Scouting: Mid-round WR Prospects
So much attention gets paid to the first and second round draft selections. Rightfully so as the expectations for those players are the highest of the rookie class. They come with a hype they need to live up to. Often times, the mid round selections are leaned on to be contributors as well. Arguably, the Ravens are the one of the NFL’s best teams at finding talent in the middle rounds that turn out to be key contributors. Conveniently, the Ravens are at it again, piling up the compensatory picks. They will have three picks in the fourth round (122, 125 from DET for Ngata, 136 compensatory), and three picks in the fifth round (158 from DET for Ngata, 171 compensatory, 175 compensatory).
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Here’s a peak through the years at the Ravens talented mid round picks.
1996 – Jermaine Lewis (Fifth round)
1997 – Jeff Mitchell (5)
1999 – Brandon Stokely (4) Edwin Mulitalo (4)
2000 – Adalius Thomas (6)
2001 – Ed Hartwell (4)
2002 – Chester Taylor (6)
2003 – Jarret Johnson (4)
2005 – Jason Brown (5)
2007 – Le’Ron McClain (4)
2010 – Dennis Pitta (4), Arthur Jones (5)
2011 – Pernell McPhee (5)
2013 – Kyle Juszczyk (4), Rick Wagner (5)
2015 looks to be a season to add more names to that list as 2014’s Brent Urban (4), Lorenzo Taliaferro (4), John Urschel (5), and Michael Campanaro (7) are in positions to earn a good amount of playing time and contribute. Let’s not forget 2013’s Kapron Lewis-Moore who will look to rebound from two stints on IR, but earned some promise in the eyes of the coaching staff.
There can be superstars to be had in these rounds, evident by the Seattle Seahawks who drafted Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in the fifth rounds of their respective drafts.
With the draft just over a month away, here is a look at the projected mid round players at the wide receiver position. One of the Ravens larger needs on the roster with the departures of Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. With six picks in this range, could one of these men be a target for Baltimore? (Projected rounds from the folks at CBSsports.com)
Kenny Bell – Nebraska
6’1”, 197 lbs., fourth round. Bell shows quickness with a 4.42 40-time at the combine, but beat that with a 4.38 and 4.37 at his pro day. Also an impressive 41 ½” vertical. He has NFL in his DNA as his dad, Ken, played for the Denver Broncos in the late 80s. Bell is the Cornhuskers all-time leading receiver, and earned First Team All-Big Ten honors in his senior season. Dane Brugler calls Bell a “110 percenter”, “Mature and outspoken”, and a “positive locker room presence”. He also has experience as a kick returner, averaging 25 yards per return and one TD in 51 attempts. Coach Harbaugh loves his special teamers, and this guy fits that bill. Bell excels as a deep threat, but he doesn’t run crisp routes, and lacks strength. Just seven reps on the 225lb bench press. That lack of strength gets him pushed off his routes often. But what he lacks in strength, he appears to make up for in determination. Bell also has undersized arms and hands. A poor man’s Torrey Smith if you will.
Jamison Crowder – Duke
5’8”, 185 lbs., fourth round. Crowder is your prototypical slot receiver. Smallish frame, small catching radius, but great hands and speed in small spaces. Dangerous in the open field with his stop/start acceleration. He is undersized and was taken out of plays by physical corners. NFL.com highlights that a “high number of his targets come from bubble screens and quick hitters”. Crowder has experience returning kicks as well. He would be the first Duke WR drafted since 1990 (Clarkston Hines, Buffalo Bills, round nine. Yes, drafts used to be more than seven rounds. Fun Fact: In that 1990 draft, Matt Stover was the third to last pick, 12th round to the New York Giants). If I’m the Ravens, I pass on Crowder. Micahel Campanaro appears to fit the bill of sure handed slot receiver for them. Besides….he’s a Dookie.
Darren Waller – GA Tech
6’6”, 238 lbs., fourth or fifth round. Apparently big, athletic wide outs grow on trees at Georgia Tech. Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, is Waller the next superstar wide out Yellow Jacket alum? Waller comes with a small red flag, being suspended twice for violating team rules. Couldn’t find out what that was, but it could have been as minor as late to a meeting or practice. For a big man, Waller posted a 4.46 40-time at the combine. Long arms, but small hands for his size (9”). He has a natural flow about him, not too mechanical looking, which is what you want in a receiver. Waller isn’t a consistent route runner, rounding them off which limits the separation he can get. Also keep in mind, GA Tech runs the triple option, so Waller’s opportunities were limited there. In that offense, he exceled as a blocker though, and that is something more and more NFL execs covet these days. With some improvement, some coaching up, Waller could be the steal of the draft. I would be very excited if the Raven selected him.
Titus Davis – Central Michigan
6’1”, 196 lbs., fourth or fifth round. Davis is known best for scoring the winning TD on the most bizzare play in the most bizzare game of the 2014 season. The Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl when a last second Hail Mary was not only caught, rare enough, but then lateralled four times, the last time to Davis who took the exact angle to the pylon to score. A failed two-point conversion cost the Chippewa’s the win. For a smaller school, they know a little something about wide receivers as Antonio Brown was a Central Michigan alum. Doesn’t have great speed or acceleration to create separation, but does so with precise route running. Possesess a high football IQ in his understanding of coverages and defensive “rules”. He would best fit the profile of an outside receiver in a west coast offense. Could be a fit right here in Baltimore.
Ty Montgomery – Stanford
6’0”, 221 lbs., fifth round. Stanford runs a pro style of offense which should make the transition to the NFL smoother for Montgomery. He has some explosion in his acceleration, and kick return ability. But he isn’t very fluid or agile. A major red flag is that Montgomery was a second or third round prospect in mocks about a month ago. Why the drop to the fifth? Inconsistencies in his play perhaps. He is an all-around athlete as a returner, and tailback in some wildcat sets. But just 9.9 yards per catch isn’t going to cut it as an everyday receiver. Seems to me like Montgomery is a tweener, Is he a stout WR? Is he a big third down running back? I’ll pass if I’m the Ravens.
Vince Mayle – Washington State
6’2”, 224 lbs., fifth round. 4.67 40-time at the combine is the first thing to jump out. Not great. He has a number of home run plays over the last two seasons, using deception to beat defensive backs despite not having blazing speed. He slimmed down from 240 lbs to 224 in his senior season. Hands are an issue with 13 drops in 2014. Keep in mind that his opportunities are higher playing in Mike Leach’s air raid offense. He led the Pac-12 with 106 catches. Mayle also has a basketball background which teams love these days. Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates, possibly tight end is a better fit for Mayle at the pro level. Mayle is a tough kid who suffered a broken thumb in Senior Bowl, but played through the pain. Also participated in most of the drills at the combine, including the pass catching gauntlet with the ailing thumb.