COMMENTARY | The Baltimore Ravens are a team that rarely lets their draft picks slip away. If they spend a pick on a player, regardless of the round, their full intentions are for that player to make the team.
However, this year may be a different story for the defending Super Bowl champions. One rookie who could be on the outside looking in for the final 53-man roster is wide receiver Aaron Mellette, a seventh-round pick out of Elon University.
While the Ravens have an inherent need for a second starting wide receiver opposite Torrey Smith, the position has plenty of depth, which could spell trouble for Mellette. Even though he did catch 97 passes for 1,398 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, he is still a player who has a long way to go as a receiver. Right now, Mellette isn't a player who possess top-end speed, making him more of an intermediate receiver.
The Ravens have plenty of receivers who thrive in the short passing game, such as Deonte Thompson and Tandon Doss, meaning Mellette will have to show quick burst, solid mechanics and consistency in order to outshine his counterparts with similar playing styles.
Mellette will compete with Smith, Thompson, Doss, Jacoby Jones, David Reed, Tommy Streeter and LaQuan Williams for a roster spot. Assuming the team keeps six receivers - seven being the highest number - at least one of the receivers currently on the roster won't make the final 53-man squad. That isn't even taking into account the fact that the team very well may add another receiver before or during training camp via free agency or a trade.
Of the eight, Mellette, Williams and Reed seem to be at the bottom of the totem pole. What helps Reed is that he is a true special teams ace, which should ultimately solidify his spot on the roster. One receiver Mellette could easily outshine in training camp is Williams, a player who through two years has not proven his worth as a receiver, gravitating more toward special teams.
Mellette shouldn't have much trouble edging out Williams, but even in that case he still may be on the outside looking in. One option if Mellette is unable to edge out anyone but Williams is the practice squad. The only problem with trying to put Mellette on the practice squad is the Ravens risk losing him to another team.
For a player who could benefit from another year of development, spending a season on the practice squad may not be such a bad option for Mellette. He doesn't figure to have any type of role in the offense this year anyway. The last two receivers who the Ravens used a seventh-round pick on, Derek Abney in 2004 and Justin Harper in 2008, didn't play a single down in their rookie season. Abney never played in a game with the Ravens and Harper played in two games in 2009, failing to catch a pass.
Mellette figures to at least have some role in Baltimore's offense during his career, and he doesn't appear to be a player who never catches a pass for the team. While he may not even be active for any games this season, the Ravens may see Mellette as a guy who has enough talent to develop into a contributor, ultimately keeping him on the final 53-man roster, avoiding the risk of losing him to another team.
Kyle Casey is a sports writer living in Baltimore, Md. He maintains his own football site, End Zone Report, and contributes to Russell Street Report, a Baltimore Ravens blog.
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