Wide Receiver Prospect Tee Higgins a 'Perfect Fit' for Ravens
After drafting speedy wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown in the first round of last year's draft, could the Ravens go the wide receiver route with their first pick again?
Using The Draft Network's simulator, Ravens Wire's Matthew Stevens has Baltimore selecting Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins with the 28th-overall pick. At 6-foot-4 and specializing in contested catches, Higgins would be the perfect complement to Brown and give Lamar Jackson another weapon in the passing game.
"Where Jackson struggled at times last season was in finding a go-to receiver to move the chains," Stevens wrote. "While tight end Mark Andrews was often that guy earlier in the season, defenses honed in on him by the end of the year and were able to force Jackson to use his legs to try and pick up first downs a little too often. So, heading into this offseason, finding a big-bodied wide receiver with sure hands and solid route running on the outside to balance the Ravens' speed inside is a priority. And Higgins fits that billing perfectly."
A number of other mock drafts have Higgins being drafted in the early 20s, although The Draft Network's Connor Donnick also mocked Higgins to the Ravens. When Higgins – who had 59 catches for 1,167 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Tigers this past season – was still on the board, Stevens couldn't resist taking him.
"With no sure things at pass rusher or on the interior offensive line, I went with the player who would make the biggest impact the fastest," Stevens wrote. "And with Higgins on the roster, the Ravens might actually be unstoppable offensively."
When watching Higgins' highlight reel, it's easy to understand why Ravens fans might salivate at the thought of adding him to an offense that led the NFL in scoring in 2019.
"Higgins has the size to box out smaller defensive backs and the physicality to handle press coverage," Stevens wrote. "When he's targeted, he attacks the football and makes impressive catches, including those in traffic and outside his frame. Though he's not a speed demon, Higgins has enough to go deep and the tracking skills to haul in those passes as well, which will force some defensive backs to give him a little cushion.
"When paired with the deep-speed capability and agility of Brown and Willie Snead, Higgins should be able to feast in short and intermediate routes as a possession and red-zone receiver. He's the type of receiver that is often open even when you think he's well-covered and that's exactly what Jackson and this Ravens offense need to sustain drives when the run isn't working."
While most mock drafts have the Ravens selecting a pass rusher or inside linebacker, our Clifton Brown wrote that wide receiver is a position to watch because Baltimore is still looking to improve its offense.
"General Manager Eric DeCosta has said he wants to take more swings at the wide receiver position, and Higgins could be tempting if still available," Brown wrote.
Trading Back in First Round Has Benefitted Ravens
Trading back in the first round has yielded mixed results for teams over the years, but as The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec noted, it's worked out well for the Ravens in the past two drafts.
In 2018, the Ravens traded back twice before finally selecting tight end Hayden Hurst with the 25th-overall pick.
"The extra draft pick capital the Ravens had because of those two trade backs gave them the confidence to move back into the first round and draft Lamar Jackson at 32 overall," Zrebiec wrote. "They also had an extra third-rounder from trades and both their third-round picks that year, tight end Andrews and right tackle Orlando Brown Jr., have already made Pro Bowl teams. So it's hard to say anything but the trades served their purpose."
Last year, the Ravens traded the 22nd-overall pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for the No. 25 pick and additional fourth- and sixth-round selections.
"The Ravens really wanted a pass rusher, but all of the guys they had high grades on were gone by the time their pick was up. So they moved back," Zrebiec wrote. "Even at 25, they were hoping for the phone to ring so they could get more picks and move back further. But it never rang so they drafted receiver Marquise Brown at 25."
Despite not being fully recovered from offseason Lisfranc surgery, Brown had 46 receptions for 584 yards and seven touchdowns, which tied the franchise record for touchdown catches by a rookie, set by Torrey Smith in 2011. Brown is a strong candidate to have a breakout season in 2020.
"To be honest, I was a little bit nervous that Philly might take (Brown)," DeCosta said. "But it's a calculated risk. We had some other players there that we liked. We like to make trades. It made sense to gamble, to roll the dice a little bit, so we did."
Matthew Judon Ranks High on Top Free Agents List
Matthew Judon came in at No. 13 on The Athletic's top 100 pending unrestricted free agent rankings. The outside linebacker was the fifth highest-ranked defensive front seven player behind Chris Jones, Yannick Ngakoue, Jadeveon Clowney and Shaquil Barrett.
"His profile is somewhat similar to Za'Darius Smith, who left the Ravens in free agency last year to sign with the Packers for $16.5 million per season," The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia wrote. "Judon may be one of the better defensive players to actually hit the market."
As has been previously noted in Late for Work, the Ravens could use the franchise tag to retain Judon, or they could tag and trade him.
"I also wouldn't necessarily blame the Ravens if they opted not to pay Judon $18 to $20 million per year, but somebody almost certainly will if they don't," Zrebiec wrote. "And the Ravens better have a suitable backup plan. They can't afford to lose another effective pass rusher without truly replacing him."
Two other Ravens made the list: cornerback Jimmy Smith (76th) and defensive tackle Michael Pierce (99th). The rankings were based on age, positional value, the market, production and injury history.
Ravens Need to Weigh Options for Dime Package
However, there's still work to be done in the secondary, even though it's regarded as one of the team's main strengths and the top five defensive backs on the roster are under team control through 2021, WNST's Luke Jones wrote. Specifically, Jones said that the Ravens need to weigh their personnel options for their dime package (six defensive backs on the field at the same time), which they used on 45 percent of defensive snaps in 2019.
"The Ravens certainly need to address their pass rush and talent level at linebacker, but the overwhelming strength of the defense will remain on the back end, making pending decisions on Smith and Brandon Carr that much more interesting to watch," Jones wrote. "Though not a dime option himself, Smith is scheduled to become a free agent for the first time in his career. Meanwhile, Carr is scheduled to make $6 million if the Ravens exercise a team option for the 2020 season.
"Anthony Levine, the man Carr replaced in the dime package midway through the season, is also scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. The only other in-house option for the dime package would appear to be third-year safety DeShon Elliott, who has been limited to just six career games due to injuries despite showing some promise in spring and summer practices."
Head Coach John Harbaugh said last month that the team wants both Smith, 31, and Carr, 33, to return next season.
"All things equal," Jones wrote, "Carr could have a more defined role in the dime package while Smith's real value would come in the event of an injury to one of the top three corners as he could step in for [Marlon] Humphrey or [Marcus] Peters and Humphrey could move to the nickel spot in the event of an injury to [Tavon] Young like we saw last season.
"Both veterans have expressed a desire to continue playing for the Ravens, but Smith will probably need to accept a team-friendly deal and Carr might have to take a pay cut to make it happen."
Regardless, Jones believes the Ravens will need to add younger players to the secondary.
- Bleacher Report's Mike Tanier provided answers to each team's quarterback question this offseason. The question posed for the Ravens was: Did the Titans "figure out" Lamar Jackson in the playoffs?
"No. The Titans stuffed some fourth-down plays and made some juggling end-zone catches in the playoffs," Tanier wrote. "Jackson will remain in MVP form so long as he continues to develop as a passer and decision-maker (there's still plenty of room for growth) and the Ravens acquire more than just Hollywood Brown at wide receiver."