Baltimore Ravens: Full Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Wide Receiver
The Baltimore Ravens will likely have a different look at wide receiver this coming season. That's because Baltimore ranked 29th in total offense last year while also allowing the fourth-most sacks (48) of any team. Part of that had to do with quarterback Joe Flacco holding the ball too long because his receivers weren't getting open.
That won't be as big of an issue now. Dallas Clark, Tandon Doss and Brandon Stokley are all gone after combining to catch 62 passes for 763 yards. In their place the Ravens have added some new players and are expecting some younger holdovers to improve in 2014.
This piece is also an early prediction of the six receivers whom I believe will get significant playing time during training camp and the preseason, followed by the six guys battling to just secure a roster spot.
No. 6: Michael Campanaro
The Ravens were out of picks entering the seventh round of the 2014 NFL draft, so they moved back in and selected Michael Campanaro out of Wake Forest with the 218th overall pick. They sent a sixth-round pick in the 2015 draft to the Cleveland Browns in order to select him.
Over four years, Campanaro had a productive college career, catching a school-record 229 passes for 2,506 career yards and 14 touchdowns. His college career ended prematurely after he suffered a season-ending broken collarbone in November of 2013.
He still earned second-team All-ACC honors after catching 67 balls for 803 yards and six touchdowns in eight games, and would have been likely been drafted higher if not for the injury.
Campanaro caught the Ravens' eye when he worked out for them this offseason. Expect to see him get plenty of opportunities to earn a roster spot and make an impact as a rookie.
No. 5 Deonte Thompson
Deonte Thompson was expected to take on a bigger role with the offense in 2013, but he failed to do so.
Thompson caught just 10 passes for 96 yards while appearing in just seven games. Making matters worse is that he was arrested and charged with suspicion of possessing marijuana and drug paraphernalia this offseason.
The charges have since been dismissed, but it still hurts his chances with the Ravens. For his career, Thomson has played in just 13 games and caught 13 passes for 147 yards.
This offseason. the Ravens signed former Carolina Panther wideout Steve Smith and drafted Michael Campanaro. These additions could put Thompson's roster spot in jeopardy, depending on how many receivers the Ravens keep on their final 53-man roster.
Entering his third NFL season in 2014, it's now or never for Thompson.
No. 4: Jacoby Jones
Known more for his dynamic kickoff returns, Jacoby Jones is a solid No. 4 option who was forced into a bigger workload in 2013. Still, he manged to catch just 37 passes for 455 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
He was more productive on kickoff returns, where he notched 31 returns for 892 yards and one score. That's the role he needs to focus on more this year. Jones has never caught more than 51 passes or produced more than 562 receiving yards in a single season in his seven years in the NFL.
He also turns 30 in July, so he's still got a few good years left as a fourth receiver and kickoff returner. That's exactly the role he'll fill with the Ravens in 2014.
No. 3: Marlon Brown
Marlon Brown was a bright spot for Baltimore last season. An undrafted rookie free agent out of Georgia, Brown caught 49 passes for 524 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns.
The 6'4", 205-pound Brown is a huge red-zone target who figures to put up even better numbers in his second season. Pro Football Focus even tabbed Brown as its Ravens secret superstar for 2014.
Brown should do more now that he's not rehabbing from an injury. He suffered a torn ACL in November of 2012, during his final year at Georgia.
That meant he spent much of the 2013 offseason rehabbing the injury and getting acclimated to the NFL.
Needless to say, Brown is happy to have more time to focus on real football work this offseason (via the Baltimore Sun).
I feel like I have more time to learn to be a receiver now...Last year, I was rehabbing a lot trying to get ready. I know what I can do and what I can't do. I'm going real hard on my weaknesses and trying to get better at them.
Because the Ravens added Steve Smith this offseason, Brown will assume the No. 3 receiver role, but his catches and receiving yardage should increase this year.
No. 2: Steve Smith
After the Carolina Panthers cut longtime receiver Steve Smith, he immediately set his sights on joining the Ravens. They were the first team he visited, and it didn't take long for Baltimore to sign him to a three-year deal worth $11 million after that.
Smith will immediately upgrade what was a very thin group of Ravens receivers. This past year with Carolina, Smith caught 64 passes for 746 yards with four touchdowns while helping the Panthers win the NFC South title.
He is also the Panthers' all-time leader in catches (836), receiving yards (12,197) and touchdowns (67), and ranks 19th in NFL history in receptions.
Smith will put up good numbers for the Ravens, but his biggest impact will be what he provides from a leadership standpoint. In Ravens OTAs, Smith has been one of the hardest workers on the field, and it's showing his teammates how a potential hall of famer carries himself.
"You can definitely see the fire," Torrey Smith said, via the Baltimore Sun. "I've known Steve for a couple of years now, but to actually play with him and see the way he works, he takes everything serious. He's very passionate.
"I guess if you're not used to a guy who's passionate about his job, it comes off as raunchy, but it fits here. There are plenty of guys like that here. He's perfect for us, and we're glad he's here."
Expect to see Smith open the year as the No. 2 receiver who starts next to Torrey.
No. 1: Torrey Smith
Torrey Smith has slowly risen in the NFL to become one of the league's best receivers. He's coming off a career-best 65 catches for 1,128 yards with four touchdown catches.
Smith also did that with not much of a supporting cast. Outside of Smith, no other Ravens receiver had more than 524 receiving yards in 2014. Baltimore receivers also only caught 13 touchdowns, and 11 of them were between Smith and Marlon Brown.
As of now, Smith has only one year left on his rookie contract, and he's on the verge of his first big NFL payday.
Per Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com, Smith isn't worried about a new deal. His drive comes from his desire to play at a high level in the NFL while winning another championship.
“I’m not financially driven,” he said. “I’m not driven just by being here in the league. I want to be great at what I’m doing. And I want to win.”
For him, it’s all about one goal.
“Win a Super Bowl again,” he said. “It’s that simple to me.”
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has indicated that he wants to get a new deal done with Smith this offseason. Whether a deal gets done or not won't change the fact that Smith is the Ravens' No. 1 receiver.
The Best of the Rest
Aaron Mellette, Gerrard Sheppard, LaQuan Williams, Jace Davis, Jeremy Butler and Kamar Aiken are the other receivers who will be battling for a roster spot this year.
Mellete was drafted by the Ravens in the seventh round (238th overall) of the 2013 NFL draft. He made the 53-man roster, but later injured his knee and was placed on the injured reserve list after Week 1. Mellete caught nine passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason.
Williams has been in the NFL for four years, but has just four career receptions with the Ravens and New England Patriots.
Sheppard spent the 2013 season on the Ravens practice squad after going undrafted out of Towson.
As for Butler and Davis, they are undrafted free agents who will to perform well in training camp and the preseason.
Butler was a productive FCS-level receiver at Tennessee-Martin. There, he caught 90 passes for 1,203 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior this past season.
Matt Zenitz of the Carroll County Times reported that Butler has been generating buzz in OTAs, so he could be a name to watch for when training camp opens.
Kamar Aiken has been in the NFL for three years, but wasn't with a team in 2013. He played previously with the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots and doesn't have a career reception.
All of the above receivers figure to be fighting for just 1-2 spots on the 53-man roster.