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Ravens 'Sweated the Pick,' Then Got Sooners' Clayton

By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page E12

OWINGS MILLS, Md., April 23 -- There were a couple of anxious moments for the Baltimore Ravens as they waited to find out who the Jacksonville Jaguars were going to take with the 21st overall selection in the NFL draft.

The Ravens had the player they wanted to take with the 22nd pick -- Oklahoma wide receiver Mark Clayton -- on the phone, but they needed to make sure the Jaguars didn't step in and take him away. When Jacksonville's selection of converted Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones became official, Eric DeCosta, Baltimore's director of college scouting, leapt out of his chair and pumped his fists.

The only knock against Oklahoma wide receiver Mark Clayton is his size: 5 feet 10, 193 pounds. (Sue Ogrocki -- AP)

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"We sweated the pick," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. Had Jacksonville selected Clayton, the Ravens were prepared to trade their pick to Oakland and drop to the Raiders' 26th slot.

But Baltimore got what it wanted: Not only was Clayton was the highest-rated player left on the Ravens' board, he fills a long-standing need for the offense, which ranked 31st in total yards per game in 2004.

"I saw a lot of players this fall, and Mark was one of the few guys I saw who I felt was a true Ravens-type player," DeCosta said. "I think he makes [running back] Jamal Lewis better because he's a great blocker, I think he makes [quarterback] Kyle Boller better because he can catch the ball on third downs, inside or outside, and hopefully he'll help us score more points."

Clayton had 66 catches for 876 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior. He holds Oklahoma career records for receptions (221), receiving yards (3,241), touchdown catches (31) and 100-yard games (15).

The Ravens were also looking for an offensive lineman, but there was only one player they thought could help immediately: Clayton's Oklahoma teammate, tackle Jammal Brown. After New Orleans moved up three spots to take Brown with the 13th pick, the Ravens turned to Clayton.

When the Ravens' offensive staff met in February before the start of free agency, new offensive coordinator Jim Fassel made the point that the Ravens needed more quickness and more yardage after the catch from their receivers. They've taken steps to address that, first by signing free agent Derrick Mason and now by drafting Clayton. Both players are, in Newsome's words, "guys that can take those eight- to 10-yard catches and go the distance and guys that can separate from man coverage."

Added Coach Brian Billick: "Yards after the catch is something that we have not been able to produce in the passing game. Anyone that has seen Mark play, there can be no doubt that he adds that dimension."

Baltimore's receivers combined for just 121 catches, 7 touchdowns and 1,415 yards last season. The Ravens allowed Kevin Johnson and former top-10 pick Travis Taylor -- who accounted for over half of the catches and yards -- to depart during free agency, leaving them with three young but promising wideouts: Randy Hymes (third season), Clarence Moore (second season) and Devard Darling (second season). Mason, a two-time Pro Bowler with Tennessee, was signed in March.

"We still feel good about Devard, Randy and Clarence," Newsome said. "But as much depth as I can provide Brian and his coaches, the better off we'll be in October and November."

Clayton also gives the Ravens another capable returner to go with B.J. Sams. Clayton averaged 14.4 yards on punt returns as a senior, and said that he would welcome the opportunity to return kicks in Baltimore.

The only knock against Clayton is his size: 5 feet 10, 193 pounds. But if Clayton were taller, he probably wouldn't have been around when the Ravens picked. Said DeCosta, "If he's 6-2, in my mind, he's the best player at the position."

Billick has a fondness for bigger receivers, like the 6-foot-3 Hymes and the 6-foot-6 Moore. But he said that Clayton's size isn't a concern, and that he and Mason (who's also 5 feet 10) offer a good balance to Hymes and Moore. Billick also said that he wouldn't hesitate to use Mason and Clayton together.

"I like productive receivers," Billick said. Clayton "plays like a big receiver in the sense that -- it's amazing -- this guy blocks. He is not afraid to come in there, and I don't mean he's willing to block -- this guy likes to block. He plays like a big man in that regard."

"I go out and do my best and make plays," said Clayton, who will participate in a two-day rookie minicamp starting Friday. "Everybody wants to talk about height, but it's just about making plays. You're either going be a good player or you're not."

Ravens Notes: With the 21st pick in the second round (53rd overall) pick, the Ravens took Oklahoma defensive end Dan Cody and will use him primarily as a pass rusher at outside linebacker. . . . . The Ravens traded their third-round pick to New England for the 64th overall pick. They also gave up one of today's sixth-round picks and a third-round pick next year. The Ravens chose offensive tackle Adam Terry of Syracuse. . . . Baltimore has one pick in each of the four rounds today.

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