Once considered the most glaring need on the roster for the Baltimore Ravens, the wide receiver position now has some flexibility as the team heads into next month’s NFL draft.
After signing Steve Smith and re-upping Jacoby Jones, the team currently has a quality four-deep group of Smith, Jones, Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown. 2013 draft pick Aaron Mellette also figures to come into play for a roster spot next season.
That doesn’t take the Ravens out of the running for a wide receiver in the draft, and quite frankly, they need one more receiver to add to the puzzle, particularly one who could provide an instant impact while also holding long-term potential starting value.
This year’s receiver class is loaded with different molds of receivers, and there’s a type of receiver for everyone.
Let’s take a look at the diverse types of receivers in this year’s draft, and ones that could fit well in Baltimore.
Mike Evans, Texas A&M – The total package. Evans possesses a filled-out 6’5, 231-pound frame, and at only 20 years old, his long-term development figures to yield impressive results for whichever team drafts him. His best assets are his willingness to work toward the ball, as well as a physical demeanor at the catch point. His top end speed is underrated, and he can still be a vertical threat for an offense, though his short-to-intermediate value is highest. He only has two years of college football experience, but Evans’ positive traits should translate to an instant impact
Jarvis Landry, LSU – You can read up more on the rare traits Landry possesses, but long story short, he has extremely consistent hands, adjusts when the ball is in the air as well as anyone in this draft class, and wins at the catch point on a consistent basis. Throw in Landry’s violent run-blocking style, and he presents everything teams desire in a receiver. Below average athleticism (4.77 40-yard dash, 28 ½ inch vertical) is his negative, but just remember: Keenan Allen ran a 4.71 and 4.75 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day and he turned out just fine, so not all slow receivers struggle in the NFL.
TJ Jones, Notre Dame – For an extended look at the former Fighting Irish captain, check out a breakdown of Jones here. Similar to Landry, the appeal of Jones comes in his rare ability to consistently adjust to the ball in the air and pluck it out at its highest point. Possessing a 6’0, 188-pound frame, Jones’ first year in the NFL may be spent filling in his body and relying on his quickness after the catch, but long term, he can be a quarterback’s favorite target. He willingly works back to the ball, and consistently goes up for 50/50 balls. Jones also possesses top-end, downfield speed to be a vertical threat.
Marqise Lee, USC – A prospect who the Ravens have already met with, Lee has the upside of a #1 receiver in an NFL offense with refinement. He isn’t necessarily a physical receiver at the catch point and needs to fill out his frame, but he is as explosive as any receiver in this class, and plays the boundaries with a Santonio Holmes-like ability. The physical attributes are there, and if Lee can limit his drops – his biggest drawback right now – he can be the complete package. His drops should be more easily correctable than those of some other receivers, as his issue is that he body catches too often, as opposed to the less ideal problem of having stone hands.
NEEDS DEVELOPMENT, BUT POTENTIAL STARTER
Cody Latimer, Indiana – As a prospect who has received plenty of recognition in recent weeks, Latimer is becoming more than a well-kept secret. At 6’3, 215 pounds, Latimer has the ideal build, and his effortless adjustments when the ball is in the air and his ability to work the sidelines could make him a favorite of Joe Flacco. The improvement for Latimer needs to come in his route running, where he often rounds off routes and plays hesitant. A more physical playing style and an improved sense of urgency at the beginning of the play could lead to a starting role for Latimer in the NFL.
Davante Adams, Fresno State – Possessing as much upside as any receiver in the class, Adams’ vertical ability and tendency to high-point the ball are his strong suits. For a quarterback like Flacco who often sails his throws when trying to get the ball out quickly, having Adams’ rare jumping ability would be a valuable asset. His development will need to come in experience of an expanded route tree, as Fresno State’s spread offense lacked diversity. If he grows his repertoire, Adams could be a dangerous all-around threat.
Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss – Moncrief has everything that’s desired in an NFL receiver: size (6’2, 221), speed (4.40 40-yard dash, and a quick burst after the catch) and effortless execution of routes. What holds Moncrief back is the consistency in which he executes his often refined game. An improved ability to win contested catches, a more physical style of play and more consistency as an open-field threat after the catch could make Moncrief is the complete package.
Bruce Ellington, South Carolina – If you’re looking for a smaller but quicker and more athletic version of Landry, Ellington fits the bill. At 5’9, he figures to be limited to the inside in the NFL, but as a strong, thick receiver who can track the ball in the air and win contested catches, Ellington will find his niche as a pro. He plays bigger than his size, and his after-the-catch ability makes him a big play threat.
Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest – The local product (Clarksville, Md.) provides intrigue as the prototypical slot receiver whose route running and burst after the catch should translate well. He doesn’t excel by winning at the catch point, but rather doing his damage after the catch on quick-hitting, in-stride passing plays, the opposite of what Baltimore will likely look for in the draft. Campanaro isn’t exactly the ideal Flacco receiver, and he may be better suited for a quick-release offense such as New England, but as one of the best slot receivers in this year’s class, Campanaro is still a worthy candidate.
Josh Huff, Oregon – Quick and powerful in the short passing game, Huff also packs a punch as a blocker, and is a near-complete package as an ideal slot receiver in the NFL. He has a well-built 5’11 frame that should ease his transition to the NFL, allowing him to make an instant impact, and his willingness to make catches in traffic gives hope for Huff to have consistent success at the next level.
Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma – A quick, shifty, pint-sized receiver who provides little to no value as an in-traffic target, Saunders’ short area quickness and top-end speed after the catch make him an intriguing late-round possibility. His sub-170 pound frame likely limits how much of a role he could have in an offense in his early years, but he can provide value in the slot, and his speed makes him a prime special teams candidate.
Not all wide receiver prospects could be covered in this article; there’s simply too many. Didn’t see one above that you’d like to see in Baltimore?
Leave a comment and let us know!