Decisions looming for Ravens at underwhelming receiver position

August 26, 2013 | Luke Jones

The case for: The seventh-round pick from Elon was incredibly productive at the FCS level (44 touchdown catches) and looks the part of an NFL receiver with a 6-foot-2, 217-pound frame. He caught touchdown passes in each of the first two preseason games while playing with the second-team offense to earn his opportunity with the starters. Mellette has shown consistent hands and has improved his route-running ability since a quiet start to the summer. Regardless of the fact that Mellette was selected in the final round, the Ravens rarely ever cut draft picks in their first year as you’d have to go back to 2009 when sixth-round running back Cedric Peerman was cut at the end of the preseason to find an example of a rookie selection to be kicked to the curb.

The case against: Mellette didn’t stand out while receiving playing time with the starters against Carolina and was pushed back a few yards while running a shallow crossing route, preventing him from picking up a first down. While he’s worked with the special-teams units during practice, he hasn’t done anything to distinguish himself in that regard to this point. His only impressive production in the preseason has come against opposing team’s backups unlike fellow rookie Brown’s strong showing against the Panthers’ starting defense.

LaQuan Williams (four catches, 46 yards, 12 targets)

The case for: Williams is the best special-teams player of the bunch, which is a major factor when you’re trying to fill out the final spots on the 53-man roster. He has shown flashes of being a capable receiver, including his two-catch performance on the Ravens’ final drive in a regular-season comeback win at Pittsburgh during the 2011 season. Williams is a hard worker who’s made himself into an NFL player after underwhelming production at the University of Maryland. Like Doss, he has shown multiple stretches of good practices over the course of his three-year run with the Ravens.

The case against: Consistency has been a problem for Williams as he followed up a strong performance in the preseason opener with quiet showings in each of the last two games that included a couple drops working with backup Tyrod Taylor. The former Terp lacks blazing speed or ideal size for the position, which puts him at a disadvantage compared to the other bubble receivers on the roster. While Williams is the best of the group playing special teams, he’s not so excellent in that regard that he couldn’t be replaced.

Deonte Thompson (five catches, 51 yards, six targets)

The case for: Thompson is faster than the other four bubble receivers and performed well in the spring and early portion of training camp before suffering the foot injury in the preseason opener. He gives the Ravens a speedy option in the slot that neither Stokley nor Doss can offer. Thompson is also a good special-teams player, who can serve as either a return man or fill in on coverage units with his speed. The trio of Smith, Jones, and Thompson would be the fastest in the NFL if the Ravens chose to use them in a three-wide set.

The case against: His reputation at the University of Florida was as a wide receiver who’d show great hands in practice but couldn’t catch the football consistently, which is a red flag for a player without any body of work in the NFL as a wideout. His current injury makes him a tough sell over the other options on the roster when the Ravens haven’t had as many opportunities to evaluate him in preseason action. The organization was high on him in the offseason and spring but also felt the same way about Doss, which doesn’t make the most convincing argument for Thompson being a sure thing to contribute. His foot injury continues to be an issue and the biggest question might be how long the Ravens can afford to keep him on the 53-man roster if he’s to be sidelined for an extended period of time, meaning he could be a candidate to land on injured reserve if the latest re-evaluation isn’t favorable.