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Late for Work 5/6: Ravens Have One of NFL's Most Improved Receiving Corps

Left: WR Sammy Watkins; Center: WR Rashod Bateman; Right: WR Tylan Wallace

Ravens Have One of NFL's Most Improved Receiving Corps

When General Manager Eric DeCosta expressed confidence in the Ravens' wide receivers during the team's pre-draft press conference, some assumed it indicated Baltimore wasn't going to address the position early in the draft.

Of course, it wasn't an either/or situation. It's possible to have faith in the players you have and still look to get better, deeper and create competition.

In drafting Rashod Bateman in the first round, Tylan Wallace in the fourth and signing free agent Sammy Watkins, the Ravens are among the top three most improved receiving corps heading into the season, according to Pro Football Focus’s Ben Linsey.

"Bateman and Wallace joined Alabama's DeVonta Smith (who was selected 10th-overall by the Philadelphia Eagles) as the only three wide receivers in this class to average at least 3.0 receiving yards per route run in each of the past two seasons," Linsey wrote. "Bateman, a top-20 player on PFF's Big Board, is particularly interesting in this offense. He has the catch radius that you want to pair with [Lamar] Jackson and is one of the better technicians in this class when it comes to his release package and route running. He can make an early impact both in the slot and out wide."

Linsey also said the addition of Watkins should not be overlooked.

"When healthy, he has shown he can be a No. 1 option in the passing game," Linsey wrote. "Watkins was an important part of the Chiefs' Super Bowl run in 2019, with over 200 receiving yards across the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl. It just all comes down to whether he can stay healthy."

The Ravens now have a wide receiver unit that includes three former first-round picks and nine players age 24 or younger.

"Best of all, there's a good mix of skill sets," The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer wrote. "[Marquise] Brown and Bateman can line up at any position. At outside receiver, Watkins and Wallace will push incumbent Miles Boykin. And James Proche II and Devin Duvernay should vie for slot snaps."

On a side note, Baltimore Beatdown’s Joshua Reed rejected ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky’s assessment that "Bateman has to have a Justin Jefferson-like impact" to make the Ravens' selection pay off. Jefferson had 88 catches for a rookie record 1,400 yards with the Minnesota Vikings last season.

"It'd be unreasonable to expect him to come close to that level of production for two primary reasons," Reed wrote. "The first is the Ravens' low-volume passing attack under Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, which is expected to undergo some schematic changes and expansion this offseason, but will still be predicated and centered around a dominant running game. The second is the other players at his position on the roster. … The Ravens' offense also heavily features the tight end position so Mark Andrews, who is arguably Jackson's most trusted target, will continue to be a focal point in the passing game.

"Bateman's skill set will complement and open up more possibilities for the other receivers on the depth chart. I expect the Ravens and Roman to utilize him in a multitude of ways because he can do a plethora of things well — working underneath, over the middle and down the field."

Why Odafe Oweh and Ravens Are a Perfect Fit

Edge rusher Odafe Oweh, who was selected 31st-overall by the Ravens, could not have found a better landing spot, according to PFF’s Michael Renner.

"The Ravens' track record of developing edge talent has been second to none in the NFL over the past decade," Renner wrote. "Pernell McPhee (fifth round), Za'Darius Smith (fourth round) and Matt Judon (fifth round) have all become quality starters and have garnered considerable second contracts over that span. Oweh possesses far more physical talent than any of those guys, though he quite obviously needs further development.

"We've already seen him improve mightily at Penn State, going from a 74.6 overall grade in 2019 to 85.3 this past season. If that trajectory can continue, they may have gotten something special."

The Centre Daily Times’ Jon Sauber, who covers Penn State football, also believes Oweh and the Ravens are a good match.

"Oweh lands with a high-level team in Baltimore that will allow him to stand up and attack opposing offensive tackles as a 3-4 outside linebacker," Sauber wrote. "At his core, the former Penn State defensive end is an EDGE who is at his best when he's pinning his ears back and chasing opposing quarterbacks.

"[Oweh] may be a situational player to start in Baltimore if the Ravens decide to go with a more veteran option like Pernell McPhee, but it shouldn't take long for Oweh to force his way onto the field in passing situations."

Was Alejandro Villanueva Really Taking Shots at Former Steelers Teammates?

Was Alejandro Villanueva taking shots at his former Pittsburgh Steelers teammates during his introductory press conference with the Ravens yesterday or just having some fun?

The smart money is on the latter.

Two of Villanueva's "targets" were wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and guard David DeCastro.

While not mentioning Smith-Schuster by name, Villanueva said a run-first offense is probably not that much fun for wide receivers "because they're not getting all the catches. They're making the TikToks, and they're having fun on their social media.

In regard to DeCastro, Villanueva said: "Obviously, I commuted with David DeCastro for many years, and I think Kevin Zeitler is going to be an upgrade from that."

"Personally, I think Villanueva was just having some fun with the media on Wednesday and he knows what a big story it is for him to go from one AFC North team to its rival," Steelers Depot’s Dave Bryan wrote.

Bryan noted that Villanueva and Smith-Schuster are believed to be good friends, and Villanueva actually taught the wide receiver how to drive several years ago.

Villanueva said the Steelers have "always been a class-act organization." All that said, I don't doubt that Villanueva is excited to play the team that opted not to re-sign him twice next season.

"The fact that I knew the Ravens is a team that plays hard, a team that plays AFC North-type football and I get a chance to play the Steelers as well was something that motivated me coming here for sure," Villanueva said.

Ben Mason Is No. 2 on List of Day 3 Picks Who Will Make an Immediate Impact

Michigan fullback/tight end Ben Mason was the Ravens' final draft pick and the 184th-overall selection, but he's No. 2 on "Good Morning Football's" Peter Schrager's list of Day 3 picks who will make an immediate impact.

"He is my favorite player who was drafted on Day 3," Schrager said. "He can play tight end. He can play fullback. He smashes you in the mouth. He's an old school player. Everyone thought that the Ravens were going to maybe get some more speed. No. 'We're going to get exactly what we are.' They doubled down on who they were. The Ravens have a type."

Schrager said Mason will fit right in with a team that has hard-nosed players on offense such as fullback Patrick Ricard and tight end Nick Boyle.

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