In our ongoing series of an early first-look logical analysis as to who will be on the Baltimore Ravens opening day roster, today we turn to wide receivers and choose six. The first five of these are easy to select. Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, Marlon Brown, and Jacoby Jones are certain veterans. Also, the Raven are clearly going to keep local product Michael Campanaro, and I will project Deonte Thompson as the final keeper.
Torrey Smith – As the 58th overall player taken in the second round of the 2011 draft, Torrey Smith enters his fourth season with the Baltimore Ravens as the receiving leader of the current team. Playing in all 48 games of his first three seasons, he averages 55 catches a season, with his average reception at 17 yards. Torrey would appear to be entering the peak years of his career, and doing so at a time when the Ravens have many other receiving threats that prevent teams from simply focusing upon shutting him down.
Steve Smith – Yes, it will be Smith and Smith to start the season and to start the games at wide receiver. The Smith Brothers will be for the Ravens more than the company famous for cold relief products. Rather, they may induce sickness upon other teams trying to contain them along with all the other tight end and backfield sets to come with Gary Kubiak’s west coast offense.
Smith not only brings 13 years of NFL experience with 836 career catches and nearly seven miles of total reception yards, he brings leadership and fire to a locker room that could use a revitalization of such character and personality traits.
Marlon Brown – Brown had a sensational rookie season as an undrafted free agent, and he serves as a visual reminder as to why UFAs are worth the look and investment. He had 49 catches in 14 games for 524 yards, including seven touchdowns. His size at 6-5, 205 makes him a valuable short-yardage, red-zone receiver who will serve well in the new offense. He will be on the field a great deal, even if not the official starter.
Jacoby Jones – With it being something of a “bonus” that Jones is back with the Baltimore Ravens, he becomes a sort of extra deep threat is special situations. It is in such circumstances that Jacoby so often steps up with a big play. It is the minority of Ravens victories that are free of significant impact from Jacoby Jones. Of course this is true of the AFC playoffs win over Denver in the 2012 season, as well as the 56-yard TD catch in the Super Bowl and the second half 108-yard kickoff return.
Beyond those big stage highlights, just think of this past season. There was the critical “Mike Tomlin” return, followed the next week by the vital snow-fest 77-yard TD punt return. There was also the 66-yard touchdown catch against the Jets and 80 yards on six catches against the Lions … not to mention also that huge third-down play in the drive that won the game.
Michael Campanaro – The local River Hill High School and Wake Forest product at first glance appears to be unusually small for the NFL. However, he is the same height as Steve Smith with a few extra pounds. He will surely benefit from this association as teammates. Noting a NFL pattern of teams gaining good slot receivers at the bottom of the draft, the Ravens gave up a sixth-round pick next year to be able to get Campanaro in the seventh round this season. The hope is, of course, that he will develop over time into an effective slot receiver who works with quickness in the center of the field.
As you can see, he has been playing for the “Ravens” for a long time …
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) May 10, 2014
Deonte Thompson – Having played occasionally over the past two seasons, Thompson was the other UFA who made the roster with kicker Justin Tucker in 2012. He has been active for a total of 13 games and has 15 career receptions. Along the way he also has 22 kick-off returns for 590 total yards. Charged in the offseason with marijuana possession, Thompson did not help his status on the bubble. Even so, at this stage he has the foot up over the rest.
OTHER POSSIBILITIES …
A great preseason by one of the following could put them over the top and bump Thompson. In order of that possibility are …
Aaron Mellette – The seventh round pick of the Ravens in 2013, the Elon product had an incredible collegiate career with 4,254 yards on 304 catches in 45 games – scoring 44 touchdowns. He was on the active roster last year only for the opening game against Denver.
After looking very good in the 2013 preseason, Mellette was forced to sit out the 2013 regular season after tearing cartilage in his knee. Recent word is that he is still wrestling with persistent knee difficulties. Apart from this problem, he might be the better choice over Thompson.
Gerrard Shepherd – From Towson University, Shepherd is an UFA from a year ago who stands 6-2, 211. He was waived, but soon after re-signed to the practice squad in early September.
Kamar Aiken – This Central Florida product was signed to the Ravens’ practice squad on October 30th of last year, having been released by the Patriots in the preseason. Prior to that, he was with the Bills – again on the practice squad. He has appeared in three games without a catch, also with some scant special teams service.
LaQuan Williams – The Baltimore native and Maryland grad signed with the Ravens as a rookie free agent on 7/28/11. He was active for a total of 23 games in 2011 and 2012, posting a handful of catches and return yards.
Jace Davis – UFA this year, this rookie out of Northern Colorado is 6-1, 206 pounds. He caught 44 balls this past year and averaged over 15 yards-per-reception over his college years.
Jeremy Butler – UFA this year, this rookie out of Tennessee-Martin is 6-2, 224 pounds. He caught 141 passes and scored 20 touchdowns in two seasons.