Pass-Catching Options Aplenty, But Who Will Make the Cut?

Mellette

It’s certainly no bit secret that the NFL has become a pass-happy league over the last few years. Rules have been established to help the passing game and add to fantasy football numbers.

As the Ravens head in to their 2014 season, there are plenty of hands that could be on the receiving end of quarterback Joe Flacco’s passes.

Here’s a look at the current receivers on the Ravens roster and those vying for the chance to wear the purple and black:

Torrey Smith: Smith enters 2014 in the final year of his rookie contract and the Drew Rosenhaus client could be in for a big pay day if he puts together another solid season. Although his receiving touchdowns were down last season (4), The former Maryland Terp caught a career-high 65 passes for 1,128 yards. Smith certainly has talent and has progressed each year and should be a number one wide receiver one day. The Ravens would like to lock Torrey up for the long haul as  Coach Harbaugh stated to the Baltimore Sun at the owners meetings in March, saying that he wanted Smith, along with cornerback Jimmy Smith, in Baltimore for a long time.

Steve Smith: Smith, the former Carolina Panther, joined the Ravens in March when the team signed the five-time Pro Bowler to a three-year contract. The veteran wide receiver, who has played his entire 13-year NFL career with Carolina, has appeared in 182 career games, recording 836 receptions for 12,197 yards (14.6 avg.) and 67 touchdowns. Last season, the firey Smith appeared in 15 games with the Panthers, hauling in 64 catches for 745 yards and four touchdowns.

“Steve is a Ravens-style football player,” head coach John Harbaugh said in a press release. “He always has been in our eyes, it’s just that he’s been playing for another team. We’ve respected and admired the way he plays, and we’ve always been challenged playing against him.”

Marlon Brown: Brown was a solid find for Ozzie Newsome and company during the 2013 offseason. Brown, undrafted out of the University of Georgia, posted a successful rookie campaign for the purple and black. The former Bulldog saw action in 14 games (was inactive in two due to injury) and led the Ravens in touchdown receptions (7), posted the second-highest number of catches by a wide receiver on the team (49) and was a red-zone favorite of Flacco’s.

Jacoby Jones: The electrifying playmaker returned to Baltimore after testing the free agent waters in March. Jones agreed to a four-year contract that kept the wide receiver/kick returner a Raven. Jones saw action in 12 games, including nine starts (missed four games due to a knee injury), and finished fourth on the team with 37 receptions (second-highest total of his career) for 455 yards and two TDs. Brought back more for his return duties than anything else, Jones does provide continuity with Flacco even if on the field in a limited role.

“My role is always the same. Whatever they want me to do,” Jones stated during his press conference upon returning to Baltimore, “I’ll do it. If it’s getting there to make a certain block or returning a kick or punt or just this one play to stretch the field and open up this guy, whatever my role is, I’ll do it.”

Michael Campanaro: The Ravens made a surprise move in the 2014 draft when they sent a 2015 sixth-round pick to the Cleveland Browns to get back into the seventh round to select Campanaro, the 5′ 9″, 192-pound wide receiver out of Wake Forest who has local ties in Howard County, Maryland. Campanaro, the former River Hill High School standout could provide the Ravens with a slot receiver who can learn the tricks of the trade from those with NFL experience.

“I think he’s shifty,” Assistant GM Eric DeCosta said about Campanaro. “I think he’s tough. I think he’s very quick. He plays the slot, which is kind of a niche position, and he does that very, very well. [He’s] been a very productive player. I think that he’s a good run-after-catch guy. I think he’s competitive. He can catch punts; he should have a chance to contribute.”

While the above players are locks, head coach John Harbaugh and those within the organization have preached throughout the offseason that competition is key. Looking ahead to a group of youngsters that will have to fight to see the field in 2014, competition will be key with such limited spaces available in the wide receiver corps.

Outside of Smith, Smith, Brown and Jones the Ravens have five other wideouts listed on the roster: LaQuan Williams, Deonte Thompson, Aaron Mellette, Kamar Aiken and Gerrard Sheppard.

Williams returned this offseason for his second stint with the team with hopes to make the club via playing a special teams role. In his first stint with the Ravens (2011-2012), Williams, the former Maryland Terp, appeared in 23 games and recorded four receptions for 46 yards while primarily playing on special teams.

Whether or not Thompson makes the roster remains to be seen with the influx of fresh talent the team has brought in this offseason. In 2013, the undrafted wide receiver/return specialist played in seven games, and established career highs in receptions (10) and receiving yards (96). Thompson could be a viable option as an insurance policy to Jacoby Jones in the return game after he averaged a career-high 28.7 yards per KOR (seven for 201).

