It’s Senior Bowl week, a time to focus on positions where the Ravens have need. We’ll start with fans’ favorite – wide receivers.
After revamping the wide receiver corps in 2018, the Ravens may do it again. John Brown is a free agent whose production dropped once Lamar Jackson became the starting quarterback. Michael Crabtree, 31, could be headed elsewhere after scoring just three touchdowns this season. Crabtree’s numbers (54 catches, 607 yards) were his lowest since 2013, when he played just five games.
Baltimore will be looking for receivers that fit in a Jackson-led offense. It may become even more important for the Ravens to draft well at this position. Veteran wide receivers around the league may not view Baltimore’s run-heavy offense as an attractive destination once they reach free agency.
Historically, the Ravens have struggled to find success drafting wide receivers. A recent example was Breshad Perriman, a first-round pick in 2015 who is now with the Cleveland Browns after three disappointing seasons with the Ravens. However, the passing game will feature some different wrinkles under new offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Finding a playmaker or two would help accelerate Jackson’s development.
Here are four receivers at the Senior Bowl the Ravens will watch closely:
Anthony Johnson, Buffalo
Size: 6-foot-2, 211 pounds*
2018 stats:* 57 catches, 1,011 yards, 11 TDs
The Ravens weren’t consistent in the red zone late in the season, and Johnson could help. He’s a big target who caught 25 touchdown passes the past two seasons. He doesn’t have top-end speed, but Johnson has plenty of contested catches on tape. He also showed ability to adlib and find open spaces when his quarterback scrambled – an important attribute when playing with Jackson.
Johnson already is familiar with what’s expected from an NFL. He has two cousins playing for the Houston Texans: outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney and cornerback Johnathan Joseph.
Anthony Isabella, UMass
Size: 5-foot-9, 186 pounds*
2018 stats:* 102 catches, 1,698 yards, 13 TDs
If the Ravens want to invest in a slot receiver in Day 2 or Day 3, Isabella could be a target. He put up massive numbers this season, and while Willie Snead IV had a strong year for Baltimore (62 catches ,651 yards, 1 TD), Isabella is a different kind of player – smaller, but shiftier, with more speed.
Isabella will have to overcome the skepticism that comes with being a small-school prospect. But look how Isabella fared against big-school competition – seven catches for 158 yards and a touchdown against Mississippi St. (2017), four catches for 95 yards against Boston College (2018), 15 catches for 219 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia (2018). If Isabella gets open as consistently in the NFL as he did in college, he would make Jackson’s life easier as a run-after-catch target, turning short throws into first downs and adding another dimension to Baltimore’s offense.
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
Size: 6-foot-0, 216 pounds*
2018 stats:* 62 catches, 882 yards, 11 TD’s
Injuries have been an issue for Samuel, who missed played just five games as a freshman and three games as a junior. But Samuel looked fully recovered in 2018 and his senior season was his most productive. Samuels was a home-run hitter in college, capable of turning any play into a big play with strength and shiftiness after the catch. You didn’t see defensive backs catch Samuel from behind. The Ravens need more playmakers, and Samuels could be a younger alternative to Brown. Samuels is also an explosive kick returner, another role he could fill in Baltimore.
Hunter Renfrow, Clemson
Size: 5-foot-10, 175 pounds*
2018 stats:* 49 catches, 544 yards, 1 TD
Making clutch catches has been a signature trait for Renfrow during his college career. The former walk-on made the game-winning catch in the 2016 national championship game and seems to play his best in big moments. Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson loved throwing to Renfrow in college, and it’s not hard to imagine Jackson and Renfrow building chemistry fairly quickly. This play shows Renfrow at his best, using body control to make an acrobatic catch despite being tightly-covered. He’s a slot receiver who seems capable of flourishing in a Ravens offense.