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NFL Network's Charles Davis Talks Receiver Options In 2018 NFL Draft

February 20, 2018
With receivers Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro possibly being lost to free agency and fellow wideout Jeremy Maclin a potential salary cap casualty, the Baltimore Ravens may soon be left with precious few internal options at the position.  

Charles Davis of NFL Network joined Glenn Clark Radio Feb. 13 to discuss the options the Ravens will sift through ahead of the NFL Draft April 26-28. Davis' favorite receiver expected to go in rounds two or three is DJ Chark, who played 25 games for Louisiana State the past three years and participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., in late January.

Chark caught 40 passes for 874 yards and four touchdowns as a senior last fall, an average of 21.9 yards per catch. That was an improvement over his junior season, when caught 26 balls for 466 yards. Davis pointed to LSU's system -- which is traditionally run-heavy -- and the Tigers' inconsistent quarterback play as reasons why Chark's numbers may have been underwhelming. Davis said he saw Chark as "that long-limbed guy, real loose, real elusive" during Senior Bowl week, physical traits that may portend success in the pro game.

"I think if you went back and looked at [New York Giants receiver] Odell Beckham's numbers at LSU, you might be surprised and say, 'That's it?' because that's just not the nature of their offense," Davis said. "When you see Chark, I saw a guy who can run routes. I saw a guy who found a way to get himself uncovered downfield. I saw a guy who could take the top off of a defense. And I said it at the Senior Bowl during our broadcast, and I'm going to stand by it: I'm very convinced that his pro production is going to blow away his college production."

Another option outside of the first round may be Christian Kirk out of Texas A&M. Kirk was productive for all three of his years in College Station, Texas, catching 229 passes for 2,796 yards and 26 touchdowns throughout the course of his career. Though he caught the fewest passes (66) of his career last fall, the 2017 season also represented his highest yards-per-catch average (13). 

Kirk saved his best game of 2017 for last, as he caught 13 balls for 189 yards and three touchdowns against Wake Forest in the Belk Bowl last December. Kirk was targeted all over the field by Texas A&M quarterback Nick Starkel. 

"The stopwatch, again, might push him up higher [than the second round], and like [Los Angeles Rams receiver Tavon Austin], what else does Kirk do? He returns kicks," Davis said. "So people might want to jump on him and say, 'I can work him in that way to get things started and go from there.' Sometimes, that overwhelming speed -- plus Kirk is used to playing outside, he's not necessarily simply a slot guy -- that helps him out a little bit."

If the Ravens consider taking a receiver during the first round, two players they'll likely look at are Calvin Ridley of Alabama and Courtland Sutton of Southern Methodist. Ridley was a consensus five-star recruit out of Florida before he burst onto the season as a freshman in 2015, catching 89 balls for 1,045 yards and seven scores. Ridley ended up catching 224 passes for 2,781 yards and 19 touchdowns while contributing to two national championship teams during his three years in Tuscaloosa, Ala. 

Sutton was recruited as a defensive back but transitioned to receiver full-time in 2015. Sutton caught 193 passes for 3,193 yards and 31 touchdowns from 2015-17. Sutton, a Texas native, is listed at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds by SMU, prototypical size for a receiver lining up on the outside in the NFL.

"I would love to sit down with [a scout] and go over the Ridley vs. Sutton deal for this reason: I think Ridley ran a much better tree of routes in college," Davis said. "I realize he played on a team that had plenty of talent and sometimes that overwhelms other teams and makes you look better. I get that, so we have to be careful with that. But every time I popped on a tape of Sutton or turned on a game, I just counted to three and he caught another bubble screen. It is the nature of the offense, but does he translate into a guy who can run the rest of it? That's the question I would have."

Davis also discussed quarterbacks down the draft board, including Virginia's Kurt Benkert, who was born in Baltimore and played for Loyola Blakefield's junior varsity team before playing his varsity ball at Island Coast High School in Florida. Benkert began his college career at East Carolina but transferred to Virginia for his junior and senior seasons. 

Benkert, listed at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, threw for 3,207 yards and 25 touchdowns on 58.5 percent passing and 6.3 yards per throw last fall. The games that stand out on tape from Benkert's senior season, according to Davis, were his performances against Connecticut (455 yards, three touchdowns) and Miami (384, four).

"Pop in other tapes and you'll see some of the deficiencies that are there, and when I say deficiencies, he is not overly sized," Davis said. "I think he's got a good enough arm. I'm not worried about that at all. Decision making at times, you might want to question some of it. But I will also go back and say, 'Make sure you look at time, clock, where they are on the scoreboard,' because I think he was a kid that competed so hard that he often made mistakes trying to bring his team back instead of making the right throw because they were down, so you'll see some of that."

For more from Davis, listen to the full interview here:


Photo Credit: Courtesy of LSU Athletics