The Ravens made their desire to upgrade the wide receiver corps clear this offseason and made a major splash with signing Odell Beckham Jr.
However, don't look past their wiliness to add a receiver in the draft, perhaps still in the first round.
Prior to signing Beckham Jr., Head Coach John Harbaugh said at the Owners Meetings, "We're going to draft a receiver." Eric DeCosta has drafted a wide receiver in the first round in two of his four drafts as general manager. Could he make it a third?
"We're going to keep swinging and hopefully at one of these points, we're going to hit the ball out of the park," DeCosta said in March.
So how do the top receivers in the 2023 class compare and contrast? Draft Film Review has you covered.
Quentin Johnston, TCU
- Originally committed to Texas, but switched to TCU and played three seasons for the Horned Frogs, including in the 2022 National Championship against the Georgia Bulldogs.
- Amassed 2,190 yards, 14 touchdowns and 115 catches across three seasons. Most notably, he had a career average of 19 yards per catch.
- Measured 6'3, 208 pounds with 33 5/8 arms at the NFL Combine. He did not run the 40-yard dash, 3-cone or shuttle, but had a 40.5" vertical jump and a 11'2" broad jump.
- Played 90% of his college football snaps as an outside WR (per PFF).
- Physically, he looks the part of a complete WR. With a tall frame, good size, and outstanding length.
- Johnston displays high end deep speed, with ideal stride length to eat up the space given to him in off-man coverage. Teams were hesitant to play him in press-man given his size and strength.
- Johnston showed a strong ability to track deep balls and use his length and hand strength to adjust to off-target throws without losing speed downfield.
- He showed impressive yards-after-catch ability and top-notch elusiveness, making him a threat to all three levels of the field, and continuously putting CBs in a bind if they play off the ball. PFF charted Johnston with 19 missed tackles forced, which is tied for 11th in the NCAA.
- For a 6'3 WR, he showed impressive bend when he would enter and exit breaks at the stem of his route. This should lead to an ability to continue to develop his route tree at the next level and not force him to be pigeonholed as "just a deep threat."
- Johnston struggled with concentration drops in 2022, particularly when running shorter routes in the middle of the field. Had eight drops in 2022, per PFF, for a drop rate of 10.7%. That's higher than the other top receivers in the class.
- Stacking more physical corners to create throwing lanes on deep throws will be an important development for Johnston's game at the next level.
- Despite his size, Johnston wasn't put in a position for contested catch opportunities.
The Ravens have been in the market for an outside WR to complement Rashod Bateman. Johnston looks like a flanker WR who can threaten vertically and keep defenses honest. His YAC ability and explosiveness for his size will benefit any offense that is able to get him the ball in space, which new Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken stated as a priority in his offenses.
JORDAN ADDISON, USC
- 4-star recruit out of Fredrick, Md. to the University of Pittsburgh, where he spent two seasons catching passes from now Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett.
- Won the 2021 Fred Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation's top college wide receiver.
- Transferred to USC and joined Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams, along with a bevy of portal transfers in 2022.
- Had 219 catches, 3,134 yards (14.3 per catch) and 20 touchdowns across three seasons.
- Measured 5'11, 173 pounds with 30 7/8" arms at the NFL Combine. Ran a 4.49 40-yard dash, 1.56 10-yard split, 34" vertical jump at a 10'2" broad jump, which resulted in a 5.88 Relative Athletic Score (RAS).
- Aligned in the slot on 69% of his snaps in 2021 and 19% in 2022 (per PFF).
- Addison showed strong hands (2 drops on 79 targets in 2022, per PFF) and an ability to catch balls in traffic at all three levels.
- A fluid mover, Addison can make very clean cuts and set up routes without losing speed. On deep routes, he was able to force CBs to play their hips leverage outside, and then fluidly cut back inside to create separation, causing the CBs to play away from his route.
- He shows high-level game speed. Regularly able to run away from CBs he beats off the LOS and eat cushions, forcing safety help in a variety of situations.
- Addison's deep ball tracking was on full display over the last two seasons, where he had 25 touchdowns.
- Addison showed patience and elusiveness in screen opportunities providing NFL-caliber yards-after-catch ability, despite being labeled "undersized."
- Cornerbacks that played him with soft shoe releases (where they'd show press-man, but then sag off at the snap) gave Addison a difficult time. Additionally, DBs that got "handsy" with Addison were able to control his body, which raises questions about his smaller 173-pound frame.
- There are snaps where Addison has false steps in his release, especially when using stutter step releases.
DeCosta has shown his vision of building a track team on offense in the past, and Addison brings that true speed ability to the football field. He has a deep threat on every play, but shows fluidness and good hands to develop as a 3-level threat. He could compliment Rashod Bateman as an inside-outside threat that needs attention on every play.
