When he became general manager last year, Eric DeCosta said he wanted the Ravens to "take more swings" at wide receiver in the draft.
DeCosta was not bluffing. In the past two years, Baltimore has selected four wide receivers – Devin Duvernay and James Proche this year to join Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin from 2019.
The Ravens want their wide receiver group to be multidimensional and explosive. Here are three reasons why Baltimore feels better about its wide receiver corps than it did before the draft:
Getting Duvernay in the third round gives the Ravens another receiver to join Brown as a dangerous speed threat. Remember when Brown made his introduction to the NFL by catching two long touchdown passes in his first career game against the Miami Dolphins?
Duvernay, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds, showed similar breakaway ability in college.
Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews led the Ravens last season with 16 catches that went for 20 yards or more. Brown had eight, but nobody else on the team had more than four catches that went for 20-plus yards.
The 2020 draft was loaded with wideouts, but Duvernay's speed is a huge reason why the Ravens coveted him badly in Round 3. Receivers like Brown and Duvernay force corners and safeties to back up, which opens things up offensively.Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman and Assistant Head Coach/Pass Coordinator/Wide Receivers David Culley now have more options.
Duvernay looks forward to adding his speed to what the Ravens already have.
"Hollywood (Brown) is tremendously fast," Duvernay said. "I saw him at O.U. (Oklahoma), blazing – killed us every year. I Iook forward to it."
Neither Duvernay (5-foot-10, 200 pounds) nor Proche (5-foot-11, 2001 pounds) have the prototypical size of an outside receiver like Boykin (6-foot-4). But Duvernay was effective lining up outside and in the slot at Texas. Willie Snead IV (31 catches, 339 yards, five touchdowns) can work inside or outside and the Ravens envision a wide receiver group that will attack from a variety of formations.
"We play all the guys in different spots, the same as we do on defense," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "We like to move guys around. I don't think we really have a 'slot' player or an 'outside' player. You'll see those guys play in all the different spots in different times. We try to put them in position to do the things that they do well. The things you see Willie Snead doing are the things we think he does best, and he's a very versatile player. We'll try to do that with all the guys we have. Devin can go outside – and then James Proche has been outside, too – outside, inside, in motion, runs, twitch routes, out of the backfield."
Duvernay and Proche were among the most sure-handed wide receivers in college football last season, which will benefit Lamar Jackson. Some of Proche's catches were particularly unreal.
When Jackson makes pinpoint throws, Duvernay and Proche will catch them. When Jackson's throws are not perfect, Duvernay and Proche have the hands to bail out their quarterback.
"Between the two of them, there are very few drops in the state of Texas," Director of Player Personnel Joe Hortiz said. "That's what's most impressive about them. Obviously, they bring a different skillset, each of them. But together, I think they can really help this offense and certainly help our team."
Brown's speed was talked about from his first day of practice last year. But his sure hands and his ability to track down Jackson's long throws are often overlooked. Putting Duvernay and Proche in the same wide receiver room with Snead and Boykin gives the Ravens a corps of sure-handed targets.
The Ravens have no plans to abandon their powerful running game, but they expect Duvernay and Proche to add more playmaking ability to the passing game. Baltimore doesn't throw the ball a ton, but won't have many balls on the turf when they do.
"These two guys are talented players we didn't have a year ago," Harbaugh said. "They both can make plays on the ball, and I think that's the main thing. We have one guy that can really run like crazy and make all kinds of catches. We have another guy who can really run routes and has a feel for getting open and catch the ball like crazy. So, Lamar is going to love both those guys."