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Tempering Expectations for Tray Walker

What to Expect From Ravens CB Tray Walker
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A team that drafts well often finds the sweet spot between instant impact and developmental players.

For the Baltimore Ravens, the top three draft picks – wide receiver Breshad Perriman, tight end Maxx Williams and defensive tackle Carl Davis – all should see plenty of time on the field as rookie. Perriman and Williams, especially will see a lot of action in their rookie campaigns.

But if you go down the list of Ravens draft selections a bit further, you shouldn’t expect to see as much of an instant impact. Fourth-round picks Buck Allen and Za’Darius Smith should have contributory roles, but that may not be the case for fellow fourth round pick Tray Walker, a cornerback out of Texas Southern.

The small school defensive back was relatively unknown until the Ravens selected him, or at least until he reportedly visited with the Ravens in April. While he is not a household name, Walker possesses elite athleticism.

Listed at 6’2, 200 pounds, Walker has the ideal size to succeed either as a press corner or safety in the NFL. His 4.42 40-yard dash time, 36 1/2 inch vertical jump and 6.7 three-cone time – which would have been second best at this year’s NFL combine had Walker been invited – all make Walker an intriguing NFL prospect.

But Walker faces a greater challenge than Perriman and Williams, two players with not-so-stiff competition to face in training camp. Walker enters a secondary with Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb and Kyle Arrington as the top three corners, which should not change as long as all three are healthy.

So right off the bat, Walker is, optimistically, the fourth cornerback on the depth chart. He will battle with challengers such as Asa Jackson and Rashaan Melvin. Both Jackson and Melvin have minimal NFL experience on defense, but they should have ample opportunities to make the final 53-man roster.

For Walker, entering a crowded cornerback depth chart could be a blessing in disguise. Not all Ravens draft picks have to produce in year one, which may be the case with Walker.

Coming from a small school, the transition to the pros may be a bit more strenuous than the average prospect. However, when Walker eventually does get his chance on defense, he has plenty of tools that can be used to develop him into a valuable commodity on defense.

Walker has the build of a press corner, but that does not necessarily mean he will always play in press coverage. He also needs to have the closing speed and reaction time to burst toward the receiver when playing in off coverage:

Walker misses the tackle on the play above, but he displays quality closing speed to help seal off the receiver’s options after the catch.

The burst to close in on the opposition is a product of Walker’s immense athleticism for his size. His lower-half power and speed is evident when he closes in on ball carriers in front of him:

The measurable speed and power translates to the field, as does his size.

In the NFL, there will be times when receivers get the best of Walker, but having the height and length he possesses helps him recover, particularly on 50/50 jump balls:

Plenty of defensive backs – and often wide receivers, too – are drafted on the third day of the draft purely as developmental height/speed players. Many haven’t translated that skill set to the field, but Walker has effectively used his athletic prowess in games.

Ravens secondary coach Chris Hewitt has a project on his hands in Walker. The necessary measurables and athletic ability are there, but can he translate that to NFL success on defense?

During year one, Walker should not be expected to contribute frequently on defense. He will have to work his way up the depth chart first. But luckily for him, his roster chances should still look good. His athleticism should net him at least a role on special teams.

Walker needs time to adjust to the NFL, but with enough depth at cornerback for the time being, it may pay off to take a wait-and-see approach with the rookie.

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