Anyone taking shots at the Ravens' young wide receivers can expect General Manager Eric DeCosta to take exception.
DeCosta has drafted four wide receivers over the past two years – Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin in 2019, and Devin Duvernay and James Proche II in 2020. While the Ravens may draft another wideout this year, DeCosta made it clear during the team's pre-draft press conference that he believes strongly in the team's current group of receivers.
"I'm aware that there's some fan discontent with our wide receivers and with our drafting and all that,"DeCosta said. "But in general, I look at our record and how we win games, and how we play football, and I'm proud of the team. We've got some really good young receivers. It's insulting to these guys when they hear that we don't have any receivers. It's quite insulting. I'm insulted by it. We've got some guys who want to show everybody what they can do."
Brown led the team in receiving yards last season (769), and equaled tight end Mark Andrews for the team lead in receptions (58). In the playoffs, Brown has been stellar with 18 catches for 322 yards and three touchdowns in three career postseason games.
Boykin is the best blocking wide receiver on a team that led the NFL in rushing yards the past two seasons, and he also improved as a receiver last year (19 catches, 266 yards, four touchdowns, 14.0 yards per catch). After playing sparingly on offense as rookies, Duvernay (20 catches, 201 yards) and Proche (one catch, 14 yards) will have the opportunity to earn more reps next season, after catching more than 100 passes during their final college seasons.
The Ravens have run the football more than any NFL team the past years, and in 2020 they were last in the NFL in passing yards and passing attempts. To judge their wide receivers simply based on stats can be misleading. However, Baltimore has made the playoffs three straight years, and DeCosta remains confident in the chemistry that the young targets are building with quarterback Lamar Jackson.
"I think we've had a lot of wide receivers over the years here who have won some big games for us," DeCosta said. "I know this. I think Lamar likes our receivers. I think our coaches like our receivers. I think the teammates, the guys on this team, like our receivers."
Even after signing veteran wide receiver Sammy Watkins in free agency, it's still possible the Ravens will draft another wideout early this year, perhaps even on Day 1. They have been linked to LSU wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. in numerous mock drafts. If not in the first round, the Ravens could also jump into what draft experts are calling a historically deep wide receiver class with a wide variety of playmakers available.
"More and more players are coming out at that position that are developed," Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said. "The way the college game is going, I think we're going to continue to see it. It's a unique class because there's versatility. There's a lot of outside guys, slot guys, and like Eric mentioned earlier, there's value throughout the draft. The board is just stacked. It's not like there's a couple of high guys and then a gap. It's nice to go into a draft knowing throughout the draft there's going to be options."
However, the Ravens don't feel they have to reach for a wide receiver in the draft as their young group continues to develop. The Ravens have two new offensive coaches who will be intimately involved with the passing game – Pass Game Specialist Keith Williams and Wide Receivers Coach Tee Martin – who have built a strong reputation for helping to groom top-flight receivers. Head Coach John Harbaugh is excited to see the team's young targets continue to grow, regardless of what happens in the draft.
"We'll find certain wide receivers in the draft that fit us, fit our needs, fit how we play, fit our quarterback and fit our personality," Harbaugh said. "We know who they are already, we've had the meetings.
"Same thing with the guys who are already here. We'll stand by our guys. I'm not about to apologize for our guys. Our guys are going go out there and win football games for us. They're going to make plays. They're going to show people. Can't wait to see it happen."