Mellette is hoping to return to form he showed last preseason where the 2013 7th-round draft pick shined catching nine passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Mellette, who ended up on injured reserve after suffering a knee injury is a player to keep an eye on throughout the summer. He should be one hundered percent by the time the Ravens hit the practice field.

Kamar Aiken appears to be a long shot to make the roster, even though the Ravens inked him  to the practice squad squad in October 2013. The jounrneyman wide receiver has made the practice squad rounds since entering the league in 2011 after signing as a rookie free agent with the Buffalo Bills. In 2013, Aiken, prior to joining the Ravens, appeared in three preseason games with the Patriots, recording two catches for 23 yards before being released.

Sheppard signed with the Ravens as a rookie free agent back in May of 2013. Sheppard, the former Towson Tiger and McDonogh pass catcher, has another year under his belt after spending the season on the practice squad. At Towson, Sheppard saw action in 23 games (nine starts), totaling 52 catches for 584 receiving yards and five TDs in two seasons, per the team’s website.

Earlier this week the Ravens announced the signing of 17 undrafted free agents that will compete to wear the purple and black this fall.

Of those 17 undrafted free agents, just two of them (Jace Davis and Jeremy Butler) are wide receivers.

Davis, the 6-1, 206-lb pass catcher out of Northern Colorado appeared in 43 career games in his collegiate career. Davis recorded 162 receptions for 2,470 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. He averaged 15.2 yards per catch while at Northern Colorado, earning first-team All-Big Sky honors in 2010 and honorable mention All-Conference accolades in 2012. He posted 44 catches for 673 receiving yards and five touchdowns during his 2013 senior campaign.

Butler, a Tennessee-Martin standout recorded 141 receptions for 1,953 yards (13.9 avg.) and 20 TDs in two seasons for the Skyhawks, including 90 catches for 1,203 yards and 10 TDs as a senior. Prior to his time at UT-Martin, Butler played at the College of the Sequoias, where he appeared in 11 games, recording 48 receptions for 617 yards and six touchdowns in 2011.

As OTA’s begin, the picture should begin to clear up as to who could be here for the 2014 season and perhaps beyond. The competition is stiff and it seems every year someone will stand out and catch the eye of coaches.

There is a long time between now and when the season gets under way, and I’m looking forward to watching the wide receiver battle unfold.

 

Follow me on Twitter @sportguyRSR

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About Brian Bower

Brian Bower
Brian Bower is avid football fan who was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. Brian has covered the Baltimore Ravens and NFL player positives in the community for the past two years for FootballNewsNow.com. His work has been featured on NFL.com and ESPN blogs. He is also a regular guest...more

13 Raves on “Pass-Catching Options Aplenty, But Who Will Make the Cut?

  1. Joe on said:

    I don’t know that Campanaro is a lock. I’d say it’s pretty likely, because we traded a future pick for him, but part of that was expecting comp picks to offset.

    If it were up to me, it’d be Mellette and Campanaro rounding it out to 6. But, given that they probably want a strong ST guy, have to think LaQuan could actually have an edge on the 6th spot. I think Deonte would need a BIG bounceback year.

  2. D-Rock on said:

    I am going to take a stab at who makes the team as a WR now. Obviously it is early and injuries will effect this, but here goes:

    Torrey Smith: Obviously makes the team
    Steve Smith: Obviously makes the team
    Jacoby Jones: Obviously makes the team
    Marlon Brown: Obviously makes the team
    Aaron Mellette: I think he has the best shot to make the team out of the remaining WR’s. He played lights out in preseason last year. If he can offer something on special teams he should be good to go.
    Campanaro: I am a little biased on this guy because I think his highlight tape speaks for itself. I think he could be West Welker 2.0, something the Ravens have been missing for a long time. I think he can even offer something this year production wise. Injuries are bound to happen. I think he makes the team unless they decide to keep 5 Wr’s and IR him his rookie year.
    Thompson: Has a shot to make the team but less than 50%. He may have to beat out Campanaro, and he has never separated himself. Unless he comes into camp on fire and does extremely well in preseason I think he may be done.
    The rest: All are long shots to make the team, some will be forced to the PS and some will be put on IR ;)

  3. Chris on said:

    None of these inspire much hope. Unless Brown continues to have unexpected development, and Steve Smith has one last killer season, our WR core is meek to say the least.

    • Unibomber on said:

      Such enthusiasm. I think our WR corps are very solid. While we are lacking in elite players at the top it’s very well rounded. Jacoby Jones will probably be 4th on the depth chart and I don’t think another team in the league has a better player at that spot, a dangerous playmaker capable of taking it to the house at any time.

      I still don’t know why so many people are down on Marlon Brown, necessity forced him to be our #2 WR in his rookie season still recovering from a torn ACL from his last year in college, if we were better prepared he probably would have went on IR for the year, instead he has a very solid rookie year tying the rookie record for TD catches. He is at the very least a good #3 and his arrow is pointing firmly up, I don’t see what’s “unexpected” at all about him developing further.

