Returner In Ravens’ Draft Plans?

There are a number of dynamic kick and punt returners in this year’s class.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Thursday, March 1st, 2012 at 11:13 am | Categories: Ryan Mink

Baltimore may be on the hunt for a special teams returner.

Last year’s primary kick returner, wide receiver David Reed, finished with a standout 29.7 yards per return, but is coming off an ACL tear. His backup, safety Tom Zbikowski, is an unrestricted free agent.

The Ravens’ punt returner was cornerback Lardarius Webb, but with the Pro Bowl contender taking on a very prominent role on defense, Baltimore may look to find a less risky option underneath punts.

Luckily for the Ravens, this year’s draft has a handful of dynamic returners that are expected to go on the third day.

Florida running back Chris Rainey came to the NFL Scouting Combine trumpeting that he wants to be the draft’s best special-teams player.

Rainey is a 5-foot-9 speedster who showed his quickness by leading all prospects in Indianapolis in the 60-yard shuttle, 20-yard shuttle and three-cone drill.

He is the only player in Florida history to lead the team in rushing, receiving, punt-return yards and all-purpose yards. Rainey averaged 25.8 yards per kickoff return and 8.8 yards per punt return.

“Special teams is my specialty and I love special teams,” Rainey said. “I take special teams to heart because you win a lot of games when you’re involved with special teams and that’s what the NFL is looking for.”

Perhaps the top return man available is Arkansas’ Joe Adams, who said he was scheduled to meet with the Ravens. The 5-foot-10, 174-pound wide receiver took four punts back for touchdowns last season and averaged 16.9 yards per punt return.

He’s got highlight-reel ability with good vision, creativity and speed to leave defenders in the dust. Adams also showed himself to be perhaps a better receiver than expected at the Senior Bowl. He caught 54 passes for 652 yards and three touchdowns as a senior.

“A lot of teams are looking at me as being a receiver first and then being a returner as a plus,” Adams said. “I think I can be a dynamic returner in the NFL and a dynamic receiver.”

There are a few other returners to keep an eye on. Fresno State’s Devon Wylie gained the nickname “Wiggles” and was the fastest player in school history. He’s an impact punt returner.

Wake Forest’s Chris Givens (5-foot-11, 198 pounds) is bigger and is more of a kickoff returner. He was also a breakout receiver last year, notching 83 catches for 1,330 yards and nine touchdowns.

Givens, who was pretty sure he was interviewing with Baltimore, has been tutoring under Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl returner Antonio Brown.

“I’m a playmaker,” Givens said. “Wherever you want to put me to make plays, that’s what I’m going to do. It can be returning kicks, at wide receiver, wherever. I’m going to get the job done.”

Finally, there’s Florida International’s T.Y. Hilton, who is a small speedster at just 5-foot-9, 178 pounds. The schools’ all-time leader in kickoff return yardage also notched a 97-yard punt return touchdown this past season. He said he was not scheduled to talk to Baltimore.

“A lot of teams didn’t get time to see me [in college], so hopefully I can amaze the crowd,” Hilton said.

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