Three Young Receivers Among Risers at Minicamp
With the Ravens’ mandatory minicamp in the books, The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec and Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz took a look at which players’ stock rose and which players’ stock fell during last week’s three-day practice sessions.
One of the more compelling and crowded position battles is at wide receiver, where 13 players are competing for six or seven spots. Zrebiec and Kasinitz both thought undrafted rookies Sean Modster and Antoine Wesley stood out among the plethora of young receivers in camp.
“Neither wows you with speed, but they seemed to get open, and when the ball was thrown in their direction, they caught it,” Zrebiec wrote.
Kasinitz wrote: “The two undrafted rookies carry different skill sets — Wesley stands 6-foot-4 and made tough catches throughout the spring, while the 5-foot-11 Modster showed off sharp route-running skills and shiftiness. They enjoyed similarly strong minicamps, however, and should begin training camp with an edge over other roster hopefuls at their position.”
Jaleel Scott, a 2018 fourth-round draft pick who suffered a hamstring injury during training camp last year and spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve, also received a positive mention from Zrebiec.
Conversely, wide receivers Michael Floyd and Jordan Lasley did not impress during minicamp, in Zrebiec’s opinion.
“[Floyd’s] inclusion on this list might be a bit unfair. The veteran did make a handful of plays last week, including a nifty back-shoulder reception of a [Lamar] Jackson throw,” Zrebiec wrote. “However, Floyd also had a few drops and seemed a fingertip away on a couple of other occasions from making a big catch. It wasn’t a poor performance by any means, but he won’t have a whole lot of margin of error come training camp.”
Lasley, who was inactive all last season, “was quiet before making a couple of plays on the final day of minicamp, and that was moderately surprising given the rapport he supposedly has with Jackson,” Zrebiec wrote. “A fifth-round pick last year, Lasley also added a few drops. … Lasley will need to pick up his game later this summer to earn a second season with the Ravens.”
Other players who were impressive last week in Zrebiec’s estimation include tight end Mark Andrews, middle linebacker Chris Board, cornerback Terrell Bonds and safety DeShon Elliott. Kasinitz also listed Bonds and Elliott as risers.
Board, who made the team as an undrafted rookie free agent last year, has made huge strides, Zrebiec wrote.
“Board saw most of his repetitions last week with the first team,” Zrebiec wrote. “If he hasn’t passed Kenny Young atop the weak-side linebacker depth chart, he’s at least pulled even with him. And that’s not because Young has disappointed. Board plays with speed and aggressiveness and has improved rapidly since last year, when he was one of the team’s best special teamers.”
At running back, Kasinitz identified Tyler Ervin as a riser and Kenneth Dixon as a faller.
“Ervin hauled in several passes out of the backfield during OTAs and minicamp, and special teams coach Chris Horton identified him as a player who looked comfortable fielding punts,” Kasinitz wrote. “The former Texans draft pick and Ravens practice squad player has work to do to win a spot on the roster. He started that work this spring by showing that he could add a dynamic to Baltimore’s offense and return game.
“Dixon missed at least two voluntary OTAs practices and mostly took second- or third-team repetitions in minicamp. A former fourth-round pick who has shown signs of promise, Dixon’s troubles with injuries and suspensions will loom over his attempt to hang onto a roster spot. He’ll need to rebound with a strong start to training camp when the Ravens return to practice in late July.”
Dixon was also listed in ESPN's round-up of veterans who could be cut by each NFL team. He paired well with Gus Edwards down the stretch last year, but is competing with Edwards, rookie Justice Hill and Ervin behind leading running back Mark Ingram II.
"The 2016 fourth-round pick has shown flashes, averaging 4.8 yards per carry on 148 carries, but Dixon will have to make a strong push to find a spot in a crowded Ravens backfield," ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote. "The biggest problem with Dixon has been dependability. Injuries and multiple suspensions have forced him to miss 30 games in three seasons."
Zrebiec and Kasinitz both cited defensive tackle Michael Pierce -- who made headlines for reporting to minicamp significantly over his playing weight and being pulled off the field by Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh -- as a player whose stock fell.
“Pierce now has a lot of work to do and a lot of trust to win back,” Zrebiec wrote.
Which 2020 Ravens Free Agents Should Be Prioritized?
With anything regarding the NFL, it’s never too early to look ahead. So with that in mind, Baltimore Beatdown’s Kyle P Barber discussed which of the Ravens’ 2020 free agents should be prioritized.
Outside linebacker Matthew Judon was at the top of his list.
“I feel this is quite an easy answer, even this early in the season,” Barber wrote. “He won’t come cheap, either, as he watched Za’Darius Smith join the Green Bay Packers on a four-year, $66 million deal, with $20 million guaranteed. With Judon as the veteran pass rusher on the field, he’ll command a lot of attention, both by the opposition and [Ravens General Manager] Eric DeCosta. Unless Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams and rookie Jaylon Ferguson step up and contribute in 2019, look for Judon to command strong leverage in the open market.”
Our own Clifton Brown noted that Judon, who has turned out to be a steal as a fifth-round pick in 2016, “reported to mandatory workouts looking exactly how the Ravens want him to – confident, professional, ready to embrace a season that has never been more important to his career.”
Judon made it clear last week that he is focused on the field, not his contract status.
“Contract, no contract, there’s no guarantee I play one game this season, so I’m going to go out every single game like it’s my last, and I’m going to enjoy it while I’m here because I have no clue what the future holds,” Judon said. “Hopefully, I’ll be here forever and ever. But, like this offseason, we never know. So, I’m going to attack this season, this practice, this game, whatever I have to do, the next rep, like it’s my last.”
Despite the fact that Pierce reported to minicamp out of shape in his contract year, Barber wrote that he’s “confident Pierce will come to training camp ready and prepared to earn the payday of his dreams.”
Barber referred to cornerback Jimmy Smith and wide receiver Willie Snead IV as the enigmas of the Ravens’ 2020 free agent class.
“[Smith’s] performance on the field is dominant. At some point, though, teams get younger and build for the future,” Barber wrote of Smith, who turns 31 next month. “Can DeCosta keep him for a fair price? Will he stay for a ‘fair price,’ or take the bigger deal elsewhere? The secondary is evolving, and while I’d argue Smith is still in the future plans, DeCosta doesn’t appear afraid to put his business decisions above all else.
“As for Snead, this one won’t be clear until the season is at least halfway over. If Snead is the prime target in moving the chains and scoring, I’d suspect Snead stays. If Lamar is spreading the ball around to Marquise Brown, Chris Moore, Miles Boykin, Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews, we might see Snead in a different uniform after the season ends.”
AFC North Is No. 2 in Division Power Rankings
The AFC North landed at No. 2 in NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal’s division power rankings behind the NFC North.
In compiling the rankings, Rosenthal considered how many teams in each division one could realistically imagine playing in the Super Bowl in Miami next February.
Despite the AFC North’s high ranking, Rosenthal noted that the division could be so competitive that it might make for a challenging road to the big game for the division champion.
“Coming out of this division with a playoff bye is going to be difficult because of its depth,” Rosenthal wrote.
“It's hard to find a team truly lagging in talent here. The Ravens are undergoing their most dramatic transformation on both sides of the ball in more than a decade, but they have the organizational culture to survive it with flair. The Steelers and Browns could have the two most talented rosters in the entire conference, even if they have vastly different track records over the last decade. The Bengals don't dazzle with defensive firepower, yet new coach Zac Taylor inherits a roster without many clear weaknesses.”