After the Baltimore Ravens picked wide receiver Aaron Mellette in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft, I immediately asserted that the defending Super Bowl champions had struck gold with their selection. The 23-year-old wide receiver out of Elon was rated the 19th best wideout to enter the draft by ESPN scouting reports, but Mellette slipped to the final round of the draft, presumably because he came from a small FCS school.
I contended that Ravens got a steal by drafting Mellette because he presents a big target as a 6-foot-2-inch wideout that excels at tracking the ball over his shoulder and adjusting to the ball in flight.
With the Ravens thin at wide receiver, I predicted that Mellette could see decent playing time in his rookie season with the potential to become an integral part of the offense.
If Mellette’s first two preseason games are any indication, the seventh-round pick is well on his way to proving the naysayers and doubters wrong. Mellette has hauled in a deep touchdown pass in each of the first two preseason contests — catching a 21-yard TD pass in the preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then grabbing a 40-yard touchdown catch to jump-start Thursday night’s comeback win versus the Atlanta Falcons.
Earlier in the preseason, head coach John Harbaugh chewed out Mellette for his ‘’lazy” and “lackadaisical” demeanor in practices. Harbaugh went as far as instructing offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell to take Mellette off the field.
Mellette responded to the constructive criticism from his head coach by having his best week of practice prior to the Falcons game, and then receiving the 40-yard-score that helped spark the Ravens’ win. Harbaugh praised Mellette’s game production, but more importantly his improved practices with the club.
“I think he has done a great job of battling through some adversity and responding well to some hard coaching,” Harbaugh said to baltimoreravens.com. “And that’s the mark of a guy that I think has a lot of character, a lot of confidence – so he’s done really well. I’m proud of him, very proud of him.”
Mellete’s ability to succeed in the offense after catching heat from his head coach earned him reps in practice with the first team yesterday. Jacoby Jones and Tandon Doss have been ineffective at the wide receiver position, opening the door for Mellette to seize a starting job.
Practicing with the first team offense led by Joe Flacco is a huge promotion for Mellette. Even if Mellette doesn’t start, he could see a great deal of playing time as the Ravens plan to implement three-WR sets into the offense. Flacco, who throws arguably the best deep-ball pass in the league, could thrive with an added wide receiver on the field.
“I think today’s game sets up well for that kind of stuff, which is playing at a high pace and letting those [wide receivers] get open on some guys,” Flacco said to the Baltimore Sun. “I think that will be a big part of who we are. I hope it is, and I think that we have the guys to do it.”
Mellette yearns to become part of this three-WR set. Mellette can prove he belongs in the starting unit in Thursday night’s contest against the Carolina Panthers in the Ravens’ third preseason game. The third preseason game is often the most important of the four exhibition contests because starters will typically see significant playing time.
Mellette will line up against the Panthers’ starting cornerbacks Drayton Florence and Captain Munnerlyn. If Mellete can have another productive game, this time squaring off against the opponent’s first-team defense, then expect the seventh-round pick to be featured in some of the Ravens’ offensive packages in 2013.