Three Wide Receivers Ravens Will Likely Keep An Eye On
Ravens scouts will descend upon Indianapolis for the annual NFL Scouting Combine, where they will get a better feel for 350 draft prospects, including 44 wide receivers.
With Torrey Smith scheduled to hit the unrestricted free agent market next month and Steve Smith Sr. tuning 36 in May, wide receiver needs to be a priority in this year’s draft instead of looking to an aging veteran to temporarily fill in gaps, says ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
"The Ravens have tried to patch together this position with aging receivers over the years, trading for Anquan Boldin and Lee Evans and signing Smith and Derrick Mason," the Ravens reporter wrote.
"At some point, the Ravens need to find a No. 1 receiver in the draft like the Cincinnati Bengals (A.J. Green) and Pittsburgh Steelers (Antonio Brown) did."
The last time the Ravens drafted a wide receiver in the first round was 2005, when they nabbed Mark Clayton out of Oklahoma.
If the Ravens look to find a new, young target for quarterback Joe Flacco, the good news is that wide receiver is one of the strengths of the 2015 class, says NFL Network's Mike Mayock.
While the class is deep, the Ravens will look to see if any of this year's crop of receivers would be worthy of their No. 26 pick. Hensley names three the Ravens could target:
Dorial Green-Beckham (Missouri/Oklahoma)6-foot-4, 225 pounds; missed 2014 season after being dismissed by Missouri days after an arrestESPN position rank: 7
ESPN overall rank: 31
Hensley: "He's an explosive physical talent who comes with a tremendous amount of baggage and red flags. How Green-Beckham explains his several run-ins with the law during the interview process at the combine could determine if teams will be willing to use a late first-round pick on him. His outstanding combination of height, bulk and straight-line speed should make him a player to watch in Indy, especially after he didn't play last season. It's likely that no wide receiver has more on the line at the combine than Green-Beckham."
Jaelen Strong (Arizona State)6-foot-3, 212 pounds; 2014 production: 82 catches for 1,165 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns
ESPN position rank: 6
ESPN overall rank: 30Hensley: "His production and physical tools are going to be intriguing to the Ravens. He consistently made contested catches in traffic because of his size (6-3), strength and body control. The concern with Strong is his speed. His 40-yard time at the combine is expected to affect his draft stock. Strong has drawn comparisons to Dwyane Bowe."
Devin Funchess (Michigan)6-foot-5, 230 pounds; 2014 production: 62 receptions for 733 yards and 4 touchdowns *ESPN position rank: n/a
ESPN overall rank: n/a
*Hensley: "He began his college career as a tight end but he projects best as a wide receiver with downfield big-play abilities. Funchess finished with 126 catches for 1,715 yards and 15 touchdowns in three seasons, although the production should come with an asterisk considering Michigan's numerous issues at quarterback. His size (6-5, 230 pounds) can create matchup problems and would address a lack of size at the Ravens' wide receiver position. The concern is his inconsistency in catching the ball."
Buy Or Sell Steve Smith In 2015?
While we're talking about Ravens wide receivers, NFL Media's Heath Evans was asked whether he would buy or sell Steve Smith, given the fact that he turns 36 before the season starts.
"I'll buy this man every day, every week. I'm letting him name the price tag," Evans said in the video below.
"Honestly, we could put him against anyone. Leadership? Irreplaceable. Toughness? Irreplaceable. His desire to win, to destroy the guy that is matched up over him or against him is irreplaceable for any team. It's infectious. We saw the effect he had on this team. I think he had an effect on Joe Flacco's ability to just [say], 'Hey, I trust this guy. I know where he's going to be, I know what he's going to do when I get the ball in his hands.' So 36 does not matter."
McCown Leaves Bills Without Deal
Quarterback Josh McCown, who has a "natural" connection to the Ravens because of his time with Ravens Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman in Chicago, left a visit with the Buffalo Bills yesterday without a deal.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that no agreement is imminent, and it was the first of a few visits planned for the free agent quarterback.
It is unknown whether one of those visits will be with the Ravens.
Chris Johnson: I Never Got A Chance In New York
If things fall through with impending free agent Justin Forsett, the Ravens will have to consider a Plan B at running back and recently-released Chris Johnson could be an option.
When the Ravens analyze Johnson's capabilities, they'll have to decide if his career-worst season in 2014 was an aberration.
Johnson thinks it was, saying he never got the chance to showcase his talents and was "told one thing and it was another." He expected a more featured role, but instead split time and finished with 663 yards and one touchdown.
"I think a lot of it was out of Rex [Ryan's] hands because when I sat down and talked to Rex before I signed with the Jets, my role and my situation were explained to me totally different to what actually happened," Johnson told the Rich Eisen Show. "That's just what it was. It was never a type of thing where I was just being outplayed or anything like that. It was never a situation where I got the opportunity to show my talents and be used the way that I was supposed to be used."
Poor Draft For Safeties
The Ravens could use help at the safety position, but the chances of finding immediate help from the draft isn't very high.
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah only ranked one safety among his top 50 players from the 2015 class.
"Jeremiah's rankings reinforce two things: This is a poor draft for safeties and if the Ravens are going to get immediate help at the position – and they badly need it – they are probably going to have to do it in free agency," added The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
Ravens free-agent rankings begins with cornerback Aaron Ross at No. 15. "Retirement is more likely than getting signed by another team," wrote Hensley. "Ross is a 32-year-old, injury-prone defender. The Ravens brought him in for a June tryout because they were desperate and Ross had ties with then-secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo. Outside of that, Ross didn't attract much interest last offseason. It's hard to believe some team would want him with his recent track record." [ESPN]
Don't expect the Ravens to use the franchise tag this year, but they could in 2016 when Jimmy Smith, Marshal Yanda and Justin Tucker could become unrestricted free agents. [ESPN]