The Ravens continued their due diligence on the 2009 crop of wide receivers recently by conducting a private workout with North Carolina receiver Hakeem Nicks last Friday.
Sitting with the 26th-overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, the Ravens have been linked to Nicks, Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey, Kenny Britt of Rutgers and Florida's Percy Harvin at the wideout position.
Baltimore also conducted a private workout with Heyward-Bey and has met with all prospects.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco!(/team/roster/joe-flacco/3e20766f-6520-4ca1-9901-44389aaea8b8/ "Joe Flacco") traveled to College Park, Md., to throw to Heyward-Bey and was originally scheduled to go to Chapel Hill, N.C., but had to back off the trip due to scheduling conflicts.
So, with Baltimore receivers coach **Jim Hostler** leading the drills, Nicks demonstrated the sound hands and technical accuracy for which he is known.
Nicks presented a different picture than Heyward-Bey, whose blazing speed - he ran a 4.30-second time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine - and 6-foot-2 size have some scouts salivating.
But Ravens director of player personnel **Eric DeCosta** thinks that Nicks' prototypical receiving skills can make up for the 4.51 time he ran at the Combine, pointing to his sure hands and production.
Heyward-Bey never topped 51 receptions in any of his three seasons as a Terrapin, while Nicks caught 68 passes for 1,222 yards and 12 touchdowns last year.
"Hakeem Nicks is a totally different type of receiver [than Heyward-Bey]," DeCosta said. "He's a good route-runner, and probably has the best set of hands in college football.
"He runs a 4.52 - 4.54, in that range. So you've got one receiver that caught over 80 passes this year, and then another that caught 35. The guy that caught 35 passes runs a 4.2, and the guy that caught 80 passes runs a 4.5."
One of the biggest knocks on Nicks has been a troubling weight gain from the time he tweaked a hamstring at the Combine to UNC's Pro Day. Nicks ballooned to 226 pounds, but is reportedly back down to his playing weight of 212 pounds.
"I love Hakeem Nicks, but you've got to convince yourself off the field that he's okay," said NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock. "He gained 14 pounds. That raised some red flags. Outside of off-the-field issues, he reminds me a little bit of a poor man's Anquan Boldin.
"He fights for every catch, he's got huge hands, really good hand-eye coordination. Not as fast as the 'elite' guys, but fast enough to get open. He creates separation with his quickness of his body, I think he goes anywhere from about 25 to 35 or in that range."
The Ravens also saw many positives with Heyward-Bey, but DeCosta cautioned that he needs to work on his catching ability, even with his superior athleticism. Heyward-Bey has been projected to go to the Oakland Raiders, who hold the No. 7 pick and love speed, or even fall into the early second round.
"He has good size, runs good routes," DeCosta said of the Maryland product. "His hands are so-so, not great, but there a lot of really good receivers in the league that don't have great hands. He's not a natural catcher. At this point, he would be a top-15 pick, I would guess, based on his size and speed. He's a big, fast guy, and those guys don't normally last into the 20s."
Meanwhile, the Ravens also worked out Tar Heels tight end Richard Quinn during their campus visit.
Quinn, 6-foot-4, 264 pounds, is regarded as a blocking specialist. Quinn ran a 4.74 time in the 40 at his Pro Day, and Hostler said that he impressed with his potential in the passing game.
Quinn only totaled 12 career receptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
Of course, that was partly because of Nicks' prolific contributions. As the Ravens saw last Friday, Nicks might not be as fleet-footed as some of his competitors in this draft, but his receiving skills could make him a hot commodity.