Although lacking in blockbuster names, the wide receiver class in the 2018 NFL draft is deep.
With an abundance of dynamic WRs projected to land in Rounds 2 and 3, the Ravens have the chance to shake up their ailing WR corps and land starting-caliber talent at good value.
If Calvin Ridley isn’t available at the 16th pick, Day 2 WRs provide the Ravens with the best “opportunity to change that room”, as mentioned by Ozzie Newsome during his Combine presser.
Here’s the problem – this stuff is difficult to predict.
The values of many Day 2 WRs are very different from one mock to the next, thus making it harder to determine where they’ll land exactly. The Combine has passed and some of these names are still all over the place!
Take Equanimeous St. Brown for example (who we’ll discuss more later). WalterFootball.com loves this prospect – St. Brown placed third in their WR positional rankings. According to their 7-round mock draft (updated March 8th), he’s slotted to be taken by the San Francisco 49ers in Round 2 with the 59th pick.
Then there’s Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, who isn’t nearly as high on St. Brown. In his 7-round mock draft (updated March 6th), Miller has St. Brown falling all the way to Round 6 to be taken by the Oakland Raiders with the 216th pick.
That’s a 157-pick difference.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that although many WRs have been linked to the Ravens, it remains unclear which specific round accurately reflects their value. This will obviously become easier to read as the weeks progress.
NOTE: I excluded the following WRs – D.J. Moore, Courtland Sutton, Christian Kirk and James Washington – due to their relatively high potential of being selected late Round 1 or early Round 2 before the Ravens. But since the positional rankings for the WR position vary, you never know who else could fall. For example, Washington would be the only WR available for the Ravens at the 52nd pick from those four names, per Miller’s mock draft. In other mocks he’s the first WR drafted.
You see what I mean?
Let’s get into it.
Michael Gallup – Colorado State (Round 2)
I was close to excluding Michael Gallup as well.
That’s because Gallup’s stock is soaring, and after a solid showing at the Combine, some even consider him a Day 1 selection. Gallup is one of the more well-rounded WRs in the draft and reflects the ideal framework that can translate into WR1 material.
Gallup has been nothing but a stud in his last two seasons after catching 176 receptions for 2,685 yards and 21 TDs. In terms of speed, size and skillset, Gallup would blend well in several types of offensive schemes.
Gallup is well known for his ability to make contested catches, which often look effortless for him. He does an excellent job at tracking the ball and putting his body in the right position to make a clean catch. This is further amplified by his 36-inch vertical, which Gallup uses to hop over DBs and snag the ball out of their reach.
These traits help Gallup especially on fade routes, where he uses his athleticism to make a acrobatic plays on the ball. Joe Flacco has never had the kind of target who can consistently haul in those 50/50 balls.
Maybe Gallup can finally fill that void.
Unlike Sutton, who relies on his big body to out-muscle opposing DBs, Gallup does an effective job at patiently adjusting his routes and uses his spectacular catch ability to pluck the ball out of the air. Players who lean on technique like Gallup have a likelier shot a transitioning to a pro level, as opposed to depending on just physical traits.
Along with his downfield presence, he’s also effective at finding the soft spots in zone coverage and excels on intermediate crossing routes with a tendency to find hefty YAC.
His ability to make contested catches is thrilling but it’s what Gallup does after the catch that speaks volumes. Gallup often celebrates these plays with a shrug, signifying just how slow the game is for him.
Apart from his vertical, Gallup’s measurables aren’t jaw-dropping.
He’s 6’1”, 205 pounds and only clocked a 4.52 40-yard dash time at the Combine. The latter is the basis of Gallup’s main criticism – his lack of speed may hinder his ability to gain separation against topflight NFL DBs. Run blocking is another skill Gallup needs to improve on if he wants to see the field as much as possible.
As more teams begin to take note of the Colorado State standout, Gallup’s value may be difficult for the Ravens to pass up if available in Round 2. Due to his natural receiving abilities and plug-and-play potential, Gallup could be one of the safest WRs to take in this draft class.
Comparison – DeVante Parker
D.J. Chark – LSU (Round 2)
When it comes to home run ability, look no further than D.J. Chark.
Everything about Chark screams big play potential – from his desirable measurables to his exciting tape – and he is another big riser coming out of the Combine.
