Late for Work 4/28: Is the Ravens' First-Round Receiver Buzz Fading?

Left: LSU WR Terrace Marshall Jr., Right: Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman

First-Round Receiver Buzz Fading?

For months leading up to the draft, a wide receiver was one of the most projected positions to the Ravens in the first round.

Could that buzz be fading?

After reported medical issues surrounding Terrace Marshall Jr. NBC Sports' Peter King wrote in his "Football Morning in America" column that "I do not see, by the way, the Ravens picking LSU receiver Terrace Marshall."

King doesn't have the Ravens selecting a receiver at all in the first round. His latest mock draft has Baltimore trading up from No. 27 to No. 22 to select Michigan edge rusher Kwity Paye. King then mocked Alabama center Landon Dickerson to the Ravens at 31.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec looked at the best-and worst-case scenarios for the Ravens in the first round. Zrebiec said the best-case scenario would be one of the draft's top offensive tackles or edge rushers falling into the Ravens' lap.

The worst would be that most of the best players at the aforementioned positions are gone, along with TCU safety Trevon Moehrig.

"If the Ravens are able to exit Day 1 with a new piece for their offensive line and a dynamic pass rusher, it would have to be considered a win," Zrebiec wrote. "It also would open up their options on Day 2 and 3."

Minnesota's Rashod Bateman has also been linked to the Ravens in the first round. But the consensus among most mock drafts is that the draft's top receivers – Ja'Marr Chase, Devonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle – will be long gone before 27. The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer took an in-depth look at several top free agents and how they would fit in Baltimore.

"Drafting Marshall would give the Ravens a full, diverse receiver room for the first time in years," Baltimore Beatdown's Spencer Schultz wrote. "Brown, Sammy Watkins, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay and James Proche would allow for depth at both boundary positions as well as the slot, while bringing very different body types and skill sets. Marshall also steps his game up in the red zone, which could provide a lethal pairing alongside Mark Andrews and Brown, who have both done considerable damage in that area to this point in their respective careers."

ESPN's Todd McShay said he would be "very surprised" if a receiver isn't selected at 27 or 31.

"The Ravens now have a pair of selections late in Round 1, and I'm told they are definitely targeting a wide receiver with one of them," McShay wrote. "... The other one could address the edge rush or offensive tackle."

The free-agent pool at wide receiver shrunk Wednesday morning as veteran Antonio Brown, a player many Ravens were hoping could land in Baltimore, is reportedly returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Case Against Trading Back in the First Round

I'm all for looking at both sides of the argument, which is why I found it particularly interesting when Press Box's Glenn Clark made the argument against trading back from the first round.

"[T]hey can't address all their needs early," Clark said of the Ravens. "Because of that, some Ravens fans and analysts have suggested the smartest thing the Ravens could do is to trade back from one of their first-round picks in hopes of acquiring more. I'm … opposed … because the Ravens roster is still in greater need of 'spectacular' than 'solid,' and those are the picks where it is more likely to find 'spectacular.'"

CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported that the Ravens are fielding offers for the 31st-overall pick. They could use a trade to move back and acquire more picks, including a second rounder to offset what they lost in the Orlando Brown Jr. trade.

But Clark argued that getting past the top teams in the AFC like the Chiefs comes down to finding true difference-makers in the draft. That's even more important with an extension for Jackson looming.

"It's not that paying a quarterback ruins a football team," Clark added. "It's that the combination of paying a quarterback and failing to find players in the draft who prove to be spectacular early in their careers can ruin a football team. The Ravens must start drafting now to overcome the cap issues they'll face after paying Jackson.

"... Identify special. Do whatever is needed to get special. Solve whatever problems you still have after that."

John Harbaugh Guarantees the Ravens Will Pick Up Lamar Jackson's Fifth-Year Option

As we've inched closer to the draft, some pundits have questioned Jackson's future with the Ravens. It didn't take long for Head Coach John Harbaugh to squash those rumors.

In an appearance on "The Rich Eisen Show," Harbaugh guaranteed the Ravens would pick up Jackson's fifth-year option.

"Can I make that guarantee right now on your show?" Harbaugh asked. "... His fifth-year option will be picked up. Guarantee it."

The Ravens have until May 3 to exercise Jackson's fifth-year option, but there was never really a question if they would. The option is worth about $23 million.

Anyone who follows the team closely knows how invested Baltimore is in Jackson as the quarterback of the future. That includes working to sign Jackson to a new contract that would likely make him among the highest-paid players at his position.

"Exercising the option is a no-brainer move for the Ravens, who have seen Jackson put up almost 10,000 total yards in his first three NFL seasons," Ravens Wire's Kevin Ostreicher wrote. "The former Louisville Cardinal has helped Baltimore forge a new identity on offense, and is the key to their success both in the passing game and in the running game."

Lamar Jackson Calls Out Bucky Brooks for 'Graduate' Comment

Last weekend, NFL Network's Bucky Brooks suggested the Ravens could let Jackson "graduate" from his rookie contract and target quarterback Justin Fields if he fell in the first round.

Naturally, that garnered plenty of reaction, even from Jackson himself.

"That was dumb," NBC Sports' Michael Holley said. "I want [Michael Smith] to take his Bucky Brooks rookie card and tear it up. Why do you want an MVP quarterback to graduate? You get an MVP and then you leave? He's a great quarterback. Why [move on]?"

Fox Sports' Marcellus Wiley didn't hold back on his displeasure either, and let Brooks know directly.

"Take that mask off, Bill Polian. I know who you are!" Wiley said. "... You add up what Lamar Jackson has done in terms of impact, in terms of confidence, in terms of production, in terms of accolade, in terms of achievement, how do you replace that?"

Quick Hits

  • In ESPN's NFL Nation mock draft, Jamison Hensley chose Moehrig at 27 and Marshall at 31.
  • Zrebiec said a sleeper pick in the first round could be Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore. "The Ravens love drafting interior defensive linemen early. They also love taking Crimson Tide players. Add in Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams both entering the last years of their contract, Derek Wolfe being 31 and playing all 16 games in a season just once since 2014 and the team seemingly putting a higher priority on interior players than edge rushers and it's not hard to connect the dots here."

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