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Late for Work 2/16: Ranking Top Five Receivers and Tight Ends in NFL Draft

Posted Feb 16, 2018

Can the Ravens save any money with Joe Flacco's contract? Gil Brandt: Baltimore is a potential fit for Jarvis Landry and Ezekiel Ansah. Chuck Clark and Bam Bradley could have significant roles in 2018. John Harbaugh's message to the victims and families of the Florida school shooting.

Ranking Top Five Receivers and Tight Ends in NFL Draft

Four NFL draft analysts – NFL Network’s Mike Mayock and Daniel Jeremiah, ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller – have released their positional rankings for the 2018 class.

Below, we compare the pundits’ lists at wide receiver and tight end, two of the Ravens’ biggest needs this offseason.

Wide receivers

Maycock Jeremiah Kiper Miller
1 Calvin Ridley Calvin Ridley Calvin Ridley Calvin Ridley
2 Christian Kirk Christian Kirk Courtland Sutton Courtland Sutton
3 Courtland Sutton DJ Moore Anthony Miller Christian Kirk
4 James Washington Equanimeous St. Brown Christian Kirk Deon Cain
T-5 Dante Pettis Auden Tate Michael Gallup DJ Moore
T-5 DJ Moore
T-5 Anthony Miller

The 2018 class lacks star power up top, but is deep and several impact players will be found in the second and third rounds. The consensus top receiver is Alabama junior Calvin Ridley, who has a special combination of size, speed, route-running and hands. His lower production (55 catches for 967 yards and four touchdowns) may be more a reflection of playing with a running quarterback than his ability to put up big numbers. The competition for second place in this group is split between SMU’s Courtland Sutton and Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk. Sutton has the size (6-foot-4, 216 pounds) and production (68 catches, 1,085 yards and 12 touchdowns) that scouts covet. He isn’t a speedster or polished route-runner, but is physical and can make plays with defenders draped over him. Kirk is more compact at 5-foot-11, but is a dynamic playmaker that could make an immediate impact from the slot similar to the way Cooper Kupp did for the Los Angeles Rams last season.

Maryland’s DJ Moore is a local product that Ravens fans will recognize. He’s quick with a running back-like build and put up record-breaking numbers (80 catches, 1,033 yards and 10 touchdowns) for the Terps last year. Oklahoma State senior James Washington won the 2017 Biletnikoff Award, presented to the nation's top receiver, and graduates as the most prolific receiver in school history, even outproducing alumnus and Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant. Washington is an explosive vertical threat that can take the top off defenses.

Tight ends

Maycock Jeremiah Kiper Miller
1 Hayden Hurst Hayden Hurst Dallas Goedert Dallas Goedert
2 Dallas Goedert Dallas Goedert Mark Andrews Mark Andrews
3 Mike Gesicki n/a Mike Gesicki Hayden Hurst
4 Mark Andrews n/a Ian Thomas Mike Gesicki
5 Will Dissly n/a Hayden Hurst Adam Breneman

This year’s group features plenty of pass-catching tight ends, which is what the Ravens are searching for. These four analysts are split on who the top tight end is. South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst offers a big body (6-foot-5, 250 pounds), soft hands and excellent “box-out skills.” He declared for the draft early because he’s already 24 years old after making a switch from professional baseball.

South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert is a dangerous receiving threat, putting up especially big numbers against smaller-school competition and for his position. He posted 72 catches, 1,111 yards and seven touchdowns, and that was a dip from his junior year. Mike Gesicki was a red-zone threat for Penn State with quickness, size, and leaping ability. He is knocked for his blocking technique. Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews was the 2017 Mackey Award winner as the nation's best tight end. He was a former wide receiver that grew into a tight end, but still possesses speed and is a vertical threat down the seam.

Can Ravens Save Any Money with Joe Flacco’s Contract?

Earlier this week, we examined the various ways the Ravens could create salary-cap space, and it was obvious that making any moves with quarterback Joe Flacco’s contract was not practical.

Flacco is scheduled to carry the Ravens’ highest salary-cap hit in 2018 with $24.75 million, which accounts for 14.11 percent of the entire salary cap. That’s not unusual for franchise quarterbacks.

Still, questions are rolling in to Russell Street Report’s Brian McFarland about Flacco’s contract, looking for ways to lower his hit this year. He dedicated a full article to discussing commonly asked questions.

Here’s a brief summary:

Q. Is it possible to cut Joe Flacco this year? It would cost more to cut Flacco prior to June 1 ($28.75 million in dead money) than to keep him ($24.75 million).

Q. When is the earliest they can reasonably do so? Owner Steve Bisciotti indicated Flacco will be around for the foreseeable future, but strictly talking from a cap standpoint, McFarland says the earliest would be a post-June 1 cut in 2019. In that case, the Ravens could split $16 million of dead money over two years.

Q. What about trading Flacco? Cutting and trading Flacco has the same effect on the salary cap.

Q. Could Flacco take an outright pay cut? It’s unlikely, as most players that take pay cuts do so after the threat of being cut out right. The Ravens have no such leverage.

Q. How much would a contract restructure create and what impact would it have on the future? The Ravens could create $8.25 million in new cap space this year, but Flacco’s future cap hits would go from $26.5 million, $28.25 million and $24.25 million to $29.25 million, $31 million and $27 million, respectively.

Q. What about an extension? McFarland: “Flacco still has four years remaining on his contract and will be 36 years old in the last year of the deal. As such, an extension seems unlikely, although sometimes teams will essentially add ‘phony’ years via a contract extension to help create needed cap space.”

Gil Brandt: Baltimore Is a Potential Fit for Jarvis Landry and Ezekiel Ansah

NFL Network’s Gil Brandt gave his take on where some high-profile free agents could sign this offseason, and he sees Baltimore as a potential landing spot for Miami receiver Jarvis Landry and Detroit pass rusher Ezekiel Ansah.

“A quick possession-type receiver with fabulous hands, Landry would make a big difference in both Cleveland and Baltimore,” wrote Brandt. “After all, he piled up those numbers in Miami despite spotty quarterback play; imagine what he could accomplish with a solid signal-caller (like, say, Kirk Cousins or Josh Rosen in Cleveland or Joe Flacco in Baltimore).

“Ansah managed just two sacks in an injury-hampered 2016 season – and then he racked up 12 in '17. But it was a quiet 12; Ansah just didn't seem to flash like he did in college. New Lions coach Matt Patricia must decide how he sees Ansah (and the talent pool he'd be drawing from to replace him), but I could envision Detroit using the franchise tag here. Alternatively, Ansah could potentially help quite a bit in Baltimore (where Terrell Suggs is only getting older).”

The Ravens certainly don’t have the cap money for both players, and they’d have to do some clever cap maneuvering to get even one. It’d be surprising if they put up the kind of cash it’ll take for a pass rusher like Ansah, especially after Bisciotti said at his season-review press conference that the defense is essentially set personnel-wise.

Quick Hits

  • “For those who are suggesting that the Ravens should persuade right tackle Austin Howard and cornerback Brandon Carr to take pay cuts, it’s worth mentioning that it’s not a very good free-agent class at both offensive tackle and cornerback,” added Zrebiec. “What’s the incentive for them to take a pay cut to stay when they could probably get as much if not more money elsewhere?” [The Baltimore Sun]

Please Note

The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.

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