Ravens Should Resist Reaching For a Receiver

Odell Bechham

Now that the NFL combine has wrapped up, and players draft stocks have risen and fallen, some NFL front offices may have to reevaluate their approach to both free agency and the draft. Players, who may have been available at certain positions in the first round, may now be out of a team’s reach after an impressive combine performance.

This may prove true for wide receiver Mike Evans, from Texas A&M, who has been linked to Baltimore in several mock drafts. After a solid outing at the combine, there’s a good possibility he’s gone before the Ravens pick at 17. The general consensus is he is the second best WR in the draft behind Sammy Watkins, who will no doubt be off the board and could likely be a top 5 pick.

While there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to drafting a receiver, Watkins and Evans are the closest in this year’s draft. Aside from them, there is talent, but none the Ravens should roll the dice on with their first round pick.

Assuming they’re both gone, the Ravens best bet is to upgrade their offensive line. While guys like Jake Matthews and Greg Robinson will be off the board, there is still first round talent that could make an immediate impact in an area where the Ravens desperately need it.

Taylor Lewan from Michigan is an absolute freak of an athlete. At 6’7 309 pounds he had the fastest 40 time for any offensive lineman at 4.87, which is absolutely blazing speed for someone his size.

If Lewan is gone the Ravens should shift their focus to Zack Martin from Notre Dame. While Martin doesn’t have the prototypical size for an NFL left tackle, he has all the intangibles you look for and has said he’s willing to play any position on the line. He’s known for his work ethic, leadership and is durable, having played 52 consecutive games for the Irish. He recently drew comparisons to Ravens Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda.

Looking at the Ravens draft history, they’ve had much more success identifying talent on the offensive line in the first round than they have when reaching for a receiver.

Since 1996 the Ravens have selected 3 offensive linemen in the first round:

• Jonathan Ogden #4 in 1996
• Ben Grubbs #29 in 2007
• Michael Oher #23 in 2009

Ogden is in the Hall of Fame and is viewed as possibly the best left tackle in NFL history. Grubbs is a Pro Bowl guard who played so well in his time in Baltimore the Ravens couldn’t afford to keep him. While Oher has been considered somewhat of a disappointment, he’s started every game since being drafted by the Ravens. That’s an accomplishment in itself considering the physicality of the position he plays.

Compare this to the receivers that have been taken in the first round:

• Travis Taylor #10 in 2000
• Mark Clayton #22 in 2006

Both were huge disappointments as far as first round picks are concerned, and neither eclipsed the 1000-yard mark in a season at any point in their career.

This year’s draft is considered one of the deepest for pass catchers in recent memory. In free agency there is also a very deep pool of wide receiver talent to choose from.

Taking both of these factors into consideration, assuming Watkins and Evans are gone, the Ravens are better off reaching into free agency, or taking a wideout in the second or third round and using the first round to address another need.

After missing the playoffs for the first time in 5 years, and having a lot of holes to fill, there is pressure on the Ravens front office to deliver in this year’s draft. They don’t need developmental guys; they need players who will make an immediate impact.

More importantly, they can’t allow their desperation to find a playmaker cloud their better judgment on draft day. Reaching for a wideout that’s not worthy of a first round pick could set them back and make 2014 look very similar to 2013.

With that said, the Ravens are widely considered one of the best in the business when it comes to identifying talent.

Here’s hoping the Wizard of Oz is able to work his magic, and given his track record, it’s a safe bet he will.

 

 

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About Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones
Ryan Jones is a native of Belair MD and has been a Ravens fan since they came to Baltimore in 1996. He is a co-founder a Ravens Nation North, a group of displaced Ravens fans who get together every week to cheer for their home team. He is married to...more

11 Raves on “Ravens Should Resist Reaching For a Receiver

  1. Matt on said:

    Allen Robinson from Penn State. He is that tough, go get the ball receiver who will out jump defenders to catch the ball. He is aggressive and makes plays after the catch. Watch his highlight reel from the last two seasons. He is a perfect fit for the Ravens.

