Going into the 2014 season, the Ravens’ potentially explosive receiving corps that includes the playmaking Torrey Smith, the promising Marlon Brown, the dynamic Jacoby Jones and the legend and future Hall-of-Famer Steve Smith, might turn out to be the best quartet the Ravens have ever put together. Expectations will be high for this talented ensemble and if they all stay healthy and productive, Joe Flacco will feed the beast all season long in Gary Kubiak’s offensive attack.
To go along with the four-piece band, the Ravens might have a pure steal in 7th-round pick Michael Campanaro. The Demon Deacons’ all-time leader in receptions (229) also left Winston-Salem ranked 3rd in receiving yards (2,506) and 4th in receiving TD s (14) en route to back-to-back 2nd-Team All-ACC selections in 2012 and 2013.
Campanaro, 23, has the speed (4.46 40 time), athleticism and receiving skills to play right away, and if he impresses this summer and proves that he can, the hometown kid should be considered the favorite for the WR5 spot on the roster and the back-up slot receiver behind Steve Smith on the depth chart.
Assuming the Ravens carry six receivers this season, the sixth and final spot will come down to Aaron Mellette, LaQuan Williams, and Deonte Thompson.
Mellette, the Ravens’ 7th-round pick in 2013, has the potential to be another late-round steal for Baltimore’s front office. After setting the NCAA FCS (D-II) on fire at Elon, Mellette left the Phoenix ranked 2nd in Elon and Southern Conference history in catches (304), receiving yards (4,254) and receiving TDs (44) while being a 1st-Team All-SoCon selection from 2010-2012 and an FCS All-American in 2011 and 2012.
Mellette has good size (6-2, 217) and due to his strong hands and crisp route running, he could be an ideal fit as a possession-type WR in the long-term picture. The 24-year-old had a great preseason last year, racking up nine catches for 140 yards (15.5 avg) with two TDs, and if he can prove that his nagging knee issues are a non-factor going forward and emulate the summer he had last season, he could lock up the final WR spot on the roster by unanimous decision.
Williams, 25, appeared in 23 games and recorded four receptions for 46 yards (11.5 avg) for the Ravens in 2011 and 2012 before a hamstring injury late in the 2013 preseason doomed his chances of making the squad for a 3rd straight year. Williams subsequently spent most of 2013 as a UFA, aside from a brief 10-day stint in New England in November before signing a one-year, $570,000 deal to come back to Charm City in April.
While he has flashed potential as a receiver at times, most notably when he recorded six catches for 76 yards (12.6 avg) and a TD in the 2012 preseason, Williams knows what he must do to make the squad, and that’s to do what he’s done since his Senior year at Maryland: excel on special teams. The Baltimore native and former Terp was a core member of Jerry Rosburg’s ST unit in 2011 and 2012, recording 10 total ST Tackles while returning six kicks for 114 yards (19.0 avg), so if Williams has a strong camp and proves his worth on ST in the preseason, he could have a shot at making the final roster.
Thompson, 25, has tremendous speed (4.32 40 time) and a solid skill set, but in order to have a shot at the 53-man roster, he needs to show he can stay out of the trainers room and make an impact on the field this preseason just as he did in the Summer of 2012, when he recorded 10 receptions for 139 yards (13.9 avg) and two TD’s.
Whether it was due to injuries or just landing on the inactive list as a healthy scratch, Thompson has been limited to 13 games over his first two seasons in Baltimore, recording 15 catches for 147 yards (9.8 avg) and 22 kick returns for 590 yards (26.8 avg).
At the start of training camp last year, Thompson was in the running for a top-four WR spot on the depth chart before a sprained foot in the pre-season opener derailed his season. Now going into his 3rd season, this could be the former Gator’s last chance to stick in Baltimore. He can ill-afford another injury or a quiet summer with three guys battling it out for one roster spot. Time to make your move, Mr. Thompson.
Who do you think will win the spot?