Although the WR class is deep, there aren’t many prospects like Chark who can consistently produce separation while possessing such an ideal combination of speed, height and athleticism. Chark is 6’3”, ran a 4.34 40-yard dash time and hit a 40-inch vertical at the Combine. That’s desirable, to put it mildly.
Chark has built his resume by making the most out of a limited amount of touches. On only 66 receptions in his last two seasons, Chark notched 1,340 yards and 6 TDs while averaging 20.5 YPC.
This production is attributed to his success on fly routes, in which Chark can make you pay in two ways – making a double move to gain leverage over the DB or by using his size and ball tracking ability to effectively make contested catches.
Apart from his vertical game, Chark also performs well on comeback routes by using his quick feet to find openings, which is followed by an immediate shift into second gear to pick up high YAC.
If the Ravens move on from Mike Wallace, they’ll need a receiver like Chark who knows how to stretch the field and pick up chunk yardage. Enticingly, 36 percent of Chark’s receptions were from throws of 25 yards or longer.
That screams big play potential.
Chark was also productive as a ball carrier after rushing for a career 4 TDs while averaging 10.6 YPC on only 25 carries. But the latter stat has been heavily inflated by a blazing 79-yard end-around run on which Chark scored in the 2015 Texas Bowl. Who knows, maybe he could help the Ravens run a WR screen pass longer than 5 yards next season?
Chark has been doing all the right things to improve his stock since his college season ended, including an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl. Chark stood out with 5 receptions for 160 yards and 1 TD – he was far and away the best WR that day. Complemented by an effective outing from his QB Kyle Lauletta, this could’ve been a flash of how good Chark can be with a competent passer.
Inconsistency will be Chark’s main criticism as he transitions to the pro level.
As mentioned earlier, Chark didn’t get the ball too often and scouts have mentioned his 190-pound frame and tendency to get beat by press CBs as points of concern. However, poor QB at LSU might have played a bigger part in his limited touches, especially considering how active Chark is a deep threat.
Comparison – Ted Ginn
Dante Pettis – Washington (Round 2-3)
Of all the WRs I’ve watched, I found myself rewinding Dante Pettis’ highlights the most.
Pettis is one of the more dynamic players in the draft and has the explosive skillset that the Ravens have been lacking in their WR corps. Not only is Pettis one the best route runners in the WR class, he’s widely considered the top return specialist and is electrifying once the ball is in his hands.
What makes Pettis so entertaining is that he plays with a high amount of confidence – he always seems to know exactly where to be before and after the ball is thrown.
His finely tuned movements and fluid hips help Pettis to run smooth routes, which is complemented by his ability to hit a joystick-like double move to gain separation over the top. But what makes Pettis special is his elusiveness as a runner. He has a knack for making one guy miss and finding room to effortlessly cruise past the rest of the defense for huge gains.
Pettis is mostly effective as a wideout through displaying deep ball capability on post routes and acting as a red zone threat on contested fade routes. His ball-tracking ability and strong hands help Pettis excel on these route types. While in the slot, Pettis has shown to be effective on dig routes and has the ball-carrier vision to find open real estate. Of these five WRS, Pettis makes the greatest utilization of the full route tree.
Oh, and about his punt return game.
Pettis smashed every major NCAA punt return record last season including the following:
- 9 Career punt return TDs – the most in NCAA history.
- 4 punt return TDs in 2017 – the most in a single season.
- 4 yards per punt return in 2017 – highest average in a single season.
A more than suitable replacement if Michael Campanaro leaves in free agency.
Pettis had his best season in 2016,catching 53 receptions for 822 yards and 15 TDs. But consistency became an issue for Pettis in 2017, as he scored 6 TDs in the first five weeks and only 1 TD during the remainder of the season. Reminds me of Wallace in his first year as a Raven in that regard.
Scouts have attributed this drop-off to the greater amounts attention being placed on Pettis after his former teammate John Ross was drafted. Like Ross, Pettis’ 195-pound frame is on the light side and he may find difficulty in taking on stronger press CBs.
Although given some Round 2 consideration, an ankle injury that prevented Pettis from participating in on-field drills during the Combine has left him mainly in the Round 3 discussion. Had Pettis been granted the opportunity to show off his athleticism, his stock could have been priced out the Ravens’ Day 2 reach.
Comparison – Andre Roberts
Anthony Miller – Memphis (Round 3)
You’ll like Anthony Miller’s comparison, but first let’s find out why.