Early Emmanuel Sanders
ZAY FLOWERS, BOSTON COLLEGE
- 3-star recruit out of University School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he led his team to back-to-back Florida class 4A state semifinal appearances as a junior and senior playing WR and DB.
- Put together 200 catches, 3,056 yards, 29 TD on an average yards-per-catch of 15.3 across four seasons.
- Measured 5'9, 182 pounds with 29 ¼" arms at the NFL Combine. Ran a 4.42 40 yard dash, 1.49 10 yard split and jumped 35.5" in the vertical and 10'7" in the broad, resulting in an 8.29 Relative Athletic Score (without a 3-cone and shuttle measurement).
- Spent 65% of his snaps outside and 35% in the slot over the last three years (per PFF).
- Flowers explosiveness is noticeable. Boston College did a good job of getting him the ball in space, which he took advantage of by regularly make players miss and gain yards after catch.
- The key to his route running prowess is his ability to downshift and upshift as he moves seamlessly in and out of breaks. His lower body fluidity and stride pacing allows him to explode out of a break and make DBs move where he wants them to go.
- Despite being tagged as a "slot receiver at the next level," most of Flowers' best work is as an outside WR on film. His footwork and attention to detail in his releases against press coverage project well to playing on the outside at the next level.
- He has a "my ball" mentality for contested catch opportunities. Flowers made several catches in traffic, showing his attention to detail, ability to read coverage leverage, and willingness to make catches through contact.
- Flowers has demonstrated that he has all the tools to be a true deep threat (12 20+ yard catches for 500 yards, ranking 16th and 11th in the NCAA, respectively, per PFF).
- Flowers can improve at showing patience against zone coverage and finding gaps to sit down and create throwing windows for his QB.
The Ravens have been seeking an inside-outside deep threat following the trade of Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and Flowers offers a similar skillset. With his ability to play in the slot and outside, it would make a nice complimentary piece, while also bringing someone that Monken can get out in space and make guys miss with a violent running style. Despite being 5'9, he plays much larger than his size, to the point that Steve Smith Sr. took note of the similarities between Flowers and his own game.
Early career TY Hilton
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
- Five-star recruit out of Rockwall Highschool in Rockwall, Texas, where he was named Texas 6A Player of the Year.
- Committed to Ohio State, where he played in 23 games over three years and collected 110 catches, 1,648 yards and 10 TD.
- Missed games in 2020 due to an ankle injury and missed the bulk of the 2022 season with a left hamstring strain.
- Measured 6'1, 196 pounds with 30 ½" arms at the NFL Combine. Jumped a 35" vertical, 10'5" broad and ran a 6.57 3-cone and 3.93 20 yard shuttle.
- Topped the 2023 combine in performance in both the 3-cone and shuttle.
- Ran a 40-yard dash at his pro day and was clocked at 4.52 with a 1.65 10 yard split, which brought his total Relative Athletic Score to 8.31.
- Spent 87% of his snaps in the slot the last 2 years (per PFF).
- Smith-Njigba has shown a knack against zone coverage with a great understanding of how to read coverage and leverage zones to create soft spots, allowing him to give easy passing lanes to his QB.
- Against man coverage, especially out of the slot, he showed an ability to set up breaks and take advantage of the wide side of the field to create separation. Once he has separation, he has an extra gear to run away from man coverage.
- The big question is whether he can play outside, but in his film, he shows a lot of transferable skills. He has a nuanced release package when he is pressed or when he plays outside, and he shows quick feet to develop those skills at the next level.
- His hands are very strong. He showed good hands on the deep ball and in traffic and should be a reliable safety blanket for any QB.
- He has solid build up speed, but appears to lack the extra gear explosiveness, both when running routes and when he gets the ball in the open field.
The Ravens have been searching for an outside WR. There's plenty of questions in the scouting community about whether or not JSN can play outside, but he shows transferable skills to be, at a minimum, an inside-outside option, with a floor of being a top-notch slot WR at the next level. With Mark Andrews inside, it would create a lot of headaches for the middle of the defense.
Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
- Four-star recruit out of Dutch Fork High School in South Carolina, where he had back-to-back undefeated seasons and won the South Carolina 5A state titles in 2018 and 2019.
- True breakout of the 2022 college football season. Had 41 catches his first 2 two seasons before notching 67 catches, 1,267 yards and 15 TD in his junior campaign.
- Won the 2022 Biletnikoff Award and was named to the Consensus All-American First-Team.
- Measured 6'0, 176 pounds with 32 ½" arms at the NFL Combine. Ran a 4.40 40-yard dash, jumped 40" in the vertical and 11'3" in the broad jump, earning a 9.46 Relative Athletic Score.
- Spent 85% of his snaps in the slot in 2022 and 97% in 2021 (per PFF).
