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Ravens training camp battles 2016: Wide receivers

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Another year, another Baltimore Ravens wide receiver competition. The wide receiver competition has been around ever since the departure of Anquan Boldin, and maybe even before that too. This year, the Ravens have seven or eight good candidates to make the roster, but unfortunately, they can’t take them all.

Let’s start with an absolute lock to make the roster, Steve Smith Sr. who will be the number one receiver on the Ravens. At 37 years old, the future Hall of Famer is still undoubtedly the most reliable, the biggest playmaker, and the best leader of all the receivers on the Ravens roster. That trait will put him atop the depth chart, despite starting training camp on the PUP list.

Another Ravens receiver starting camp on the PUP list is Breshad Perriman. Perriman being on the PUP list is a much bigger story to watch than Smith’s being there. In June, Perriman supposedly went down with a torn ACL, and simultaneously tore the hearts of all Ravens fans.

However, as NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported, Perriman’s injury was not as bad as it originally sounded. Perriman received a stem cell injection, and at the time it was thought that he would be ready to go for training camp. Clearly, that is not the case, and whether Perriman returns during camp is one of the biggest stories to watch for. Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com writes that “Perriman is taking no chances in his rehab.”

Already haven proven to have the knees of Derrick Rose, any kind of setback is worrisome. With a player as talented as the former first round pick, the Ravens really want to see him on the field, but Perriman has found it hard to do so so far in his career. Perriman has been projected as a top tier deep threat.

He has blazing speed, a 4.24 40 yard dash, and a big frame, 6-foot-2 weighing 212 pounds. Perriman will burn the defense deep, as well as be able to make the tough physical catches.

One of the other big deep threats on the Ravens is Mike Wallace. It’s amazing how a player can be hated by a fanbase one day, and loved by the same fanbase the next. That’s exactly the case with Wallace. Wallace played for the Steelers for four seasons from 2009-2012, never failing to infuriate Ravens fans with his blazing speed and deep threat ability.

In Pittsburgh, Wallace posted two 1,000 yard seasons but has steadily tailed off from there. Wallace left Pittsburgh for Miami for the 2013 season. He spent two years in Miami and then went to Minnesota for one year. In none of those three seasons did Wallace post 1000 yard totals.

Joe Flacco is a quarterback better suited to Mike Wallace’s skill set. Wallace thrived in Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger’s big arm. He hasn’t had a QB with the same kind of gun until now. Wallace will have to take advantage of Joe Flacco’s cannon, or else, he may have just gotten his last chance. Leaving Minnesota the way that he did, he has to succeed in Baltimore.

If Wallace doesn’t have at least close to a 1,000 yard season, it’s hard to think that he will be able to keep a starting role beyond this season. All fans hope however, that Wallace can be the player that we saw in Pittsburgh.

A player that could push Wallace for snaps in Chris Moore. Moore is a rookie out of Cincinnati. Moore put up 870 yards in his senior season. Keep in mind, that Cincinnati only played 13 games. This is what Lance Zierlein of NFL.com had to say about Moore:

“Has good size and long arms for his position. Long­-strider with build­up speed used to get on top of cornerbacks who don't show him proper vertical respect. Saw 33 percent of his catches this season go for 25-plus yards and averaged almost 22 yards per catch over last two seasons. Frame to break tackles in open field. Not afraid to roam the middle of the field. Adequate ball tracking skills. Finds ball early, adjusts routes as needed and flashes some ability to make the tough, downfield catch.”

Moore is a very raw receiver now, but he has the potential to develop into a very good NFL receiver. Roster Watch compare Moore to Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews. While a good comparison, I think Moore has a little more potential than what Matthews has shown.

The Ravens also have Kamar Aiken. Aiken was the number one receiver for the majority of last year and did a stellar job. Aiken had multiple huge games including against Pittsburgh (Week 4, 7 rec, 77 yards, 1 TD), Cleveland (Week 11, 10 rec, 80 yards, 1 TD), and Kansas City (Week 15, 12 rec, 128 yards, 1 TD). Aiken will fall out of the starting lineup because he doesn’t provide the deep threat ability that the Ravens have been trying to find. But that doesn’t mean he won’t see the field.

Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman may want to go with three wide receiver sets more often to get Aiken on the field for more snaps. The Ravens love this guy and want to find every way they can to use him. To put it in a fantasy football perspective, despite not starting, Aiken could end up being a high-end flex play, if not a WR3.

I think the Ravens will only take six receivers, which leaves just one more spot. It will come down to Keenan Reynolds or Michael Campanaro. As I discussed with a more in depth analysis here, Reynolds has a few advantages over Campanaro that should give Reynolds the inside track to making the roster.

Reynolds has more potential as a returner and a runner once the ball is in his hands due to his experience at Navy. But, more importantly, Reynolds doesn’t have the same injury concerns that Campanaro has. I think the Ravens would rather have the less polished player who can develop but stay on the field, Reynolds, over the player who is more polished but can’t stay on the field, in Campanaro.

Here’s my prediction of how the wide receiver competition will shake out:

  1. Steve Smith
  2. Mike Wallace
  3. Kamar Aiken
  4. Breshad Perriman
  5. Chris Moore
  6. Keenan Reynolds