The 2017 offseason has officially begun in Baltimore after the Ravens were bounced from postseason contention on Christmas Day and dropped a snoozer to Cincinnati to ring in the New Year.
Heading into 2017, the Ravens have some questions at several different positions with wide receiver possibly being the at the top of the list (for the 21st consecutive season).
With that in mind, let's take a look at a potential draft steal at the position who could help fill out the Ravens receiving corps after Steve Smith Sr. confirmed the New Years day contest against the Cincinnati Bengals was his last.
With the Ravens unlikely to effectively shore up the position in free agency, the draft seems like their only option, and with that in mind they’ll obviously be looking for great value with their pick after potentially whiffing on Breshad Perriman in 2015.
One player yet to declare but is a candidate to do so is Alabama’s ArDarius Stewart. A redshirt junior, Stewart has been a mainstay in the Crimson Tide’s receiving corps for some time now. If he declares for the draft, he may be available in one of the later rounds.
Why? None of his measurables seem to jump off of the screen. Standing at 6’1, the 205 pound receiver isn't an athletic freak like teammate Calvin Ridley, and doesn't seem to have the route running chops of his old compadre Amari Cooper.
While Ridley seems to get most of the (well deserved) hype surrounding Alabama’s receiving unit, Stewart routinely seems to make all the right plays in all of the big spots for the Crimson Tide throughout 2016.
The pedigree surrounding Stewart may not be as top notch as some of the previously listed players, but there is something about him when he plays that screams he can produce in the NFL, particularly in the slot.
He has pretty good speed that may translate to the next level, but his strong hands will be his true money makers. He often is able to make contested catches, even when blanketed by defenders. Add in the fact that he is absolutely vicious with the ball in hands, and an ideal slot receiver comes to mind when you think of Stewart.
This type of play seems to fueled by a constantly pissed off attitude that has earned him the nickname “ax-bearer.” That isn't just some cliched made-up-from-thin-air moniker either; Stewart literally walked around Alabama sidelines with an ax while missing time due to injury to remind the rest of his teammates that they are assassins on the field.
His blue collar playing style and competitive nature could warrant comparisons that Ravens fans will love, such as Steve Smith Sr. or Anquan Boldin. But in my mind, Stewart most closely resembles another former SEC receiver who has carved up NFL defenses from the slot position since 2014.
That would be Jarvis “Juice” Landry who was selected in the second round by the Miami Dolphins in the historic 2014 draft class for the wide receiver position. While Stewart may never reach the heights that Landry has to this point, the comparison seems valid due their similar playing styles and incredibly fiery demeanors.
While Landry may be the most ideal comparison for Stewart in terms of attitude, you may also see some of Green Bay’s Ty Montgomery in his game as well due to his penchant for making plays when getting the ball at or behind the line of scrimmage.
Regardless, a player of either caliber would be an asset to the Ravens who currently have a need at wideout. Hopefully Ozzie Newsome will again have his eyes on his alma mater if Stewart becomes available to them in the 2017 NFL Draft.