Keenan Reynolds cleared the first hurdle toward the NFL when Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus recommended Friday that the Navy quarterback-turned Ravens receiver be allowed to play in 2016 while fulfilling his military obligation through service in the Naval Reserves.
Reynolds' next challenge will be making the transition to a new position and role in time to crack the Ravens' regular-season roster, a task that won't be easy with the depth the team has at wide receiver.
Make no mistake, the Ravens drafted Reynolds in the sixth round because they believe the all-time NCAA Division I leader in touchdowns can provide speed, athleticism and versatility to an offense that needs all three.
They didn't take him because of coach John Harbaugh and the organization's strong devotion to the military or because they felt it would be a nice story to keep a widely respected and well-liked young man in the same state where he broke so many records as a college player.
The Ravens take the draft extremely seriously, and they wouldn't make a pick to garner positive publicity. Anyone who thinks they would hasn't spent more than five minutes with general manager Ozzie Newsome.
The Ravens obviously were well aware of Reynolds' exploits at Navy, and he opened their eyes further during practices before the East-West Shrine Game, and at their local pro day. They were thrilled to get him in the sixth round as they considered taking him earlier in the draft.
However, just because he was drafted doesn't guarantee that Reynolds will be on the active roster to start the season. A fifth-round pick last year out of Tennessee State, offensive guard Robert Myers was cut before the regular season began. Quarterback Keith Wenning, a sixth-round selection in 2014, was let go before being re-signed to the practice squad. Cornerback Marc Anthony, a seventh rounder in 2013, was let go during his first preseason.
The Ravens already have a number of established players on their roster, so keeping all 11 drafted rookies is a difficult proposition.
In Reynolds' case, he'll be competing with 10 other receivers. Of that group, Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman are viewed as the only locks to make the roster, assuming they are healthy.
The Ravens' second tier of wide receivers includes Michael Campanaro (River Hill), rookie fourth-round pick Chris Moore and Reynolds. They also still have Chris Matthews, Jeremy Butler, Daniel Brown and Kaelin Clay. All four of the players from the final group flashed at different points of last season.
Operating under the assumption that Smith, Aiken, Wallace and Perriman are locks, the Ravens would probably only have two or three more slots available for seven other wide receivers. As a fourth-round pick, Moore is certainly a favorite for one of them. If healthy, Campanaro would strongly be in the mix as a guy who Joe Flacco trusts, and perhaps the team's top punt returner. The Ravens are high on Butler and Clay did a solid job as the return man last year. And then there's Reynolds, who will be mired in a tough roster battle while learning a completely new position.
By now, it would be foolish to dismiss Reynolds' ability to make the transition. He has a lot of ability and all the intangibles that teams covet. The Ravens will give him every opportunity to succeed.