The competition for the last spot in the wide receiver department has seemingly come down to Michael Campanaro and Keenan Reynolds. Both Reynolds and Campanaro are slot receivers who are also returners. But the Ravens have a lesser known player that could be in the mix for that spot too, and that’s Kaelin Clay.
Clay is entering his second year in the NFL after being drafted in the sixth round by Tampa Bay in the 2015 draft. Tampa Bay signed Clay, then waived him. They then resigned Clay to the practice squad before releasing him entirely. Almost immediately afterward, Detroit signed Clay to their practice squad. In November, following a slew of injuries, the Ravens signed Clay off the Lions practice squad and quickly inserted him into the lineup.
Like Reynolds and Campanaro, Clay is a slot receiver that is a stellar returner as well. Clay only played one season at Utah following his transfer from Mt. San Antonio Junior College. In his 2014 season at Utah, Clay shined. He put up 523 yards and four touchdowns. Clay had his breakout game against Oregon, where he burned the Ducks’ secondary for 152 yards on just five catches. This was the game, however, where Clay infamously dropped the ball on the one yard line. Unlike Reynolds and Campanaro, Clay possesses some deep threat ability out of the slot. According to nfldraftstock.com, Clay’s fastest 40 yard dash time is 4.35. That’s blazing speed, and he uses that in the return game in a big way.
In the 2014 season at Utah, Clay returned three punts for touchdowns, and brought one kickoff to the house as well. In his very first attempt as a punt returner on the Ravens, Clay returned a punt for a touchdown against the Browns. This video displays his skill as a returner:
d452576e-6639-4d9e-9e3e-89b3f7730c82.0.html As the video shows, Clay has the speed to burn past would be tacklers, as well as the strength to break tackles. In the game against USC, Clay is able to stay upright, despite Su’a Cravens, one of the best safeties in college football, who is trying to throw him down.
Clay clearly has potential to be a solid return man as well as a burner out of the slot. However, he faces an uphill battle when taking on Campanaro and Reynolds. He will have to have a near perfect camp to have a shot to make the 53 man roster. And while difficult, it isn’t a possibility to throw out the window. Campanaro has faced injury problems throughout his whole career, and Reynolds is a quarterback learning how to play slot receiver, as well as learn how to be a returner. So while many, including myself, love the potential that Reynolds has, Clay may have the same potential. Clay already proved last season that he can be a NFL return man, he just have to prove that he is just as good as Reynolds and Campanaro to have a shot at making the team. But as a guy who came from small school, transferred to a big one, and had to carve out a role for himself there, this is nothing new to him.