For years, Baltimore Ravens fans have been yearning for the team to make a bold draft day decision and finally select a wide receiver in the first round. It had not happened since 2005 (Mark Clayton) and the only second round receiver selected in the past decade was Torrey Smith.
Last week, the trend finally ended, as the Ravens front office decided to buck recent history and draft Central Florida wide receiver Breshad Perriman.
After losing Torrey Smith to free agency, the Ravens needed a deep threat wide receiver. To fill that void, the Ravens drafted the receiver most similar to Torrey Smith with a first-round grade in Perriman.
At 6’2, 212 pounds with a blazing reported sub-4.25 40-yard dash time, Perriman’s physical qualities make him an enticing player. In college, he applied his speed in games to the tune of over 20 yards per reception in each of his final two seasons.
Despite all of the wowing physical qualities, there are reasons why Perriman was available late in the first round. Although he has immense upside traits, there are some drawbacks to his game which makes him a true high ceiling, low floor player.
During his three seasons at UCF, he totaled 115 receptions, 19.5 yards per reception and 16 touchdowns. A receiver needs elite speed in order to have such a high average on that many receptions, and that is the biggest part of Perriman’s game.
What separates Perriman from other deep threats like DeSean Jackson and T.Y. Hilton, however, is his size. Perriman has speed similar to those players, but his large frame could make him an even bigger threat to opposing defenses.
Perriman’s burst off the line and top-end speed are quite noticeable here:
Even though the pass was horrible, he shows off his ability to use his speed to gain separation.
While he is far from a one-trick pony, this will be Perriman’s most valuable traits as a rookie, especially as part of a passing attack that is now without their biggest deep threats of 2014, Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones.
Now you might saying, “If Perriman isn’t a one-trick pony, then what other skills does he possess?” He also has a wide catch radius along the sideline.
Perriman’s lengthy arms and willingness to pluck the ball out of the air help him haul in quick throws:
With the corner playing the deep ball, Perriman breaks off his route to gain separation along the sideline and grabs the ball out of the air. This will help him to become more than just a speedy receiver.
Perriman is also not afraid to run routes over the middle. He can sift through tight coverage lanes and find open space between the numbers where fast receivers often find room to run after the catch.
Here, Perriman shows off the inherent vision and awareness necessary to gain separation for yards after the catch:
Particularly during his rookie season, Perriman’s speed will be his most touted trait and rightfully so. But that should not warrant any prejudgements that he lacks diversity as a receiver.
His ability to work the middle of the field will become more apparent as he further develops.
But as mentioned before, there are drawbacks to his game that should make the Ravens wary of his immediate impact for the franchise.
First and foremost, Perriman’s hands are a concern. His high drop rate in college is fairly unprecedented for a first round selection.
Perriman often lets the easy ones slip away, but he is also inconsistent on catchable but well-defended balls.
Inconsistent hands can be fixable, but it won’t happen overnight. It’s unreasonable to expect him to become a consistent pass catcher in year one. But now that football is his full-time job, Perriman can work on his hands full time to reduce his number of drops.
Along with the poor hands comes another trait that both Torrey Smith and Breshad Perriman lack: aggressiveness. Perriman often waits for the ball to come to him instead of attacking it, particularly on deep passes.
In this example, Perriman, with a much bigger frame than the cornerback, should not allow him the defender to box him out to the sideline:
While he has shown the ability to make contested catches downfield, this happens more often than it should. If he can consistently attack the ball in the air, he can become more of a vertical threat.
Perriman will likely be compared to Torrey Smith more than any other player for most of his career, and with good reason. They have similar playing styles, and Perriman will eventually replace Smith in the starting lineup.
Perriman has a higher ceiling than Smith, but he also has a lower floor. If Perriman is molded into the receiver that his physical traits would allow, then he will certainly be a more impactful, diverse receiver than Smith. However, if Perriman’s hands, body control, and aggressive nature do not improve, Perriman may not replicate even Smith’s worst season.
Ravens fans should enter the 2015 season with tempered expectations for Perriman. He has more than enough desirable qualities to succeed in the NFL, but he must improve on the negative parts of his game.
Long term, the positive attributes should allow him to be molded into a well-rounded wide receiver with proper coaching from wide receivers coach Bobby Engram (who helped to fine-tune the receiving corps for Gary Kubiak’s offense last year). With some good coaching and a much better quarterback than he had at UCF in Joe Flacco (UCF’s quarterback play was awful in 2014), he has every all the resources necessary to improve the things that need work.
It just might not show in his rookie season.