Past the 14-year veteran Steve Smith Sr., the Baltimore Ravens don’t have much experience in the receiving corps. And given that Smith Sr. has made it clear that 2015 will be his 15th and final NFL season, head coach John Harbaugh is hoping to groom some of these young guys to take Smith Sr.’s place for years to come.
We’re stepping up to help you get to know the Baltimore Ravens receivers competing for Joe Flacco targets in ’15 and beyond:
Breshad Perriman (rookie), 21 years old
The UCF product was selected with the 26th overall pick in this year’s draft, due to a lack of viable weapons in Joe Flacco’s arsenal. He’ll likely step in right away and look to fill the void left behind by Torrey Smith, who left for the dysfunctional San Francisco this off-season. He has the size and speed to provide Flacco with a deep threat, while Smith Sr. runs intermediate routes over the middle of the field.
Marlon Brown (third season), 24 years old
Brown showed flashes of brilliance as a rookie in 2013, turning in to a go-to man for Flacco in the red zone as he caught 49 passes for 524 yards and 7 touchdowns. But last season he went from 12 starts as a rookie to just one start and 14 games, and seeing his targets get cut from 82 all the way down to just 31 (24 catches, 255 yards, 1 TD in ’14). But it’s likely his ’15 numbers turn out to be closer to his rookie campaign given the depth of this year’s group of wideouts. The 6’5″ wideout will once again turn into a go-to red zone target for Flacco.
Michael Campanaro (second season), 24 years old
Campanaro didn’t see much action on offense as a rookie last season, scoring just one touchdown on seven catches and 102 yards (nine targets). But during camp and the preseason he’ll be getting plenty of action in the return game. He’s currently listed on the depth chart as the first-string punt returner and behind only Asa Jackson on the kick return chart. He’ll be battling it out with Jackson for a chance at return touches, and will see an increased workload in the passing game this season as well. At 5’9″/192, Campanaro is a little guy, but he’s fearless and has the potential to be a third-down weapon in the passing attack.
Kamar Aiken (fifth season), 26 years old
In his first three seasons in the league (split between Buffalo, New England and Baltimore), Aiken compiled for a whole zero targets on offense. He was primarily a special teamer. But in 2014, Aiken saw 32 targets come his way, catching 24 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns. He even caught a touchdown in the playoff Divisional round loss to New England in January. Aiken could turn in to a viable fourth receiver in 2015.
DeAndre Carter (rookie), 22 years old
Though this is a depth chart full of guys with little experience, it’s an over-crowded group and a couple of these guys (Carter included) will need to make an impact on special teams if they’d like to make the team. As of right now, Carter is listed fifth in LWR, and will need a strong preseason performance this month in order to even have a shot at sticking around until September.
Jeremy Butler (second season), 24 years old
Butler has been listed as a “dark horse” heading into the preseason, but is likely to only make the team if he makes an impact on special teams. Campanaro will make the team as a returner, but with Smith Sr., Perriman, Brown and Aiken all well ahead of him at the WR position, Butler could be a long-shot as of right now. It will be an uphill battle for Butler as he comes back from last year’s season-ending shoulder injury.
Darren Waller (rookie), 22 years old
Walker has his rare size (6’6″) and speed combination going for him, as he’ll make for a solid red zone weapon, but the Georgia Tech rookie will still need to standout among his peers to give himself a better shot at making the final 53-man roster.
Others Competing: Aldrick Robinson, Tom Nelson, Trent Steelman, Daniel Brown.
Note: The tight end position is quite the log-jam as well, with a proven star (Dennis Pitta, currently on PUP list), an up-and-coming dark horse (Crockett Gillmore), and a pair of rookies (second-round pick Maxx Williams and fifth-round pick Nick Boyle). Perhaps we could turn this into a completely separate article?
Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP