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Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Ravens draft prospectus

By James Walker
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

As the NFL draft nears, AFC North teams are narrowing their list of prospects to take with their first-round picks. This week we look at those players and how each would fit with their teams.

Let's look at potential prospects for the Baltimore Ravens, who own the No. 26 overall pick:

1. Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland

As the weeks go by, it looks more and more like Heyward-Bey to Baltimore won't happen. Somewhat of a sleeper after the college football season, Heyward-Bey's stock improved significantly since lighting up the combine and looking solid in his individual workouts. He could go as high as the middle of the first round. But Heyward-Bey would be a great fit in offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's offense. He would be the missing deep threat the team needs and could contribute right away as the starter, opposite Derrick Mason, or the No. 3 receiver behind Mason and Mark Clayton.

2. Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina

Another ACC product, Nicks also would be a solid fit in purple and black to complement Clayton and Mason. The Ravens need bigger receivers and Nicks -- at 6-foot-1, 212 pounds -- would fit the bill. Nicks has good speed but not the blazing speed Heyward-Bey possesses. But Nicks' strength and ball skills gives him the ability to compete for deep balls and make plays over the middle. There is some concern of Nicks reportedly gaining up to 14 pounds after a hamstring injury. But this could work in Baltimore's favor if his stock drops toward the end of the first round.

3. Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC

The Ravens were active, but spent their money very wisely in free agency. Tight end and cornerback were areas of need, but the recent signings of tight end L.J. Smith and cornerbacks Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr plugged those holes. This leaves the chance of Baltimore taking the best available player, such as USC's Maualuga if he's available. He is a big hitter, which fits right in with Baltimore's style. The departure of Bart Scott also leaves a void for someone to step in.

Next up Thursday: The Pittsburgh Steelers