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Steve Smith Sr. has built a Hall of Fame-caliber resume, so it seems strange to single him out as a player with a rising stock. But there were legitimate questions about what he would bring to Baltimore considering his age and an underwhelming (by his standards) 2013 season.
But his stock is definitely up because of what he’ll bring the Ravens both on and off the field.
On the gridiron, he’s still flashing the speed we’re used to seeing along with those strong and reliable hands. Kevin Byrne put his skill set in perspective by comparing him to some former Ravens receivers:
Receiver Steve Smith, Sr. is uncanny. He flies around, and his hands are remarkable. He snatches any pass near him. You can see why he has had such huge success. He attacks the ball. Combine Anquan Boldin's hands and Derrick Mason's quickness, and I think you might have Steve Smith, Sr.
Likewise, Coach Harbaugh singled out a specific trait that makes Smith so special, per Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com:
He’s one of the best receivers ever at going back and getting a football. He can chase and out-run a defender to the ball, so it’s a little thing, but it’s a pretty important trait for a wide receiver.
Smith will definitely contribute as a chain-mover, but it is his experience and leadership that will be so valuable. ESPN’s Jamison Hensley provided this behind-the-scenes nugget on Smith’s importance to his fellow receivers:
In between drills, Smith worked with Marlon Brown and showed him how to run some routes better. That experienced presence will be a strong influence on what is still a young wide receiver group.
Smith is also making the cornerbacks better, according to Lardarius Webb, via Ryan Mink:
The guy is as strong as an ox, and that helps me out, to get prepared for the season. He runs great routes and he’s making me better, and I’m making him better, too, because I’m challenging him, just like he’s challenging me.
Smith is going to develop into one of Flacco’s safety valves, but what he’ll do off the field is just as important.