The Baltimore Ravens field the best overall special teams units in the entire NFL. The only aspect where they could improve in the fifth phase is by adding a kick returner with the ability to provide a Jermaine Lewis or Jacoby Jones caliber impact.
The Ravens did recently re-sign Michael Campanaro, who is expected to compete with Keenan Reynolds for the primary return man job in training camp. Lardarius Webb and Danny Woodhead also have experience returning kicks, but both are probably too fragile at this point in their careers to play special teams full time. Second-year men Chris Moore and Maurice Canady could also factor in the Ravens return game.
Fortuitously, the 2017 class of prospects includes several dynamic return men in addition to its other apparent strengths. Special teams contributions are valued, especially in Baltimore. With the Day 2 draft board expected to be tight, return skills could easily entice the Ravens to select one of the players below.
Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC
Perhaps the most electrifying returner to enter the professional ranks in more than a decade. Jackson housed eight returns in three years with the Trojans, equally split between kickoffs and punts. He averaged 30-yards per kickoff and 16-yards per punt last season. Adoree’ combines incredible hands with track star speed and elite open field elusiveness. He would also bring his terrific ball skills and legitimate coverage ability to the defense.
Jabrill Peppers, SS, Michigan
One of the most polarizing players in the class is a bonafide playmaker on special teams. Peppers returned 39 punts for the Wolverines, including a touchdown and 15-yard average last season. Jabrill showed off his sub 4.5-second speed and explosive athleticism at the combine last month.
Curtis Samuel, WR, OSU
The former Buckeye is a jack-of-all-trades with experience as a running back, receiver and returner. His blazing speed and quickness make him an intriguing chess piece on offense. He ran back 21 kickoffs for a 22-yard average as a freshman and sophomore before fielding punts last season.
Justin Evans, SS, Texas A&M
Most years, Evans would be generating more buzz as an exciting safety prospect. He is a passionate, physical player with great ball skills and excellent speed. Last season for the Aggies he returned 15 kickoffs for a 29-yard average.
Desmond King, FS, Iowa
Once regarded as the top corner in the class before showing issues in coverage at the Senior Bowl and a lack of ideal athleticism at the scouting combine. King is a natural ballhawk on defense. His instincts with the ball in his hands allowed him to accumulate nearly 2,000 return yards between 56 kickoffs and 43 punts for the Hawkeyes over the last two seasons.