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Ravens Looking For The Best Mid-Round Wide Receiver


The Ravens don't have to look far for the blueprint on drafting wide receivers. The rival Pittsburgh Steelers have done a mighty fine job of doing so over the past seven years.

Pittsburgh has built, and maintained, one of the league's best homegrown wide receiver corps with mid-round picks.

Now, in a year without much dazzle at the top of the wide receiver draft class, the Ravens are looking to deploy a similar strategy.

"If you see the mock drafts, people will say, 'Oh it's not a great year for wideouts,'" Ravens Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said.

"But every single year, there's a guy that gets drafted in the draft in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth round at wideout who emerges as one of the best players in the draft. Our task is to find that guy this year and get him on the team."

In 2009, the Steelers drafted Mike Wallace (now a Raven) in the third round. In 2010, they followed it up with Emmanuel Sanders in the third round and Antonio Brown in the sixth. Pittsburgh nabbed Markus Wheaton in the third round in 2013, Martavis Bryant in the fourth in 2014 and Sammie Coates in the third last season.

Success of mid-round receivers goes well beyond the Steelers. Look at these notable wideouts, as DeCosta alluded to, over the past five years:

2015: Tyler Lockett, Seahawks (third round); Stefon Diggs, Vikings (fifth round)

2014: John Brown, Cardinals (third round); Bryant, Steelers (fourth round)

2013: Keenan Allen, Chargers (third round); Wheaton, Steelers (third round)

2012: T.Y. Hilton, Colts (third round); Mohamed Sanu, Bengals (third round); Travis Benjamin, Browns (fourth round)

2011: Cecil Shorts, Jaguars (fourth round)

The Ravens already have a well-stocked wide receiver corps entering the 2016 season. Steve Smith Sr., Mike Wallace, Kamar Aiken and last year's first-round pick, Breshad Perriman, will all be up for starting jobs. They'll have Michael Campanaro, Marlon Brown and others pushing them for time.

But Baltimore is always keeping an eye on the horizon, and the Ravens know they may need help in 2017 and beyond at wide receiver. This will likely be Smith's final year and Aiken is set to become a free agent next offseason. Wallace inked a two-year deal.

Thus, the Ravens would love to catch lightening in a bottle in the middle rounds while opting to address more urgent needs with earlier picks.

Some projected mid-round wide receivers include Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard, South Carolina's Pharoh Cooper, Illinois's Geronimo Allison, Massachusetts's Tajae Sharpe and Colorado State's Rashard Higgins.

So what are the Ravens looking for in a wide receiver? DeCosta eventually listed many attributes, but started with one in particular.

"Catching the ball. We want guys that can catch the ball, make plays," DeCosta said.

"Guys that can play inside, guys that can play outside, fast guys, big guys, slow guys, competitive, run after catch … There's a lot of different things we look for, but in the end, the guy has got to be able to make the play. He has got to be able to catch the ball and get what he can get."

DeCosta stressed that receivers come in all shapes and sizes. The Ravens have had strong possession receivers and speed receivers.

Part of the reason for mid-round targets is that there isn't a lot of intrigue at the top of the receiver class. There may not be a receiver drafted in the top 10 for the first time in five years. In February, Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said that, "relative to recent drafts, there's a drop-off at wide receiver."

This year's class is not very fast. Only 10 wideouts ran the 40-yard dash in the 4.4-second range and just two (Notre Dame's Will Fuller and TCU's Kolby Listenbee) were in the 4.3s. Ole Miss' LaQuon Treadwell is the top target, followed by TCU's Josh Doctson, Baylor's Corey Coleman and Fuller.

"Is there a Jerry Rice in this draft? Who knows?" DeCosta said.

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