If Isaiah Likely has a strong rookie season, his teammates will not be surprised.
The athletic 6-foot-4 tight end did things at mandatory minicamp that made the vets take notice. His best sequence came during the final practice, when Likely made several acrobatic catches that displayed his wide catch radius and sure hands.
The Ravens doubled down on tight ends during the fourth round, taking Charlie Kolar (128th overall) just 11 picks before Likely (139th overall). Baltimore already has All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews and veteran Nick Boyle leading the tight end group, but the addition of Kolar and Likely will expand possibilities for Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, who likes to use multiple tight end formations.
Likely has the size to be a solid blocker, but pass-catching is his forte. He had a breakout season at Coastal Carolina in 2021 with 59 receptions for 912 yards and 12 touchdowns. His prowess in the red zone could be a major asset for the Ravens in an area of the field where Andrews always draws significant defensive attention.
Quarterbacks must throw into tighter windows in the red zone where there isn't much room for receivers to create separation. But Likely showed outstanding body control at minicamp, making catches regardless of where quarterbacks placed the ball.
Lamar Jackson already loves throwing to Likely.
"Likely out there today, he was making heck of good catches," Jackson said. "He was making diving catches. Sure hands. [He] caught one in the back from Anthony [Brown] in the back of the endzone. It was a tremendous catch. So, the sky's the limit."
Likely was the highest-graded college tight end in Pro Football Focus history with a 95.1 career grade.
His most memorable college performance came against Arkansas State, when he was the best player on the field with nine catches for 252 yards and four touchdowns. One of those scores was a 99-yard catch-and-run, showing his deceptive speed for a player his size.
His athleticism should allow him to line up in a variety of spots, and he's a tough matchup for linebackers and safeties. Likely believes playing with a dual-threat quarterback like Jackson will create opportunities.
"Lamar Jackson does a lot of great things with the ball in his hands, whether it's RPOs, drop-backs or the pocket's collapsing and he's just looking down the field," Likely said. "Lamar Jackson's a playmaker. He's always trying to find eyes down the field, look for the tight end longshot."
Mandatory minicamp was just one test for Likely, and many are ahead. But watching how he raised his game while competing against veterans was an encouraging sign.
Andrews, Boyle, Kolar, Likely, Josh Oliver and Tony Poljan will give Baltimore six tight ends to rotate during training camp. Likely wants to make every rep count, because he's determined to make an impact right away.
"It really didn't matter if a team drafted one tight end, three tight ends or five," Likely said. "Being able to bring my talents to the Ravens is a blessing."