This year’s draft has so much variety at wide receiver, picking one can be difficult, like figuring out which flavor you want at Baskin-Robbins.
For the Ravens, the stakes are higher than choosing ice cream. Even after signing wide receiver Seth Roberts last week, the Ravens are expected to pursue help at that position in the draft. Roberts, Willie Snead IV and Chris Moore are the only receivers on the roster with an NFL regular-season catch.
Do you want the Ravens to draft a wide receiver in the first round at No. 22? Fine, but you need to be more specific. Which flavor? A big-bodied guy like D.K. Metcalf or A.J. Brown of Ole Miss; N’Keal Henry of Arizona State or Hakeem Butler of Iowa State? Or a speedster like Marquise Brown of Oklahoma or Parris Campbell of Ohio State?
The Ravens have narrowed down their list by this point, and outsiders may be thinking too much about which style of wide receiver is best for quarterback Lamar Jackson. Somebody who gets open and catches the ball consistently would suit Jackson just fine, whether he’s a possession receiver or a home run threat, even if he’s not a punishing blocker. A receiver who struggles to get open, or who has an issue with drops is not what the Ravens are looking for, even if he blocks well.
Here’s a bigger question for the Ravens. Are any of these receivers ready to be counted on as rookies?
Despite the NFL being a pass-happy league, it’s asking a lot of any receiver to be a big-time contributor immediately. Only three rookie receivers topped 700 yards last season – Calvin Ridley of the Atlanta Falcons (821 yards), D.J. Moore of the Carolina Panthers (788) and Courtland Sutton of the Denver Broncos (704). They were also the first three wide receivers drafted last year.
At the NFL owners meetings in March, Head Coach John Harbaugh said the wide receiver position was among the toughest for rookies.
“Historically, it has been true,” Harbaugh said. “Then there’s always a rookie or two every year that proves it wrong. Hopefully we’ll get that rookie. But it’s tough. There’s a lot to learn. There’s a lot of nuance. It’s real subtle as far as getting open. They go against these corners who know how to play.”
Nate Burleson of the NFL Network, who played 11 years in the league at wide receiver, views Brown as the rookie receiver who is most NFL ready. It’s hard to argue with Brown’s production at Ole Miss last season – 85 catches, 1,320 yards and six touchdowns, playing against top-flight competition in the SEC.
Bucky Brooks of NFL.com favors the 6-foot-4, 213-pound Harry, who caught 155 passes over the past two seasons at Arizona State.
“N’Keal Harry going to the Baltimore Ravens is exactly what they need,” Brooks said. “You think about how the Baltimore Ravens want to play that read option, they basically need some guys that are willing to sacrifice their individual agendas for the team. I believe N’Keal Harry can be that Army-like receiver, meaning he’s going to go in and do all the dirty work. He’s going to block on the perimeter.”
Gil Brandt, the Hall of Fame scout who writes for NFL.com, sees 6-foot, 209-pound South Carolina receiver Deebo Samuel as a great fit for the Ravens. Samuel isn’t projected as a first-round pick in most mock drafts, so if the Ravens decide to trade back instead of picking at No. 22, Samuel could still be available.
“Samuel is a very physical wide receiver who boasts good concentration and quickness. Excels at keeping his feet in bounds while making catches along the sidelines,” Brandt wrote on Samuels. “And he can return kicks, having set a school record with four kick-return touchdowns.”
When asked on “The Lounge” podcast which wide receiver best fits the Ravens, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. first named Metcalf, but then went on to talk about Marquise Brown, Terry McLaurin of Ohio State, Harry, Samuel, Campbell, Miles Boykin of Notre Dame, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside of Stanford, A.J. Brown, Butler and Emmanuel Hall of Missouri.
“There’s a host of receivers – all a little different,” Kiper said. “I don’t think you have to say what type; just get the best receiver. … The guy that I think is the most dynamic is ‘Hollywood’ Brown. The most upside as a red-zone guy and down-the-field threat is D.K. Metcalf. You want an underrated guy, it might be J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.”
General Manager Eric DeCosta recently talked about the need for the Ravens to take more swings at acquiring wide receivers. Perhaps the Ravens will draft more than one, or they could sign another veteran wide receiver later this offseason.
The Ravens have drafted a wide receiver in the first round just three times, the last time being Breshad Perriman in 2015. If the Ravens want another swing at taking a wide receiver early, at least this draft gives them a variety of options.