If I had one takeaway from Super Bowl LI, it was this: no lead is safe. If I had a second takeaway, it was that teams that want to thrive in the modern day NFL need to have stellar play at the wide receiver position.
The play of Falcons receiver Julio Jones was exceptional. If not for Atlanta’s late meltdown, his catch in the fourth quarter could have gone down in history as a Super Bowl-saver.
On the other side there was Patriots wideout Julian Edelman, who made catch after catch in his team’s fateful comeback, including picking one up from just inches above the turf while being smothered by three Falcons.
The story would be so different. Game over vs Game on/ pic.twitter.com/1BwUkzktRT
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) February 6, 2017
In fact all three of Tom Brady‘s receivers produced mightily. When a play needed to be made, they stepped up and made it happen. Go back two weeks to the conference championship games, and you have Antonio Brown on the losing AFC squad who shall not be named, and Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb on the sent-packing Packers.
With the Ravens beginning the process of improving their squad for next season, it’s safe to say that as of now, the team doesn’t possess a single receiver opposing defenses will be scared of.
There is no more Steve Smith Sr, who at the age of 37 still had defensive coordinators game planning for him. Breshad Perriman remains a mystery after just his second season, and 2016 4th-round draft pick Chris Moore saw more reps on special teams than offensive snaps in his rookie campaign.
Perhaps their only proven commodity for the upcoming season is speedster receiver Mike Wallace, who enjoyed a solid and productive first year with the Ravens. While Wallace produced 1,017 on 72 receptions in 2016, even his play declined over the final quarter of the season. On top of that, many expect the team to cut him if they are not able to agree on a contract extension, due to his large 2017 cap number.
General manager Ozzie Newsome made it a point to acknowledge the importance of obtaining a wideout during the offseason whether through free agency of the draft.
“I think John [Harbaugh] touched on it at his final press conference,” stated Newsome. “We need to add some depth in the secondary. We need to improve in the offensive line. We need to find a complementary receiver.
“Yes, some of the success that we have had here is going out – whether it is by trade or free agency or cap casualty – and getting a veteran receiver that still has some juice left, that still has the ability to play at a high level. When I was talking about getting a complementary receiver, that is what I was referring to.
“It does not necessarily have to come through the draft, but it can come through other means. We definitely will be pursuing that this year.”
Unfortunately, the list of current of unrestricted free agents at the wide receiver position is anything but sexy. Perusing it, you are left thinking that, outside of Alshon Jeffrey, it’s anyone’s guess as to who would/could help the receiving corps.
Looking ahead to the 2017 NFL draft, all eyes will be on Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams. Right now, most experts expect him to be long gone by the time the Ravens select at pick 16. Corey Davis of Western Michigan has all the tools but didn’t play top competition during his collegiate career. John Ross (Washington) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (USC) are nice players, but can they step in and be true number one wideouts?
The questions are plenty. While there is ample time to answer them over the next few months, the bottom line is that the team’s ongoing search to find a go-to guy for Joe Flacco is one that fans and media alike will be watching closely. Again.
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