Wide Receivers Galore at NFL Combine

Kentucky quarterback Lynn Bowden Jr. runs for a touchdown during the first half of the NCAA college football game.
Kentucky quarterback Lynn Bowden Jr. runs for a touchdown during the first half of the NCAA college football game.

The Ravens may take another plunge into the wide receiver draft pool, after selecting Marquise Brown (first round) and Miles Boykin (third round) last year.

Wide receivers at this year's NFL Combine are plentiful and intriguing. They come in various body types and from a variety of backgrounds. Pundits like Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network are calling this year's wide receiver draft class historically deep, predicting that as many as 25 wide receivers could be drafted in the first four rounds. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper has five wide receivers going in the first round in his most recent mock draft.

"There's a lot of volume at the position," Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta said. "There are some really talented guys. Obviously, the guys at the top. But also, when you look at the second and third rounds, you'll see some guys who have a chance to come in and impact teams very quickly.

"In the last three, four or five years, we've seen a lot of guys make immediate (impact). Especially last year. We were fortunate last year with Marquise and even Miles to a degree made plays for us. We're excited about those two guys and we look at this year's draft class as an opportunity for us to improve at the position even more." 

Lynn Bowden of Kentucky is one of many wide receivers at the Combine being linked to the Ravens. A BleacherReport.com mock draft has Bowden going to Baltimore in the third round.

Playing for the Ravens sounds good to Bowden, who was primarily a quarterback for Kentucky last season but projects wide receiver in the NFL. Asked who he modeled his game after as a quarterback, Bowden had a quick response.

"Lamar," Bowden said.

As a freshman wide receiver at Kentucky, Bowden played against Jackson's Louisville team in 2017 when Jackson was the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Jackson dominated, throwing for 216 yards and two touchdowns and running for 146 yards as Louisville raced to a 44-17 victory.

But unlike Jackson, who has only wanted to play quarterback since he was young, Bowden has been open to playing any position. He became Kentucky's starting quarterback last season after the original starter went down with an injury, and Bowden was truly a running quarterback (185 carries, 1,468 yards) showing the skillset that should make him a run-after-catch threat in the NFL. As a receiver in college, the 6-foot-1, 199-pound Bowden had 114 catches for 1,303 yards and six touchdowns.

"Get the ball in my hands and just watch the show," Bowden said. "I don't know how to explain it. It's just something in us, I guess."

The Ravens already have one of the NFL's fastest receivers in Brown. Imagine them adding another speedster to the mix, perhaps a bigger one like Laviska Shenault from Colorado, who measured six feet, 227 pounds at the Combine.

"I think this class is going to do great things," Shenault said. "It's definitely going to be a legendary class."

A wide receiver with run-after-catch talent, or the ability to run jet sweeps and reverses effectively, would add another dimension to a Baltimore offense that was already the highest-scoring in the NFL.

"I think Greg Roman has done a great job of taking all those pieces and making us a very innovative, unique offense," DeCosta said.

The Ravens had the NFL's best record last season (14-2) so they have fewer issues than most teams. However, they are still looking to improve their front seven, particularly at inside linebacker and pass rusher. They also want to add depth on the offensive line, which will become a higher priority if Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda opts to retire.

"I always look at free agency and the draft as really complementary, and there's a chance to use both to build the best, most balanced team, and that's really the goal," DeCosta said. "We've got needs. We've got needs in the front seven. We've got needs in the offensive line. We've got needs at receiver, inside linebacker, and we're going to try to fill as many of those needs as we can through the draft -- we've got a bunch of picks -- and free agency."

The depth of this year's wide receiver class gives the Ravens plenty of options. They don't have to spend a first-round pick on a wide receiver, but they could still find an immediate impact player on Day 2 of the draft, or even Day 3. That's a scenario that could work for DeCosta.

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