Pundit Says Ravens Are Facing a Crisis at Wide Receiver
Not only have concerns about the Ravens' wide receiving corps resurfaced since trading Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, but one pundit says the lack of depth and proven players at the position could dash their Super Bowl aspirations.
Trading Brown brought the Ravens an additional first-round pick in center Tyler Linderbaum, but it created a void.
After not taking a wide receiver with any of their 11 draft picks, the Ravens have thus far not addressed the position in free agency, and the market is dwindling. Jarvis Landry, a player Baltimore reportedly was interested in, signed with the New Orleans Saints last week.
"Jarvis Landry seemed like the safest bet of what was left on the free-agent market to be able to make some sort of impact," PressBox’s Glenn Clark wrote. "I don't want to overreact to losing one player (who had two receiving touchdowns a year ago), but it's hard to look at this situation with purple-colored glasses. We have to describe what's facing the Ravens as what it is. It's … it's a damn crisis."
Is "crisis" too strong a word to describe the Ravens' situation at wide receiver? Perhaps. But just how content should Baltimore feel about the current state of the wide receiver corps?
That's not to say the Ravens' young wide receivers lack upside. Rashod Bateman appears poised for a breakout season; Devin Duvernay and James Proche II have flashed on occasion; and Tylan Wallace was considered a steal when the Ravens drafted him in the fourth round last year.
However, they are the only four wide receivers on the roster with NFL experience. They have a combined 1,227 career yards, which is less than seven wide receivers had last season.
"The idea that the Ravens should prioritize allowing their young receivers the opportunity to sink or swim is fair, to be sure. The problem is that there's risk they'll, you know, sink," Clark wrote. "That's one of the two options. But even in a truly best-case scenario in which Bateman is capable of becoming a top-notch NFL receiver and the others have something more significant to offer as pros, there's still only four of them! Counting on this group in current form demands that there are no injuries to this core four during OTA's, training camp, preseason games, 17 regular-season games and any postseason games."
The Ravens' brass obviously knows reinforcements are needed. Perhaps one or more of the team's six undrafted free agent wide receivers will earn a roster spot. A veteran free agent could be signed and it's possible a trade could be made.
The top remaining free agents, such as Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., T.Y. Hilton and Will Fuller V, all come with risk due to their injury history and/or declining production.
Clark acknowledged that the wide receiver position might not be as important in the Ravens' offensive scheme, which features All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews as the top pass-catcher. It's also possible that rookie tight ends Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely could be factors in the passing game.
Moreover, a revamped offensive line and the healthy return of running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards could lead to the offense returning to its 2019 form, when it was No. 1 in the NFL. Baltimore went 14-2 that season with a wide receiving group consisting of Brown, Willie Snead IV, Seth Roberts, Miles Boykin, Chris Moore and Jaleel Scott that combined for 115 catches and 1,419 yards.
However, the Ravens can't count on any of that, Clark said.
"We know that the Ravens may well find themselves trailing in games and needing to throw the ball more," Clark wrote. "We know that other injuries could hurt their ability to play the dominant brand of bully-ball that provided them such success in '19. We know that they appeared reluctant to have Lamar Jackson run as much last year and it's hard to fathom them dramatically changing that this year.
"We know damn well that the Ravens are going to need their wide receivers to come through for them at some point if they're going to try to win a Super Bowl!"
Secondary Named Ravens' Most Interesting Positional Battle
Pro Football Focus’ Ben Linsey made his "way to early" starting lineup projections for all 32 teams and identified the most interesting positional battle for each as training camp nears in July.
For the Ravens, Linsey said the competition in the secondary is considerably compelling.
"The Ravens' secondary is loaded with high-end talent, which is part of what makes that unit so interesting," Linsey wrote. "They have, at least, three starting-caliber safeties in Marcus Williams, Kyle Hamilton and Chuck Clark. There's been some talk about the possibility of Clark being traded after Baltimore spent a significant amount of resources on both Williams and Hamilton, but he would give them some versatility alongside those two if he stays.
"The additions at safety also freed up 2021 third-round pick Brandon Stephens to play more at cornerback after earning a 53.0 PFF grade in over 700 snaps at safety as a rookie. Jalyn Armour-Davis, a rookie out of Alabama, could also see some action outside with Marlon Humphrey kicking into the slot in three cornerback personnel groupings. There are several different combinations for Baltimore to work through and decide between entering next season."
Linsey also noted that several defensive linemen who aren't projected to start figure to make an impact.
"Justin Madubuike … will play a significant role alongside Calais Campbell and Michael Pierce as a base end," Linsey wrote. "Baltimore has some nice depth on the defensive line with Derek Wolfe and Travis Jones as well."
Ravens Rise in ESPN's Post-Draft Power Rankings
After earning high marks across the board for their draft haul, the Ravens moved up to No. 10 in ESPN’s post-draft power rankings. That's two spots higher than they were in ESPN's post-free agency power rankings.
ESPN also identified the player from each team who benefited the most from the draft. For the Ravens, it's Bateman.
"Bateman is the unquestioned No. 1 wide receiver for Lamar Jackson after the Ravens traded Marquise 'Hollywood' Brown to the Cardinals and then didn't use any of their 11 draft picks on a wide receiver," Jamison Hensley wrote. "Bateman, Baltimore's top pick from a year ago, showed flashes of becoming a go-to target as a rookie and has put the time in to build a connection with Jackson with their frequent throwing sessions this offseason. Now he will get plenty of opportunities with the departure of Brown, whose 146 targets ranked 10th in the NFL last season."