- SPEED! For a team looking for a deep threat with true game breaking deep speed ability, Hyatt is your guy.
- Hyatt shows good field vision, and in opportunities where he was given underneath routes in space, he was able to turn on the burners and work up field.
- Given his predominant usage in the slot in a spread offense, Hyatt saw a lot of free releases with off-man coverage. His ability to eat cushions and understand how to leverage corners to create separation paired very well with his speed.
- While he didn't run a complex route tree, he did show a nuanced skillset in his route running. Specifically, he paces his strides well and shows good agility in jab steps to break off seamless deep breaking routes (posts, flags, deep outs).
- Hyatt wasn't asked to run a full route tree. His targets primarily came on deep fly routes, posts, wheels, deep outs, and curls.
- Tennessee asked Hyatt to run a ton of wheel routes, and he showed some inconsistency with his field awareness, where he'd push himself too far to the sideline and limit the throwing window.
- When he wasn't given a free release, CBs had some success getting physical at the LOS or in routes where Hyatt couldn't use his speed.
Speed is always going to be enticing for any offense. We know Monken believes in spacing and Hyatt's speed forces teams to pay attention and gameplan accordingly. The question is whether or not the team sees the fit with a player that has aligned primarily as a slot field stretcher. It's a similar skillset to what we've seen out of newly-acquired Nelson Agholor. However, you can never have too much speed.
Josh Downs, North Carolina
- 4-star prospect out of North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Ga.
- High school background in basketball and track and field, where he finished third in the state triple jump and fourth in the long jump.
- In three seasons at UNC, Downs caught 202 balls for 2,483 yards and 22 TD.
- Measured 5'9, 171 pounds with 30 3/8" arms at the NFL Combine. Ran a 4.48 40-yard dash with a 38.5" vertical and a 10'11" broad jump, resulting in a 8.25 Relative Athletic Score.
- Over the last two seasons, played 88% of his snaps in the slot (Per PFF).
- Downs sports some of the most efficient footwork in the draft class. In his releases and when he breaks routes at the top of his stem, he rarely wastes steps and is able to create separation with his quickness.
- Downs has some of the best hands in the class (three drops on 116 targets in 2022, per PFF). He tracks the deep ball well and shows good concentration in traffic.
- Has explosive speed to create big plays. Out of the slot, he was able to sell quick routes, but then use that acceleration to transition to a deep route and get behind the defense.
- For a smaller WR, he has a "my ball" mentality and really good body control in contested catch situations. PFF charted Downs with 13 contested catches in 2022, which is tied for 13th most in the NCAA.
- UNC did a great job of using him in the red zone, especially inside the 10-yard line from a spread alignment. His quickness was on full display, running whip routes or corner fades from the slot.
- There are reps where he gets slowed off his release when he faces press man coverage, and that could challenge his ability to give reps as an outside WR in the NFL.
The Ravens have been mostly exploring perimeter WRs, which initially may suggest they might not see a fit with Downs. However, DeCosta has regularly sought explosive playmakers and Downs brings that on his resume.
Early career Randall Cobb
A.T. Perry, Wake Forest
- Three-star recruit out of Park Vista Community High School in Lake Worth, Fla.
- In addition to his football background, he also was all-county in basketball and won the county championship in the long jump.
- Became a full-time starter as a redshirt sophomore. In his last two seasons, caught 152 passes for 2,389 yards and 26 touchdowns.
- Measured 6'3, 198 pounds with 33 ¼" arms. Ran a 4.47 40-yard dash jumped 35" in the vertical and 11'1" in the broad, resulting in a 9.85 Relative Athletic Score.
- Aligned as an outside WR on 95% of his snaps in the last two seasons (Per PFF).
- One of the first things to look for with bigger WRs is how they get off the line of scrimmage, especially against press-man coverage. AT Perry's go-to was a stutter step where he jump cuts to widen the CB, and he had a lot of success with it given his quick first step.
- Perry's athletic measurements show his long speed, but on tape you can see the explosiveness in his 3rd and 4th step. This is legitimate top-end speed.
- Sticking with the theme of limitations often attributed to bigger WRs, there's usually concern over their ability to bend or transition movements when they're in a sprint. However, Perry shows fluidity in his hips and paces his strides to create cuts downfield after setting up CBs.
- Runs a lot of routes right into the CBs face and shows physicality to get their hands off his chest and regain leverage. He brings a lot of ways to beat CBs, whether it be a finesse or a physical game
- Had issues with drops over the last two seasons. Usually looked like he would struggle tracking the ball downfield.
- Tendency for his upper body to lose coordination with his lower body and make adjusting to throws challenging.
This is a big body, physical and athletic outside WR in the prototypical X WR mold. There are some inconsistencies that Perry will have to continue to develop at the next level, but everything the Ravens have been looking for in that outside WR comes into focus with Perry.