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Late for Work 12/30: Wide Receiver May Be Ravens' Deepest Position Group

Ravens Wide Receivers

Ravens Have Built Talented, Young Receiving Corps

Wide receiver has been the Ravens' most-maligned position group over the years, but that's no longer the case.

General Manager Eric DeCosta spent six picks on wide receivers over the past three drafts, including selecting Rashod Bateman (2021) and Marquise "Hollywood" Brown (2019) in the first round.

Those drafts have produced a promising receiving corps that may just be scratching the surface.

"It is honestly surreal to see so much young talent with insane potential at the wide receiver spot for the Ravens," Russell Street Report’s Richard Bradshaw wrote. "Honestly, I'll listen to an argument for the position being the team's deepest of any spot on the roster. This receiver corps is that good."

Brown's production has dropped off over the past month, but he's on pace for nearly 100 receptions and more than 1,000 yards receiving.

Bateman, who missed the first five weeks of the season while recovering from groin surgery, has shown flashes of why he was a first-round pick.

Devin Duvernay, a third-round pick last year, was named to the Pro Bowl as a return specialist this season and has taken on a larger role in the offense.

James Proche II, a sixth-round pick last year, has been impressive when called upon. A standout in the preseason, Proche had career-highs of seven catches and 76 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday.

"Proche has showed off some serious promise when he's gotten his opportunities this season and we're hoping that the Ravens continue to feature him as the season nears its end," Bradshaw wrote. "Quite frankly, the offense feels more explosive when Proche is on the field, anyways."

Which Pending Free Agent Should Be Ravens' Top Priority to Re-Sign?

While wide receiver may be the team's deepest position group, cornerback has become its thinnest after a season full of injuries.

Anthony Averett got an opportunity to become a starter this season, and the fourth-year cornerback has risen to the challenge, becoming a stabilizing presence in an injury-ravaged secondary. Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton named one player each team should want to re-sign in free agency this offseason, and Averett was his choice for the Ravens.

"Averett leads the Ravens in interceptions (three) and is second with 11 pass breakups, trailing only All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey," Moton wrote. "With the latter out for the remainder of the season because of a torn pectoral muscle, the former will likely finish the year as Baltimore's most productive cover man."

After All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters suffered a season-ending ACL tear in the preseason, Averett was thrust into a starting role opposite Humphrey. Ravens coaches expressed confidence in Averett, and he has rewarded their belief in him with his solid play and durability.

"Averett is the only healthy cornerback to see the field for more than 50% of the Ravens' defensive snaps this season, and his 808 snaps on defense rank second on the entire team," wrote. "He's started 14 of Baltimore's 15 games, playing at least 89% of the team's snaps in each start except for Week 16's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, during which Averett suffered a fractured rib."

Even though the Ravens have a pair of All-Pro cornerbacks on the roster, Moton believes Averett is a key asset for multiple reasons.

"Because of Humphrey's ability to play in the slot, the Ravens can re-sign Averett and line him up on the outside opposite Peters for a strong cornerback trio," Moton wrote. "If the front office prefers to move on from Peters, who will look to bounce back from a significant injury in a contract year with a $15.5 million cap hit, Averett can replace him on the boundary. With only one full season as a starter, he would have a lower cap hit than the two-time All-Pro."

ESPN Simulation Projects Ravens to Finish 9-8, Miss Playoffs

In a season that's been as unpredictable as any in recent memory, predicting how the final two weeks will play out seems like an exercise in futility.

However, ESPN has attempted to do so by using simulations from its Football Power Index. In the FPI's most likely scenario, the Ravens will not make the playoffs.

The Ravens are projected to lose to the Los Angeles Rams, 27-7, this Sunday, and defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 33-20, next week.

In this scenario, the Ravens would be one of four teams to finish 9-8, joining the Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins and Las Vegas Raiders. The Chargers would gain the seventh and final AFC playoff spot by strength-of-victory tiebreaker.

"The painful part for the Raiders, Dolphins and Ravens is that they all missed the playoffs at 9-8 after going 1-1 in their final two games. Had any of them won both of their final two games, they would have earned a berth," ESPN's Seth Walder wrote.

It's curious that ESPN's advanced analytics have the Ravens scoring just seven points against the Rams.

Since Lamar Jackson became the Ravens' starting quarterback during the 2018 season, the Ravens have never scored fewer than 10 points. Jackson returned to practice on a limited basis yesterday for the first time since suffering an ankle injury on Dec. 12.

The Ravens have averaged 23 points in Tyler Huntley's two starts this season, and they scored 21 with Josh Johnson under center last week.

Two Ravens Named to ESPN's All-Pro First Team

Tight end Mark Andrews and kicker Justin Tucker were named to another All-Pro team. This time, it's ESPN’s Bill Barnwell’s selections.

Andrews got the nod over the Kansas City Chiefs' Travis Kelce, who entered this season as the standard-bearer at tight end.

"Over the past three games, [Andrews] has a league-leading 376 receiving yards despite playing with three different starting quarterbacks," Barnwell wrote. "No receiver has generated more first downs over that span than Andrews, who ranks fourth in the NFL among all pass-catchers in that category. With his snap count up to 74% in the Baltimore offense, Andrews is playing more — and delivering more — than he ever has."

Tucker was an easy choice.

"There are times in which a dominant player at a position wins Pro Bowl and All-Pro berths just by default," Barnwell wrote. "Tucker is not one of those players. He has generated 15.9 points of value for his team on scoring plays; the only other kicker above 10 points is the Rams' Matt Gay. Tucker's 66-yard winner against the Lions is keeping a free-falling Ravens team in the playoff race with two games to go."

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