

So keep that in mind with the names (listed below) of players that have either already been to the team’s complex in Owings Mills or have plans to before the draft. I added a couple of brief thoughts on the players.   

Ron Brooks, LSU, CB: Brooks didn’t even start for the talented Tigers, but he did occupy one role that surely intrigues the Ravens: he was the gunner on punt coverage. The Ravens have already made several additions to improve their special teams units, and Brooks was an accomplished special teams player in college.

Gino Gradkowski, Delaware, OL: He’s the type of player the offensive-line needy Ravens could look to add either late in the draft or as an undrafted free agent. The brother of long-time NFL quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, he can play guard or center.

Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech, WR: Hill’s draft status has skyrocketed since an eye-popping performance at the NFL Scouting Combines. The Ravens are looking for another big and fast receiver, and Hill, who is 6-4, 215 pounds and ran one of the best 40 times at the combine, certainly qualifies. However, there is a good chance that Hill isn’t even on the board when the Ravens make their first selection at pick 29.

Buddy Jackson, Pittsburgh, CB: Like Brooks, Jackson is attractive to the Ravens more for his work on special teams than in the secondary. He is an explosive kick returner who ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at Pittsburgh’s Pro Day.

A.J. Jenkins, Illinois, WR: The Ravens are expected to grab a receiver in this draft and it’s probably more likely that they take one in the middle rounds than with the 29th pick. Jenkins, who has good speed and caught 90 balls for Illinois last season, is projected as a second- or third-round pick.

Cam Johnson, Virginia, DE: Johnson, projected as a third- or fourth-round pick, has all the physical tools, but there are questions about his production at Virginia. He can player either defensive end or outside linebacker and the Ravens are looking to add to their depth at both positions after losing Jarret Johnson and Cory Redding to free agency.  

Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama, CB: Kirkpatrick is one of the better corners in the draft and probably will be long gone by the time the Ravens pick. The Ravens are pretty set on the corners, but Kirkpatrick intrigues some teams as a safety and the Ravens love Alabama players.  

Peter Konz, Wisconsin, OL: Rated as the top center in the draft, Konz is the player most often connected to the Ravens in round one of mock drafts. It does make a lot of sense with Matt Birk nearing retirement. Konz can also play guard, which means that he could fill Ben Grubbs’ spot for a season and then move to center after Birk retires.  

Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati, RB: The Ravens have pledged to give young running backs Anthony Allen and Damien Berry an opportunity to get on the field more behind Ray Rice, so I’d be surprised if they grab a back in the first couple of rounds. But Pead, who is ranked sixth at his position by ESPN, also could serve as a return man.  

Josh Robinson, Central Florida, CB: Again, the Ravens appear pretty set at cornerback with Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams, Jimmy Smith, Corey Graham, Danny Gorrer and Chykie Brown. But Robinson is a great athlete who had the fastest 40 time at the combine and could be used in a variety of ways.

Nelson Rosario, UCLA, WR: Rosario isn’t highly rated in draft publications, but he does possess good size (6-5, 219 pounds) and big-play ability. He averaged 18.1 yards per catch during his senior season.

Phillip Thomas, Syracuse, S: Thomas was suspended by Syracuse for a year for violation of athletic department policy, so that certainly is a red flag. However, it’s a relatively weak safety class and the Ravens could look to target a guy like Thomas in the later rounds.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Baltimore RavensFootballStephen HillPeter KonzDre KirkpatrickNFL
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