What the Ravens lack most in their WR corps are the qualities Miller is most known for – strong hands, competitiveness, and the willingness to fight for every ball.
Miller isn’t the most sure-handed receiver but can still make spectacular catches when it counts. His excellent ball tracking ability allows him to adjust his body accordingly and lay out on tough grabs.
Miller’s skills are reflected in the numbers, having notched 191 receptions for 2,896 yards and 32 TDs in his last two seasons. Although lacking in size at 5’11”, he earns his production with attitude.
Sounds like someone familiar?
Flacco’s mechanics have noticeably regressed in recent seasons, which has caused his ball location to be off at times. Miller could be Flacco’s ‘get out of jail free card’ to bail him out of tough third down attempts. Perhaps Miller could fill the role in which the now departed Jeremy Maclin never seemed to fit.
Miller excels on deep balls by using his quickness off the LOS and crisp route running to find openings in coverage. Most of his production came on post and fly routes but being able to play both in the slot and outside, Miller can make an impact on all three levels of the field.
Although possessing similar traits as the names mentioned above, Miller is widely-labelled a Round 3 WR and hasn’t quite entered the same discussion as Gallup, Chark or Pettis.
Undersized and underappreciated? You’re getting warmer…
As mentioned earlier, Miller has inconsistent hands and has tendency to drop short passes while open. Although he might be able to make the difficult catches, it might become frustrating to see Miller develop a pattern of dropping the ‘gimmes’. I’m sure the Ravens have had enough of that.
There’s also concerns regarding a foot fracture that prevented Miller from playing in the Senior Bowl and running the 40 at the Combine. As injuries haunted the WR corps last season, I’m sure the Ravens have had enough of that too.
Alas, the former walk-on has more questions to answer yet again. You would think he might have silenced the critics after becoming the most accomplished WR in Memphis history. But if the Ravens are looking for an X-factor who plays with a chip on his shoulder, they might just look Miller’s way.
And without further ado…
Comparison – Steve Smith, Sr.
Equanimeous St. Brown – Notre Dame (Round 3)
Equanimeous St. Brown is a fascinating prospect.
Many analysts don’t necessarily know what to think of St. Brown and his sub-par production in 2017 – was he the product of sloppy QB at Notre Dame or is exactly what’s shown on tape? What caused such a drop off after a stellar 2016 season?
These are the questions that loom over St. Brown coming into the draft.
What’s certain is that St. Brown has plenty of raw potential and offers a high ceiling if he lands with the right team that can refine his skills. This would be an interesting project for Ravens to take on if he’s available in Round 3.
St. Brown’s promise begins with the measurables – his 6’5”, 214-pound frame and 33” wingspan makes him one big dude with a sizeable catch radius. His size is complemented by speed and after running 4.48 40-yard dash time at the Combine, St. Browns physicals have become a palatable thought for scouts.
The lankiness of St. Brown helps him take long strides to gain separation on short underneath routes and intermediate passes. He’s effective over the middle and does a good job at following his QB’s eyes to be in the right place when plays are breaking down. St. Brown has the ideal traits of a red zone target and could possibly fill the role the Ravens once envisioned for Darren Waller.
St. Brown was at the top of his game with Deshone Kizer throwing to him, as he caught 58 receptions for 961 yards and 9 TDs in 2016. With his big arm and scrambling ability to extend plays, Kizer developed good chemistry with St. Brown and even played well enough to earn a Round 2 draft selection.
The same couldn’t be said when Brandon Wimbush took over.
Everything about Wimbush was significantly worse including poor ball location and the inability to lead his WRs into throws. His lack of play awareness was evident in the amount of times he missed St. Brown while wide open.
Wimbush threw for 1,055 less passing yards and 10 less TDs than Kizer in 2017. That lead to St. Brown catching 25 less receptions, 446 less yards and 5 less TDs the same year.
But he can’t only play the blame game.
One concern about St. Brown is that he’s a big WR that doesn’t necessarily play like one. This article made a good point that for a big-bodied player like St. Brown, he’s not too competitive on contested catches and doesn’t box-out DBs like how you would expect.
But with that said, it’s evident that pieces around St. Brown prevented him from reaching his full potential as a college receiver. What remains uncertain is if that potential will help St. Brown transition into the NFL level.
Comparison – Michael Thomas
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