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Late For Work 2/22: Five Wide Receiver Prospects Steve Smith Is Most Excited About

Posted Feb 22, 2018

This blueprint for the Ravens offseason may surprise you. Ravens free agent tight end Crockett Gillmore is converting to offensive lineman. Renovated Under Armour Performance Center is a free-agency draw. Ravens fired up by U.S. women's hockey gold.

Five Wide Receiver Prospects Steve Smith Sr. Is Most Excited to Watch

We’ve established that there will be no Jarvis Landry and the free-agent wide receiver market is thin. There may only be one first-round wide receiver, Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, and he could be off the board before the Ravens’ No. 16 pick.

So how about a look at some of the other top wide receiver prospects?

Steve Smith Sr. knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a successful NFL wide receiver.

The former Raven turned NFL Network analyst dug into the tape and gave his breakdown on 10 wide receivers he’s excited to watch at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine, which starts next week.

As Smith noted, he didn’t include his thoughts on a few of the top targets such as Ridley or SMU’s Courtland Sutton because they’re already more known entities. These are lesser-known players who Smith thinks has “impact potential.”

For Smith’s full list and breakdown, read here. I’ve highlighted five wideouts below:

Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
Smith: “Captain Kirk is a tone-setter, can line up anywhere on the field and can do everything a coach asks based on his physical ability. Honestly, the kid could be great at quarterback if that's where he wanted to play. At Texas A&M, Kirk played in a non-traditional system. The question I have is can he line up across an A.J. Bouye and beat him in press coverage? He's never been put in that position, so there are questions about if he can thrive in a traditional pro-style offense. I also want to see him catch the ball more consistently with his hands (and less with his body). Today's DBs are too good and make a play on the ball long before it reaches the receiver's body.”

James Washington, Oklahoma State
Smith: “A top dog at Oklahoma State, Washington took the Batman role in the offense. The 6-foot, 205-pound receiver is a pure hands catcher and uses his strong physique to finish defenders. He's aware of the sideline and has a great resume coming out of college. Check out the 2016 Alamo Bowl, when Washington repeatedly beat Chidobe Awuzie, who started six games for the Dallas Cowboys this past season. The only knock I have is he can be too stiff at times. I'm curious to see how Washington performs with some of the upper-echelon quarterbacks of this class throwing to him at the combine.”

Anthony Miller, Memphis
“Miller's track background shines through the minute he steps on the field. He runs fast, but plays faster. Miller walked on at Memphis and later earned a scholarship, proving he isn't afraid to work. He carries a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder (reminding me of someone I know ...), and he's proven he has what it takes to play at the next level through his explosiveness and blue-collar work ethic. Miller is good at a lot of things, not great at one. He's one of my favorite prospects coming into the combine, and I want to see if the ‘it’ factor he displays on tape shows up at Lucas Oil Stadium.”

Michael Gallup, Colorado State
“Gallup, a.k.a. ‘Big Smooth,’ has a PhD in route running. The 6-1 wideout has great body control and can out-jump defenders regularly. He's a well-rounded receiver whose smooth movements make it seem like he's bored when he isn't directly involved in the game (I can't say I blame him). That could hinder his stock.”

Richie James, Middle Tennessee
“When the ball is in his hands, unbelievable things happen. James, who never shies away from contact, is very raw, but resembles clay -- he could be molded into whatever the team needs. With the right team and offense, James has the potential to be a Pro Bowl punt returner and chain mover. He needs to get stronger against the press. And I want to see how much work he really needs in Indy.”

This Blueprint for the Ravens Offseason May Surprise You

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell is laying out his blueprint (or at least five steps of it) for every NFL team, and some of his decisions for the Ravens may surprise you.

Barnwell writes that the Ravens should decline wide receiver Breshad Perriman’s fifth-year option, and that they need to create cap space. Neither move is surprising.

While the Ravens must free up more money, Barnwell suggests picking up the second-year options for cornerback Brandon Carr and offensive tackle Austin Howard, and says the Ravens “won’t want to touch” quarterback Joe Flacco’s deal.

Instead, Barnwell said the Ravens will likely turn most of safety Tony Jefferson and defensive tackle Brandon Williams’ base salaries into signing bonuses, which should free up close to $9 million.

Another “no duh” solution is negotiating an extension for inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, who just went to his third Pro Bowl in four years. Last month, Mosley said he wants to spend his entire career in Baltimore and finish as the “second-best linebacker” in team history. Barnwell expects the deal to max out around five years and $55 million.

Here’s where Barnwell’s plan takes a detour from what you perhaps expected. He says the Ravens should sign a wide receiver and tight end … from the cap casualty market. Yes, that means not going after one of the top current free agents (remember, Landry was tagged).

Barnwell points to tight end Dwayne Allen and wide receivers such as Randall Cobb, Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas, who are reportedly at risk of getting released. He said Jeremy Maclin “might need to take a pay cut to stick around.”

“The Ravens should be in the market for cap casualties both inside and outside at their weakest position this offseason,” Barnwell wrote.

Now this is the biggest surprise. Barnwell says the Ravens should target interior offensive linemen in the draft. A lot of pundits are looking at offensive tackles, but Baltimore could lose center Ryan Jensen and guard/tackle James Hurst in free agency.

Baltimore has players coming back from injury in Alex Lewis (shoulder) and Nico Siragusa (knee), and Barnwell says the Ravens “have to start thinking about a future” after six-time Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda, who is also returning from a broken ankle.

“At the very least, the Ravens will need a starting center. They realistically should think about using one of their top three picks on a guard, too,” Barnwell wrote.

Crockett Gillmore Is Switching to Offensive Lineman

We haven’t heard from tight end Crockett Gillmore in a while considering he tore his MCL last summer, less than a week into training camp.

Gillmore has battled a laundry list of injuries over his career, and last year’s may have been the most brutal considering he was in a contract year.

Now a prospective free agent, one of the team’s toughest, most physical players won’t let it knock him out of the league. Gillmore is adapting.

The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec reports that Gillmore is making the transition to offensive lineman this offseason, and his agent confirmed the news.

Gillmore is training at former NFL guard/center LeCharles Bentley’s offensive line academy, working on his balance, footwork and explosion off the line of scrimmage. He already has plenty of grit and toughness for the job.

He’s obviously had to change his body, and has added about 40 pounds to his 6-foot-6 frame. According to his new agency’s website, Gillmore is up to 305 pounds.

Gillmore has played in just 17 games over the past three seasons with the Ravens, including 15 starts. He posted 41 catches for 483 yards and five touchdowns over that span.

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