  2. D Rock on said:

    Lewan falling would be a dream come true. I don’t think it happens and if he does tumble Pittsburgh will scoop him up. I like Jarvis Landry in the Second round. He is a baller, plays tough and mean, he will be a Boldin in the NFL. Donte Moncrief is also an intriguing guy, I just like the way he catches and moves. These guys will be available later so I think you are right. No need to reach for a receiver in the first unless we trade down into the bottom of the first and pick up an extra second rounder

  3. Jeff on said:

    I agree with your general argument though I would disagree with a minor point about Mike Evans as a sure thing. So many people have remarked that despite his obvious athletic skills he is not a good route runner. Evans admits himself that he is best when running straight ahead deep, but that is Smith’s role and we need a route runner who can get open. Evans is a great sandlot player and worked well for Manziel; he would also work well for scrambling sandlot qbs like Roethlisburger or Russel Wilson. The Ravens, however, are not in that mold and I don’t think Evans would be as successful here. We have lacked good route runners who get separation and need that type of player (and one with reliable hands–ok Evans does have that part at least). So I’m mostly agreeing with you that we should not reach but want to add that we should not mourn not being able to get Evans. It would not surprise me if there are other receivers higher on Ozzie’s board.

    • dave on said:

      Jeff,

      I agree with you … totally. Evans is a great example of how being a WR in college & the NFL are almost two distinctly different positions … or at least requiring a greater & more polished skillset.

      It has been said often that athletes are in college to learn how to play at the next level. That being the case college coaches are failing to teach their WR’s the skills that they need to succeed in the NFL. An even better example, why didn’t Urban Meyer teach Tim Tebow proper throwing mechanics ?? … because he could win in the SEC with him as he was.

  4. Mr Purple on said:

    if Donald Brown is sitting there at 16 do you know what ozzie will do??? Do ya punk? lol 50 bucks says we trade our pick since we do it nearly every year. hopefully up and probably down… and still take Mr Brown

  5. Ryan on said:

    Agreed Matt! Allen Robinson in the 2nd, a taller version of Boldin with more lateral agility. He will fight for every ball, no matter the ball placement. I think he’s the perfect fit for Joe and our O.

    Oline in the first, WR in the second.

  6. Scott on said:

    I agree with the knock on Evans — Derrick Mason mentioned Mike Evans’ weak route running in an interview recently and he knows good route running when he sees it. Hey, think about this: If the Texans pick Clowney at #1 (pairing him with JJ Watt — wow!), there’s a good chance they will want to trade back into the 1st to get a QB. Adding up the point value of their 2nd, 3rd and 4th round picks (#1 in each round) works out to be roughly the value of our first round pick at #17. If Evans and Ebron are gone by the time our pick #17 comes around (pretty likely), if I’m Ozzie, I make that trade. I’d love to see us get Benjamin, Robinson, Beckham, Matthews, Landry, or M. Bryant. One of them will still be there at pick #33. We have a lot of needs so the more high picks, the better.

  7. Balfan23 on said:

    One thing you can count on with our FO … they won’t reach. When it comes time to pick if the best player available according to our board can be had later, they trade back. This should really be an exiting draft, because the talent is deep and our pick is higher than what it normally is. It will be fun to see how it shakes out.

    Still, I wouldn’t focus too much on failures in the past. It is irrelevant if we’d whiffed on WRs in the 1st round before – that was then, this is now. If there is a guy there for us that we feel good about at that position, we can’t be timid because of what happened in 8 years ago. Pull the trigger.

  8. Anonymous on said:

    M.Bryant from Clemson or J.Mathews from Vandy. Those are the two WR I would love to see here in B-More. Also Lewan would be great round 1. I also like T.West from Towson in round 4. Round 3 I’d take a TE.

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