Top 10 draft needs: No. 3 - Wide receiver

Top 10 draft needs: No. 3 - Wide receiver
April 22, 2013, 11:45 am
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Inside the Ravens Draft: Replacing Anquan Boldin

In the 10 days leading up to the NFL Draft, which begins Thursday, we are counting down the Ravens biggest needs heading into the draft.

Today, it's No. 3: Wide receiver.

The Ravens decision to trade Anquan Boldin for a sixth-round draft pick definitely raised eyebrows, and it has created a sizable void in the heart of the Ravens offense.

Boldin isn't getting any younger -- he'll be 33 in October -- and the cap-challenged Ravens were not going to pay him the $6 million he was due. There have long been issues about whether he could gain separation from defensive backs, but his hands, strength and toughness seemed to make up for any speed deficiencies.

Other than Joe Flacco, Boldin was probably the Ravens most valuable player in the playoffs, with 22 catches for 380 yards and four touchdowns. He seemed to be on a personal mission to win the Super Bowl that had eluded him by less than a minute when he was with the Cardinals.

The Ravens publicly are praising the group of receivers who could step in to succeed Boldin, including Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams, Deonte Thompson and David Reed.

"Those young players get an opportunity to get on the field to see if they can give us the type of production that we need," general manager Ozzie Newsome said at the Ravens pre-draft news conference. "I like all of them. I like all of their chances of playing this year."

But the truth is none of them is proven, and the Ravens need to find another go-to receiver to line up alongside Torrey Smith. It could be Jacoby Jones, but his value with the return team might limit his work on offense.

Doss has the most experience, but his career totals over two years -- seven catches for 123 yards -- add up to a decent day for Boldin. And Doss, who has a reputation for excellent hands, dropped several balls last season.

Baltimore native and West Virginia product Tavon Austin headlines the wide receiver draft class, although he is expected to be long gone by the time the Ravens pick at No. 32.

Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz described this year's draft pool of wide receivers as "pretty solid. It’s probably bigger and thicker in the middle than in years past."

"Really the whole draft, there are guys in each round that can help us," Hortiz added. "There is a really solid core group of guys in the middle rounds that I think will go in the second or third round that will be solid, dependable starters in the NFL.”

Here is the countdown of the Ravens top 10 needs entering the draft:

No. 10 - Edge rusher

No. 9 - Offensive guard

No. 8 - Third tight end

No. 7 - Special teams

No. 6 - Backup fullback

No. 5 - Center

No. 4 - Safety