      Steve Smith may be in his twilight but he is still a good player, and unless he experiences a sharp decline from last year to this one, we’re in good shape.

      Torrey Smith has improved every year he’s been in the league, I see that being the case again next year. Remember that pace he was on the first 3rd of the season? Where he was top 3 in yards? That’s a sign. If he can avoid fading down the stretch look out.

      Add 2 very good and productive pass catching TE’s to the mix and an OC who utilizes them often, and we are in no short supply of talented pass catchers. Of course the key to it all lies in one thing: getting our running game back in order. Do that, and the passing game will naturally follow.

      • chris on said:

        Having an UDFA perform like Brown did was highly unexpected, I think he is a good solid WR. Marlon Brown has never played outside of the slot WR position since college. It would be a phenomenal to see him continue to grow, but I don’t think he will have a continued exponential growth like he did last year, its just not likely

        Steve Smith did not have a stellar season for his standards by any means last year. He lacks the elite speed to be a deep threat anymore.

        Torrey Smith has improved, but he cannot separate from coverage. Maybe it was our play calling, but Torrey had to make contested catches every pass. He’s got great hands, but when you throw deep without separation from your WR it leads to INTs.

        Jacoby Jones is a burner, he stretches the field. Great at that aspect, but how does he fit in now ? Kubiak rarely runs 4 WR sets.

        Its just aggravating as a Ravens fan never having an Elite WR. We spent years looking for an Elite QB, we found him and we have not been able to surround him with elite talent

        • Matt on said:

          Get off the purple Kool-Aid Unibomber. Completely agree with Chris, we don’t have a #1 WR, we’ve never had a true slot receiver. All we have is two burners, one red zone threat, and a past his prime Steve Smith. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to see how Kubiak changes this offense and see who progresses, but you cannot sit there and tell me our WR corps are “very solid”.

    • Cheri on said:

      Chris thanks for being the voice of reason and Brian I thought you were in the camp like me that the Ravens should had addressed this position early in teh draft and they had a chnce to with Landy / Robinson in the second.
      T.Smith a good #2 not a #1
      S. Smith for all we know may look more like D. Mason did when he left the Ravens and signed with the Jets and that he is done.
      Marlon Brown showed a lot in the red zone but in between the 20′s still need work upside is a
      A. Mellete meh whatever we heard this before with other 6th /7th round picks about how good they could be the list too long to revisit.
      Campanaro I likeand was glad we got him but there is still a better chance he end ups being a Derick Abney then he Wes Welker. We shall see though.
      All others on this list is basically camp fodder.
      So see one can chose to take a negative spin on this instead of the “the Ravens can do no wrong” crowd.Yhe part I am really trying to wrap my head around is the Ravens said this position really need a infusion I had no idea they were just going to slap a band aid on it with a 35 year old and a 7th round pick and call it a day.Kepp in mind all the other wr’s mentioned were here last year when Ozzie still made those comments about needing to seriously upgrade it.

  4. Joshua on said:

    I say we keep six WRs — Smith, Smith, Jones, Brown, Mellette and Campanaro. One of the undrafted free agents might increase that number to seven, but the more likely scenario is he spends a year on IR.

  5. Raveon on said:

    I can’t believe people are down on our receivers. Steve smith is a star. He can be as good as d mason and he is a deep threat. Brown will only be better. And jones has played well at wr. Combine those guys with our TEs and we have a Very good group of receivers. I am not a homer and generally very critical, but I see our group of receivers being in the top ten in terms of talent. Big questions are can our OL protect the QB and can Joe get the ball to them and not just throw it up for grabs.

    • chris on said:

      You could argue until the Josh Gordon / Nate burleson fiasco in Cleveland this past week, we had the worst in the AFCN.

      Our problem was never Flacco, He had a sub par line, and NO WR on our roster gets separation on the routes they run. Go back and watch T. Smith. Every catch he has hes blanketed by a DB.

      Steve Smith is no longer a Deep threat. He still has elite hands and is quick, but he doesn’t blow the top off defenses anymore.

  6. Sean on said:

    Was the team manager at RHHS from 2004-2006 seasons, the last of which we lost to the Joe Haden-led Friendly Patriots in the championship game. Mike was a sophomore in ’06 and played HB and CB. He was great at both. Dude works harder than anyone and will have a very good NFL career. He’s also a great guy and his family is awesome, as well.

  7. Mike Z on said:

    Aaron Mellette. He is the key. If he can match close to what Marlon Brown was last season, and what he himself was in last year’s preseason……..well then we have a pretty good receiving corps

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