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Late for Work 4/7: Should Ravens Consider Taking a Wide Receiver in the First Round?


Should Ravens Consider Taking a Wide Receiver in the First Round?

The Ravens' brass fielded a total of 30 questions at Tuesday's pre-draft press conference and not a single one was about this year's wide receiver class. That's a stark contrast from previous years, when improving the wide receiver corps was a major talking point.

In 2019, General Manager Eric DeCosta acknowledged that the Ravens' lack of aggressiveness in drafting wide receivers needed to change. He wasn't bluffing.

Baltimore used its first-round picks in 2019 and 2021 on wide receivers Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and Rashod Bateman, respectively. Four other wide receivers drafted by the Ravens over the past three years — Devin Duvernay, James Proche II, Tylan Wallace and Miles Boykin — also are on the roster.

With the Ravens having needs on the offensive and defensive lines, pass rusher, and cornerback, it seems unlikely that they'd use the 14th-overall pick on a wide receiver. But what if the best player on their draft board was a wide receiver and still available when they're on the clock?

Russell Street Report’s Nikhil Mehta believes wide receivers Drake London of USC and Treylon Burks of Arkansas are viable options at No. 14 because they "can take [Baltimore's] offense to the next level by creating a new role that didn't exist before."

"While Mark Andrews did finish fourth in the NFL with 18 contested catches in 2021, per Pro Football Focus, the Ravens still struggled on third down and in the red zone. London could address that from Day 1 as a rookie, especially as he draws favorable matchups with Baltimore's more proven weapons attracting more attention," Mehta wrote. "He doesn't have breakaway top-gear speed, but the Ravens already have plenty of that on their roster, so they can instead focus on adding a chain-mover and red zone threat in London.

"But the USC standout wouldn't merit this kind of consideration if he was just a one-trick pony who could only win with his contested catch ability in the pros. Instead, London brings an assortment of NFL-ready skills, starting with nuanced and cerebral route running that allows him to win on more than just downfield contested catches."

Burks has drawn comparisons to versatile wide receiver Deebo Samuel and said he models his game after the San Francisco 49ers star.

"Arkansas deployed his elite size and athleticism in a variety of ways with most of his snaps coming out of the slot," Mehta wrote. "He averaged 9.3 yards after catch per reception and 3.57 yards per route run in 2021, with just three drops and 22 plays of over 20 yards. He would bring a tantalizing skillset to Baltimore with the potential to play multiple roles at a high level."

Pundits Say Ravens Will Rebound in 2022, But Bengals Are Top Team in AFC North

The "Good Morning Football" crew debated two Ravens-related questions yesterday:

1. Will the Ravens return with a vengeance in 2022?

2. Who has the edge in the AFC North: Ravens or Bengals?

The consensus: 1. Yes. 2. Bengals.

Peter Schrager believes the Ravens will rebound because they were 8-3 at one point last season before coming up just short against good teams down the stretch despite being decimated by injuries.

"Can they come back with a vengeance? Hell yes they can come back with a vengeance," Schrager said. "[Lamar Jackson] wasn't on the field when it mattered most late. And even when he wasn't there, they were in those games against not just any teams, against the Steelers, playoff team; against the Packers with Aaron Rodgers; and against the Rams, who ended up winning the Super Bowl. So I believe in the Ravens and they will bounce back."

Emmanuel Sanders said the Ravens' rebound all starts with a healthy Jackson.

"Lamar Jackson is feared," Sanders said. "Of course he can turn this thing around. Of course he can come back with a vengeance because he is Lamar Jackson."

All that said, the four-team panel was in agreement that the AFC North belongs to the defending AFC champion Bengals.

"The Bengals kicked [the Ravens'] butts last year, and it wasn't just once, it was twice," Schrager said.

Kyle Brandt said: "I remember when Baltimore was the cool, young, fresh team in that division. Lamar's wearing the sunglasses on the sideline. Now it's [Joe] Burrow wearing the sunglasses and it feels like it was a little bit of a body swap going on. … The Bengals are the cool team. They took your whole gig. You're yesterday's news."

Interestingly, the Cleveland Browns, who made a big splash this offseason by trading for quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver Amari Cooper, weren't included in the discussion of who the best team is in the AFC North.

Bleacher Report Says Calais Campbell Is the Next Free Agent the Ravens Should Sign

Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon named one free agent still on the market who can help each team. For the Ravens, it was one of their own: Calais Campbell.

"The 14-year veteran would be a useful piece for a defensive line in need of greater depth," Kenyon wrote. "Campbell is past his prime, sure, but he could contribute at either D-end or tackle."

The Ravens have made it clear on multiple occasions that they would welcome Campbell back with open arms.

Head Coach John Harbaugh said last week that he's "got my fingers crossed" in regard to the Ravens re-signing the six-time Pro Bowler.

"We'll see what happens," Harbaugh said. "I know Eric and Calais are talking regularly. I'm just waiting for the good news."

Campbell finished the 2021 season with an 80.8 PFF grade that ranked eighth among all interior defensive linemen. His 77.9 run grade ranked seventh.

Ravens Get Interior Defensive Lineman in First Round of Fans' Mock Draft

There is no shortage of mock drafts out there, but PFF took a different approach. Instead of pundits and analysts doing the mocking, PFF allowed the fans to make the picks.

Using data from its Mock Draft Simulator, PFF identified the fan-favorite player at each selection (unless that player was off the board already; then it moved to the next-most popular selection)[add].

The pick for the Ravens at No. 14 was Georgia interior defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt.

"The Ravens have needs in the interior on both sides of the football, but all of their fans' most popular selections have been on defense," PFF's Sam Monson wrote. "Devonte Wyatt is being overshadowed a lot during the pre-draft process by his Georgia teammates Jordan Davis and Travon Walker, but he has been arguably the best player of the three. He posted impressive PFF grades in all areas last season and was a dominant force at the Senior Bowl, earning the best PFF grade of any defender during the practices."

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