Whenever the conversations about the leading candidates for the No. 2 receiver come up, Ravens officials like to mention several names including Deonte Thompson, David Reed, LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss.
But if you listen carefully, the Ravens think Thompson, in his second year, has the inside track. He has good size, soft hands and can fly. Opposite starter Torrey Smith, the Ravens would have two vertical threats on both sides of the field.
"[Thompson] could sneak in there, he looks different, is fast and catches everything," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. "But the other guys like Doss and Reed have done well and worked hard during the offseason. As I've always said, the best player will play."
The Ravens will use the next couple of minicamps to sort through the competition and get ready for training camp which begins in late July. At this time, it would make no sense to bring in any free agents because the Ravens need to evaluate their young receivers. Plus, when you bring in free agents this late, you're basically getting someone else's hand me down or damaged goods.
That's why Thompson is attractive.
Reed, a fourth-year player out of Utah, has always had excellent potential but is a human pretzel, a player who bends and sometimes breaks, and is consistently hurt. Doss has good size, but wasn't consistent in catching the ball last year. As far as speed, he isn't in the same class with either Reed or Thompson.
Right now, Thompson appears to be the most complete option. He played sparingly last season behind Smith, Anquan Boldin and Jacoby Jones catching five passes for 51 yards. But during the 2012 training camp, he lit up the Ravens secondary up with long receptions. He seemed to catch on to the pro game quickly.
"I thought I did well in training camp," Thompson said. "The hardest thing I learned was that you had to bring your A game every day, not just on game day, but in practice. I think I can be the No. 2 receiver here.
"I have athleticism and the ability to make big plays. I'm fast, can stretch the field and have run the 40 in 4.23. I think the sky is the limit for me, but I still have to prove myself on the field."
The No. 2 position became open when the Ravens traded Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers early in the offseason after Boldin declined to take a several million dollar pay cut. Few were more shocked than Thompson when he heard Boldin had left.
Boldin and Smith were his mentors last season.
"Anquan Boldin, wow, I couldn't believe he was gone," Thompson said. "Here was a guy I looked up to, a guy who played well, and he was no longer around. I learned a lot from those guys last year, what is like to be a pro athlete.
"They stressed the fundamentals of the game and talked to me about playing hard. If there is one thing I can take away from them it's being patient, that everything doesn't come over night."
Thompson is still learning. Smith, about to enter his third season, made major improvements from his rookie year to his second, especially in rout running and hand placement. Thompson could improve in those areas as well, especially in running patterns.
Thompson's last two seasons in football have been about transition. In his senior year at the University of Florida, Thompson caught only 21 passes for 264 yards after catching 38 for 510 yards as a junior. And then there was the transition to the pro game last summer.
At least this year, Thompson has had a chance to work out and study more with the Ravens during the offseason.
"We had a new offensive coordinator and new coaches at Florida my last year and the whole offense didn't play well," Thompson said. "We were just trying to find a rhythm. But here, I think I have adjusted and I can play outside or in the slot, it doesn't matter. A year ago, I didn't know what to expect, but now I know what it is going to take. One of the hardest things was learning defenses, the audibles and the different coverages.
"I'll do anything to help out. It was great going to the Super Bowl but I want to be the champs again. I'm no longer on that high horse. I'm back to work and ready to go."