The Ravens’ Best WR Option at 22

NFL Draft The Ravens’ Best WR Option at 22

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While it’s well known that I’m leading the #TeamTradeback mob and insisting the Ravens slide back from pick 22 into the back end of Round 1 (or later), I understand that it’s a completely realistic possibility that Eric DeCosta & Friends stay put at their current slotted selection.

If it’s meant to be, then we need a plan, and luckily for you? I have the prospect the Ravens should focus on at pick 22.

Oh yea! Mystery player! At least you can see he’s a pass-catcher who had a great Combine… now here’s the next clue, courtesy of Lance Zierlein of NFL-dot-com.

Dark Horse Prospect Strengths

  1. Mega-athlete who excelled in triple jump, high jump and basketball
  2. Accelerates off snap for immediate seam and attacks
  3. Big initial burst gains easy separations
  4. Runs with long, loose strides downfield
  5. Speed and play talent to work all areas of the field
  6. Had nearly one touchdown for every four catches in college
  7. Springy leaper with outstanding catch radius up top
  8. Sinks and scoop low throws
  9. Speed to open it up and take off after catch
  10. Has potential to become a nightmare cover near end zone
  11. Able to stay balanced and centered as move blocker
  12. Initial hands as blocker are inside and well-placed

What did we learn? Our mystery fella is a big, physical receiver who can make the splashy plays, has a great catch radius that can help an inaccurate QB in a pinch, presents a formidable End Zone threat, scores aplenty, and has some true ability in the blocking game. 

You’re salivating, aren’t you? You’re dying to figure out who this mystery wide receiver is, right?

It’s…not a wideout. 

It’s NOAH FANT, IOWA TIGHT END!

Indeed, I 100% stand my ground that the Ravens should consider drafting Noah Fant at pick 22. 

“Hey dumbass blog guy, why are we taking a… (can’t math)… like 8th Tight End?!”

Well, friend, it’s rather simple.

A few months ago, Ravens GM Eric DeCosta was asked about the type of receivers they covet moving forward. He replied by noting his prefered ability for receivers to play physical and block well, in order to help Lamar Jackson‘s offense. 

That’s Fant.

Fast forward to February, and the same question was asked of Greg Roman. His responses pointed to “guys that can get open, catch the ball, but I think one thing that’s unique – we need that tough guy too here that can go out and block a nickel, block a safety and win that matchup.”

Again, that’s Fant.

“But he’s a tight end, not a wide receiver, you boat shoe wearing fool!”

Tell me friend, what’s the difference between a TE and WR?

In their traditional roles, the differences were clear, but the modern day version of a Tight End isn’t that far off from a Wide Receiver. If anything, I think the Tight End position is actually two positions under one title, much like the Wide Receiver position can be broken into X, Y, and Z. You have your traditional in-line blocking tight end, then you have a more elusive, pass catching tight end. Even more rare is the player that can handle both roles, and do it well.

While Hayden Hurst was drafted with the same line of logic (blocks great and catches everything), Fant is in the same mold, and an even better prospect than Hurst last year. Mark Andrews is a bona fide pass-catching machine in the middle of the field, and much to my surprise, he’s shown some improvement in his blocking game as well (in all fairness, Lincoln Riley wasn’t asking Andrews to do much blocking at OU, just get open and catch what Baker Mayfield threw). Nick Boyle is also that type of player, although he’s shown to be the best blocking tight end of the bunch, and lower on the pass catching spectrum here. 

Fant, in my opinion, provides a greater value to the Ravens than any traditional receiver they’d snag at 22. He can rip the ball out of the air, provides Jackson with a big-bodied target, brings solid ability to block, works all over the damn field, and has some wheels to boot.

For a general comparison to the top ranked wideouts – because we know you want to go there – here’s how Fant matches up against the top-3 projected wideouts to Baltimore:

So check it: Fant is taller than DK and Harry, has bigger hands than Harry & is damn near the same size as DK, has longer arms than Harry, benches more than Butler, has better vertical and broad jump than Butler or Harry, and crushed DK on the 3-cone (while Harry and Butler didn’t get to those final drills). I didn’t mention his 40 time (despite a great 4.5 time), but realizing that Fant ran that stellar time at 20-lbs heavier than every one of these wideouts?

Flat. Out. Impressive.

Overall, you’d have a hard time selling me that Fant isn’t the top receiver prospect in this draft.

So why do the Ravens need four of the same player, especially in a league where you typically never see more than two tight ends on the field at a time?

*CHESS*

First and foremost, titles be damned. I don’t see this as a TE vs WR matchup, but more of a skill player to help the offense in Baltimore. By adding Fant, the Ravens would be giving Jackson another big radius, big-bodied receiver who can catch anything thrown in his general direction.

Based on LJ’s current development as a passer, there’s no question that the prototypical pass catcher that best thrives in this offense fits the Fant mold. The build/frame of a Tight End like Fant/Hurst/Andrews/Boyle is exactly the type of receiver he’d thrive with – much like an X receiver, with better blocking abilities, and the ability to play more positions across the field.

Should the Ravens utilize a three-man tight end deployment on the field or, hell, even a four-man(!) the mismatches would be easily identifiable and exploited. Defenses would surely struggle against the TE Quad (they would need a name), and for Lamar it would become a ‘pick your poison’ scenario on passing downs.

Undersized slot versus Mark Andrews? Fant on the outside with a five-yard cushion? Perhaps Boyle is in the H-Back rolls out for a quick pass while everyone’s focus is on Lamar? How does a defense effectively defend a four-Tight End set with a group like this, that can beat you up through the air, or as a blocking brigade on the ground?

Yes, I understand no other team is doing this. But no other team has a quarterback like the Ravens, and this offense needs to focus on chess, not checkers. Baltimore would make the the ultimate power play to break the mold and draft Noah Fant as their 4th Tight End to implement in a TE-focused offense as a counter to tradition.

Be bold. Be brash. Spit in the face of the traditional formations, and force teams to reevaluate how to face the next phase of the Ravens offense. 

Or, if you’re still uneasy, just change Mark Andrews to a receiver title/number, then draft Fant and still do what I say. 

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Adam Bonaccorsi

About Adam Bonaccorsi

Living on the farce-side of Baltimore sports, Adam spends his time focusing on the satirical nature of our local teams- conveniently, sometimes the narrative writes itself! He's not one to shy away from controversial opinions, speaking his mind, or dropping a truth bomb into the Purple Kool Aid. More from Adam Bonaccorsi

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