Baltimore Ravens rookies had their first mini-camp this past weekend, which presented the first look at what will prove a very important rookie crop for a Ravens team looking to finish higher than third place, where they have finished for three consecutive seasons. With eleven rookies, the team added high level talent and depth across the entire roster, but the fourth round may be what makes this draft a booming success. The Ravens had an unprecedented 5 picks in the fourth, and they emerged with slot corner Tavon Young, deep threat Chris Moore, defensive lineman Willie Henry, offensive lineman Alex Lewis, and running back Kenneth Dixon.
All of these rookies have opportunities to be major contributors at their positions, with Young battling Will Davis for the starting slot role, Moore battling a deep wide receiver group for snaps, Henry slotting in a rotation with no clear starter next to Timmy Jernigan and Brandon Williams, and Lewis in the running for the starting left guard spot. Dixon may have the highest ceiling as a rookie, with his skill-set being a particularly good fit with OC Marc Trestman's offensive predilections for heavy involvement of the running back in the passing game.
But of all those players, Moore seemed like the unnecessary pick for many fans. With an uphill battle to make the roster, Moore seems to have an overlapping skill set to 2015 first rounder Breshad Perriman and free agent signee Mike Wallace. The roster crunch would not seem to favor him, with the above two plus Kamar Aiken and Steve Smith locks to make the roster, and Jeremy Butler, Michael Campanaro, Chris Matthews, Daniel Brown, and Keenan Reynolds fighting for what is likely 2 roster spots.
But Moore has stood out early at mini-camps, and the assignment of the label of "one trick pony" to Moore seems premature. Per Ryan Mink:
This confirms much of what I read from the combine and workouts- that his route running was an underrated part of his game which really was not featured in a Cincinatti offense that featured a deep receiving corp. Moore also too kick-off reps in camp, which would be an additional way he could contribute to the team this season.
Moore, who was highly ranked by several draft analysts and sites, hopes to break the trend of the Ravens subpar mid round drafting at the wide receiver position. Moore may also be the Ravens doubling down at the wide receiver position, in case Perriman cannot put it all together. The Ravens hopefully are taking a page from the division rival Steelers, who are known as possibly the best team at drafting mid-round receivers. The Steelers have taken at least one wide receiver in the top 4 rounds in 6 of the past 8 years (pre-2016), and a total of 9 in that time period.
So while there is still a long way to go for Moore to make the roster, I think many will be pleasantly surprised by what he brings to the table. The Ravens have never cut a fourth rounder the year they drafted him, although several, like John Simon in 2014 did not make the roster in their second season. Moore will likely be the favorite for the coveted 5th or 6th receiver spots, and showing return ability and showing his skills and abilities like he did this past weekend will only push him closer to being a roster lock. Only time will tell, but Moore is off to a great start.