Can the Ravens fix in one draft an offense that primarily passed to the boundary and rarely over the middle or down the field a year ago?
They can if you believe in the depth of this year's tight end crop, and if you endorse the creative qualities of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
On consecutive Baltimore picks, in back-to-back rounds, the Ravens took big, pass-catching tight ends in the 2010 NFL draft. They got 6-foot-4, 244-pound Ed Dickson of Oregon in the third round Friday night, and 6-4, 245-pound Dennis Pitta of BYU in the fourth round Saturday morning. They came 34 picks apart.
When the Ravens followed that up with a fifth round pick of wide receiver David Reed of Utah, they essentially completed the offseason overhaul of Joe Flacco's downfield targets.
"Both Dickson and Pitta are excellent receivers, have excellent ability to work the middle of the field, excellent ability to be able to gain yards after the catch, and they provide big targets for Joe," general manager Ozzie Newsome said.
"We've got a 6-foot-6 quarterback, and I've listened to Cam for three years talking about ‘big throwing to big.' And now we have a quarterback that can throw to some big targets in the middle of the field, that even when they're covered, they're not covered."
By getting Reed, they acquire a wide receiver/kick returner who could potentially affect the status of former first-round wide-out Mark Clayton, who does not play special teams.
Reed, 6-0 and 191 pounds, was Utah's primary kick returner as a junior (25 yards per), and the Utes' primary receiver as a senior (81 catches, 5 touchdowns).
"This year he was so valuable to them in their offense … they took him off kick returns," said Joe Hortiz, the Ravens' director of college scouting. "To me, he's a receiver who can return kicks."
Although Reed ran a 4.56 40-yard dash at the combine, Hortiz says he's got the speed to play outside and the toughness to play in the slot.
"[When] you watch film, he works the slot and then he beats corners that run 4.4 downfield," Hortiz said. "I think he can do both. I'd say he definitely has value as a slot guy because he's an instinctive guy with feel and good hands and toughness over the middle."
Reed said he believes he could return kicks and help in the passing game as a rookie because "I'm a competitor and a winner."
One pick after the Ravens took Reed with the 156th pick overall, they rejected multiple trade offers and took defensive tackle Art Jones of Syracuse, who missed the last three games of 2009 with a knee injury.
The back-to-back selection of tight ends was one of the themes in this year's draft. Sixteen teams drafted tight ends, four teams took two, and the total of 20 was the most since 23 were picked in 2002.
"We felt like it was a very deep tight end pool," said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of player personnel. "We think we got two of the better ones, honestly. We had both guys rated very high. … Both are very durable guys; excellent size, excellent hands, receiving ability, and we feel very fortunate."
Pitta was a walk-on at BYU who sat out the 2005 and 2006 seasons while serving on a Mormon mission in the Dominican Republic. He had 221 career catches and 21 touchdowns, and was projected as a second-round pick by some pundits. Falling to the fourth round stung, he admitted, and may be attributed at least partially to age – he'll be a 25-year-old rookie when the season begins.
"I definitely think I have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder because I have high expectations for myself and I'm confident in my abilities," Pitta said. "When you see guys get picked before you, you always want to measure yourself to them. And I feel like some teams missed out on a great opportunity to draft me. But I think the Ravens made a smart move, and I'm excited to be in Baltimore and compete for the job."