Wide receivers love to catch, but not all of them love to block.
The Ravens want wide receivers willing to do both. As they retool their offense to fit quarterback Lamar Jackson’s talents, the Ravens have made it clear they plan to compliment Jackson’s dynamic running ability.
When it comes to being physical blockers, wide receivers will not be excluded. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman says the Ravens’ prototypical wide receiver may differ from most teams.
“Guys that can get open, catch the ball, but I think one thing that’s unique – we need that tough guy too here that can go out and block a nickel, block a safety and win that matchup,” Roman said. “I think that’s very important here as we move forward.”
General Manager Eric DeCosta echoed those thoughts at his press conference in January. As the Ravens prepare for next week’s NFL combine, free agency in March, and the draft in April, wide receivers that block well will be on the Ravens’ radar.
Not that Baltimore will ignore less-physical receivers, especially playmakers. A consistent deep threat at wide receiver would be a welcome addition, providing the big-play element the Ravens also seek.
And until Jackson’s throwing accuracy improves, receivers with sure hands and a wide catch radius may be a better fit than those who rely on timing routes and pinpoint passes.
The Ravens will likely have several new targets for Jackson next season. Willie Snead IV (62 catches, 651 yards, one touchdown) was the wide receiver who had the best chemistry with Jackson, and Snead plays with the physical nature the Ravens are looking for.
After that, there are questions to answer at wide receiver. John Brown is a free agent and Michael Crabtree is a potential salary cap casualty. Brown said he loved playing with the Ravens and that he was open to re-signing, but his production dropped sharply once Jackson became the starting quarterback, and the Ravens may believe they can find a better fit.
Fourth-year wide receiver Chris Moore (19 catches, 196 yards, one touchdown) is a strong contributor on special teams, but Moore must prove he is ready for a bigger offensive role. Two wide receivers the Ravens drafted last year are still looking for their first NFL catch – Jaleel Scott (fourth round) and Jordan Lasley (fifth round). Scott spend the 2018 season on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, while Lasley was inactive all season.
Most scouts rate this as a strong draft for wide receivers. Potential wide receiver prospects being linked to the Ravens in the first round of mock drafts include D.K. Metcalf (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) and A.J. Brown (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) of Ole Miss and N’Keal Harry (6-foot-4, 213 pounds) of Arizona State.
Riley Ridley (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) of Georgia also seems to fit the prototype the Ravens may like, but Ridley’s grade might not be high enough for a first-round pick. Former Ravens scout turned NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said Georgia wide receiver Mecole Hardman is the “perfect Raven” because of his big-play ability.
Jeremiah believes speed is the most important ingredient to put around Jackson because the Ravens must take advantage of teams stacking the box to stop the run and hit chunk plays when Jackson does throw.
The Ravens are all-in on giving Jackson weapons that suit what they are trying to build – a physical offensive team helps him create big plays with both his arm and his legs. And wide receivers willing to block will be part of the formula.
“That’s a challenging position, I think, to draft and to scout and to develop for a lot of reasons,” DeCosta said.
“But in the end, I’ve learned from Ozzie (Newsome) that the guy has to catch the football – first and foremost. You’d like the guy to have some toughness and some speed, some route ability, there’s a lot of different things you look for. Blocking as a wide receiver for us is important. It’s really important. Again, we’ll hash these guys out in the draft meetings and free agency and try to find the guys that fit us best, fit our identity that we like.”