By: Eli Grabanski
The Baltimore Ravens have been one of the best-run franchises in the NFL since they joined the league in 1996, compiling a 225-174-1 record. Over the past three seasons, the team has been even more dangerous putting up a 35-13 regular-season record. But despite this phenomenal regular-season record, the team hasn’t experienced a lot of playoff success. One area that has been consistently been criticized has been the team’s wide receiver room. This article will look into a few reasons why the Baltimore Ravens will look into trading up to draft a wide receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft.
- The Need
The wide receivers on the Ravens roster are currently Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, Jaylon Moore, James Proche II, Deon Cain, and Binjimen Victor. Of these players, only Marquise Brown and Sammy Watkins have caught more than 35 passes in their NFL careers.
|Baltimore Ravens Wide Receivers As Of 4/26/2021|
|Player||2020 Games Played||2020 Receptions||2020 Targets||2020 Receiving Yards||2020 Receiving TDs||Career Games Played||Career Receptions||Career Targets||Career Receiving Yards||Career Receiving TDs|
|James Proche II||14||1||3||14||0||14||1||3||14||0|
Counting on Marquise Brown to emerge as a legitimate WR1 and Sammy Watkins to stay healthy does not seem like the best plan for the Ravens if they want to take the next step in 2021. Clearly, the Ravens are clearly lacking talent at the wide receiver position after striking out on the big wide receiver free agency targets in players like Kenny Golladay, Will Fuller, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, and will need to address this need in some other way during the offseason. Draft day is the perfect opportunity to do so.
One argument that has been made against the Ravens drafting a wide receiver is that Greg Roman’s offense doesn’t really utilize the position in the passing game.
As you can see from the graph above, it is true – Greg Roman hasn’t typically utilized his wide receivers frequently in the passing game. But to be fair to Roman, a lot of that comes down to not working with a ton of talent at the position.
|Greg Roman Most Targeted Wide Receivers (Season Targets)|
|2011 49ers||Michael Crabtree (115)||Braylon Edwards (34)||Ted Ginn Jr. (33)|
|2012 49ers||Michael Crabtree (127)||Mario Manningham (57)||Randy Moss (50)|
|2013 49ers||Anquan Boldin (129)||Michael Crabtree (33)||Kyle Williams (27)|
|2014 49ers||Anquan Boldin (130)||Michael Crabtree (108)||Steve Johnson (50)|
|2015 Bills||Sammy Watkins (96)||Robert Woods (80)||Chris Hogan (59)|
|2016 Bills (First 2 games)||Sammy Watkins (11)||Robert Woods (7)||Greg Salas (6)|
|2019 Ravens||Marquise Brown (71)||Willie Snead (46)||Seth Roberts (35)|
|2020 Ravens||Marquise Brown (100)||Willie Snead (48)||Miles Boykin (33)|
Take a look at the table above. When Greg Roman was working with solid wide receiver talents like Anquan Boldin or Michael Crabtree he was willing to provide them with 100+ targets over the course of the season and feature more than one wide receiver through the air. He hasn’t been able to do that with the Ravens wide receivers the last two years, because their production hasn’t been enough to justify giving them that level of work.
Are the Ravens ever going to provide their wide receivers with a ridiculous number of targets? No, at least not in Greg Roman’s run-heavy offense. But they definitely need some help at the position in order to take the next step and make a deep playoff run.
2. Current Draft Capital
The Baltimore Ravens will have nine draft picks in the 2021 NFL Draft after they traded Orlando Brown Jr. to the Kansas City Chiefs.
|Baltimore Ravens 2021 NFL Draft Picks|
|Draft Round||Pick Overall|
With the 27th and 31st pick as potential ammo, the Ravens could realistically trade up to as high as the 11th pick of the draft based on the traditional NFL Draft trade value chart. While the Ravens may feel that it is too costly to trade up all the way to 11, conducting a trade up to the late teens or early twenties could easily be in the cards if one of their draft targets is available.
3. Wide Receiver Talent In The 2021 NFL Draft Class
There are a few wide receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft that are clear 1st round draft choices or at least in the mix for the 1st round. Let’s take a look at some of them.
- Ja’Marr Chase (LSU): Chase opted out of the 2020 college football season, but put up an impressive stat line of 84 receptions for 1780 receiving yards and 20 receiving touchdowns in 2019 for LSU (14 games). His vertical acceleration, ball-tracking/downfield adjustments, and sticky hands are just a few of the traits that make him a top-tier wide receiver option in the NFL draft.
- DeVonta Smith (Alabama): DeVonta Smith won the Heisman trophy in 2020 after catching 117 passes for 1856 receiving yards and 23 receiving touchdowns in just 13 games. Some of the traits that stand out about Smith are his route-running/separation, his ability to make circus catches, and his versatility to play well both outside and in the slot.
- Jaylen Waddle (Alabama): Jaylen Waddle only played in six games during the 2020 college football season, but he made the most of it, putting up 28 receptions for 591 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns. At worst, Waddle will do a great job taking the top off the defense with his game-breaking speed and ability to adjust to the deep ball. But his ceiling of being the type of impact player that Tyreek Hill is for the Kansas City Chiefs makes him an intriguing first-round option.
- Rashod Bateman (Minnesota): Rashod Bateman played in just five games during the 2020 season, finishing the season with 36 receptions for 472 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns. While his junior season wasn’t as good as his sophomore year, his combination of build-up speed and size puts him somewhere in the mix of 1st and 2nd round wide receivers.
- Elijah Moore (Ole Miss): Elijah Moore was dominant his junior year, putting up a stat line of 86 receptions for 1193 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns in just eight games for Ole Miss. He had the lowest drop rate among SEC wide receivers last year according to PFF and his blazing speed makes him worth considering in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
- Terrace Marshall (LSU): Terrace Marshall Jr. had 48 receptions for 731 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns in his seven games last year for LSU. He more than likely will be available at 27 or 31 for the Ravens, but it’s possible his talent and physical abilities push him into a higher draft range.
- Rondale Moore (Purdue): Rondale Moore had a dominant freshman year at Purdue back in 2018, catching 114 passes for 1258 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. But since then he’s only played in seven games. He’s a little undersized but has the speed and competitiveness that teams love.
There’s a lot of talent here, so much so that one could argue it’s enough for the Ravens to stand pat. But not all of these players are good fits for the Ravens offense and it’s vital that they get a player that will mesh well with the team – which is why a trade-up will likely be necessary.
The Ravens should be actively looking into trading up for a wide receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft. Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle are the top wide receiver targets in the NFL Draft, but it would take at least one of them slipping into the teens for the Ravens to realistically be able to trade up without giving up too much draft capital. If none of those three are available, it would also make a lot of sense for the Ravens to package up picks 27 and 31 to the Washington Football Team or the Chicago Bears for their 1st and 2nd rounders in order to secure one of Rashod Bateman or Elijah Moore – giving their wide receiver room a much-needed boost and still getting another solid player in the 2nd round with pick 51/52.
Writer’s Prediction: Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle go in the top 12 picks. The Baltimore Ravens trade picks 27, 31, and 184 to the Washington Football Team for picks 19 and 51 to jump the Tennessee Titans (pick 22) who also need a wide receiver – as well as to also ensure teams like New Orleans (pick 28) or Green Bay (pick 29) don’t potentially trade up to take the Ravens’ guy. The Ravens then select Rashod Bateman (WR, Minnesota Gophers) with the 19th overall pick in the draft.
Follow Eli Grabanski on Twitter: @3li_handles
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