Regarding the Ravens’ quest to find wide receivers in the upcoming draft, General Manager Eric DeCosta made a baseball analogy.
“One of the biggest things that we have to do is just take some at-bats and swing,” DeCosta said. “It’s hard to be a .400 hitter if you’re only at bat twice. We’ve got to take some chances. We’ve got to find some guys that we like and try to appreciate the really good football players, the guys that make plays.”
The Ravens have drafted three wide receivers in the first round three times: Travis Taylor (2000), Mark Clayton (2005) and Breshad Perriman (2015). Baltimore has selected two wide receivers in the first three rounds since 2008: Perriman and Torrey Smith (2011).
In his first draft as general manager, how nice would it be for DeCosta to hit a home run at wide receiver? To find one, or even two,[comma] that complement the playmaking ability of quarterback Lamar Jackson? To bring young, dynamic talent to a position that has seen frequent veteran turnover in recent years?
Among the most popular subjects at Tuesday’s pre-draft press conference was the wide receiver position. Why wouldn’t it be? The Ravens parted with two veteran wide receivers this offseason, John Brown and Michael Crabtree. They have just two receivers on the roster who have caught a pass in the NFL, Willie Snead IV and Chris Moore. Two wide receivers drafted in the fourth and fifth rounds last year, Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley, have potential but neither played a snap last season and they remain unproven.
Meanwhile, this draft is top-heavy with talented wide receiver prospects who have first-round potential, including Marquise Brown of Oklahoma, D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown of Ole Miss, N’Keal Harry of Arizona State, Parris Campbell of Ohio State, Riley Ridley of Georgia and Hakeem Butler of Iowa State.
Whether the Ravens stay at No. 22 or trade back or out of the first round to acquire more picks, the opportunity to take a swing at a quality wide receiver should present itself. Figuring out which ones fit the Ravens best could be challenging, and none are regarded as can’t-miss prospects. But DeCosta didn’t sound like he would shy away from drafting a wide receiver just because finding the right player at that position hasn’t always been easy for the organization.
“Receivers come in all different shapes and sizes,” DeCosta said. “Some guys are big and physical. Some guys are fast and run good routes. Other guys catch the ball really well. Other guys drop three or four balls but catch six or seven touchdowns. It really comes down to finding the guys that fit who we are, that we like, who can help us win football games.”
DeCosta was asked specifically about Metcalf, the Combine workout stud who has drawn plenty of attention due to his chiseled physique. DeCosta compared him to Hall of Famer Terrell Owens in his run after catch. Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz compared Metcalf to Demaryius Thomas.
“He’s big and fast,” DeCosta said. “He’s caught a lot of touchdowns. He’s caught a lot of big plays. He’s a guy that we’re looking at, along with 200 other prospects in this draft. We’ll assess D.K. versus the field.”
The Ravens did not sign a wide receiver during the early portion of free agency, unlike last year when they signed Crabtree and Brown. In 2017, they inked Jeremy Maclin midway through the summer, and in 2016 they signed Mike Wallace. The Ravens could sign a wide receiver this summer after more cuts are made, but there is no guarantee they will find one they consider to be the right player at the right price.
That’s why drafting a wide receiver early is clearly an option. Hortiz said this year’s wide receiver class has earned the accolades.
“You’ve got guys that fit the ideal slot role, you’ve got the versatile outside threats big and small,” Hortiz said. “I think there’s a lot of wideouts in this group, this year’s class, that have the things you’re looking for.”
Clearly, the Ravens will be evaluating this year’s wide receiver class closely. This year, wide receiver is a position of need and a position of strength in the draft. If the Ravens see a wide receiver they believe is ready to play as a rookie, DeCosta sounds ready to take a swing.
“That’s always the goal, to find players that have an immediate impact,” DeCosta said. “Guys that can dress and play good football. That’s not going to change.”