Which Type of WR is Best Fit for Ravens? AP Photo/Darren Cummings

NFL Draft Which Type of WR is Best Fit for Ravens?

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Ravens Wide Receiver Corps: Built for comfort? Or built for speed?

Intros are tedious sometimes, and I feel like I don’t need much of a lead in here to say ”blah blah blah Draft’ or ‘blah blah blah needs’ that you haven’t read a million times before…

Let’s keep it simple: the Ravens still need wideouts. Pundits and fans alike seem to be torn on not only which player(s) would be ideal for Baltimore, but also what style of passing offense makes the most sense for the Ravens.

I think it’s time to settle this debate.

First and foremost, you need to look at the current iteration of the Ravens offense, one that features the dynamic but perhaps vertically-challenged Lamar Jackson. Lamar’s strengths are pretty straight forward: short-to-medium depth passes between the numbers, taking off with blazing speed when nobody is open, and drawing defenses on bootlegs and designed runs. 

Oh, and “he’s a winner” if that’s the sort of intangible you like to argue.

In regards to his deficiencies, LJ struggles with general accuracy (he can drop the occasional dime, but more often than not he’s slightly-to-horribly off target), specifically outside of the numbers and downfield. While personal work in the offseason is hopefully going to help Lamar with his mechanics and throwing motion to improve his game, the Ravens need to figure out which type of receiver would best fit LJ’s skills and help him to succeed. 

The question then becomes: did Lamar struggle because he needs better weapons outside of the numbers and deep? Or do you continue to focus on his strengths for the betterment of the offense?

Determining where you stand on that hypothetical may determine which type of player you’d like the Ravens to draft at wide receiver, but if you’re still torn, let’s weigh some pros and cons of each category. 

Built For Comfort

N'Keal Harry jumps a defender.

What the hell does this mean?

On one hand, you have the folks who want to give Lamar every friggin’ big-body wideout in this draft. They want massive catch radii to give Lamar that warm & fuzzy (see: comfort) feeling tossing it to his receivers and letting these guys rip the ball away from defenders. Everyone longs for the days when Anquan Boldin would hit his spot, climb the ladder, and nearly rip a DB’s arm out of the socket while pulling the ball down to move the chains. 

BIG body = BIG target

Best fit?

DK Metcalf, Hakeem Butler, N’Keal Harry, Jalen Hurd

Why does it make sense?

It makes a ton of sense, given LJ’s accuracy issues, to get the biggest bullseye you can find to keep the potential for completions high. Typically, the big bodied ‘X’ receivers that fit this mold tend to be bullies as well. They’re not afraid to run block when called upon, and if they get the ball in space, they’ll make you pay for trying to stop them. 

Why am I wrong for thinking this makes sense?

The counter to this – and it really varies from receiver to receiver – is that your massive wingspan, big ass dudes playing outside tend to lack in the separation department. A guy like Metcalf has blazing speed in the combine, but also had historically awful three-cone time, which is directly correlated to cutting in & out of breaks. 

Then there’s those who covet the massive size of Butler. His route tree, like the others, is under-developed, but his biggest flaw that they also seem to breeze right past is his 15.5% drop rate, which is something the Ravens can ill afford to risk at pick 22 (perhaps if he fell to the back half of Round 2, we take the risk).

Regardless of why they cannot separate, you’d still be challenging Lamar to throw to a spot only his guy can go get it, as the receiver is likely draped by a DB. Yes, the target increases, but not by as much as I’d like.

Built for Speed

 

What the hell does this mean?

‘Speed’ can be translated best in terms of ‘how fast is WR X from point A to point B?’ but this also encompasses quickness, which is how fast the receiver can get in and out of breaks, start and stop, accelerate, etc. This type of receiver can burn you in a straight line, or they can get the ball and pull away rather quickly. They can lose the DB on their route with a quick twitch move at the top of the route, but no matter how they do it?

They. Get. Open.

Best fit?

Marquise Brown, Andy Isabella, Mecole Hardman, Parris Campbell

Why does it make sense?

It’s pretty obvious, but speed/quickness can generate bigger separation, thus giving Lamar the necessary room for error. In the event Lamar throws slightly behind or above his receiver, it’s less likely that there’s a defender on his hip, ready to pick it off or break it up. You can also use these type of players more in the short game as a supplement to the run game, via direct snaps, end-arounds, quick hitch/out, dump offs, etc. then let your guy take off like a bat out of hell. 

This type of speed at WR will also marry well with the decisive nature of the Ravens run game, while keeping the Offensive Line fresh (less sustained blocking), and keeping defenses on their toes.

Why am I an idiot for thinking this makes sense?

Typically, your ‘fast’ wideouts fall into one of two categories: deep threats or slot receivers. The Ravens already have two slot receivers in Willie Snead and newly-acquired Seth Roberts, so adding a third is just keeping the bench warm til 2020 when both are free agents.

As for deep threats, it’s not exactly a match for Lamar at his current development, based on 2018. Once the switch was made from Joe Flacco to Jackson, we saw the deep ball usage and effectiveness drop off (no doubt a direct correlation). Even when it was deployed for a bomb, LJ was off-target more often than not. If you’re going to get a burner, doesn’t it make more sense to do so later in the draft since he’ll just be running 9s to take the top off?

There are some anomalies like Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown that can do it all, but the concerns about his Lisfranc recovery, coupled with his frail stature (5’09”, 166lbs) make him a tough sell in the NFL as those traits don’t typically translate to success. 

Bonus Option C: Built for Precision

What the hell does this mean?

The players who fall into this category don’t excel (accel?) in the speed department, nor are they massive targets, but I’ll be damned if they’re not well-rounded guys with high floors that will 100% contribute to an offense.

These are masters of their craft, and stewards of the game. These wideouts are crisp route runners with great hands, understand body positioning, know how to use defenders’ weaknesses to their benefit, and effectively run block when called upon. Everything they do may not be elite level, but they’re extremely precise in their execution of everything they do.

Best fit?

A.J. Brown, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Miles Boykin, Kelvin Harmon

Why does it make sense?

The Ravens’ typical WR target during the Harbaugh Era has been fairly simplistic: they possess traits over tape. The Ravens look at guys with great speed or physical attributes, but disregard or place less emphasis on a receiver’s hands (drop rate), route-running ability, and blocking ability. Don’t believe me? 

Breshad Perriman had speed and size, but a limited route tree and awful hands. Jordan Lasley is a big play threat with quickness, but had a CFB worst drop %. Jaleel Scott is a big dude, but he’s a terrible route runner. Torrey Smith had great straight line speed, but horrible hands and a weak route tree. Michael Campanaro (drops/injury history), Aaron Mellette (lack of separation), so on, and so forth. 

The Ravens’ draft history of wideouts show a true lack of fundamentals and a lack of emphasis on strong hands. 

This category is the polar opposite of everything they’ve valued up to this point.

No, these ‘Precision’ guys don’t provide a major advantage for Lamar in terms of accuracy, but let’s think big picture: if the Ravens were to strictly build an offense for Lamar, only to see him fail to develop? They’ve just committed an entire offense to a style of play they’d likely steer clear of in 2-3 years time, thus looking for another revamp

Why am I an idiot for thinking this makes sense?

For some folks, the Ravens need to reach for the stars and find the elite prospects that, in my opinion, don’t exist in this draft. Sure, guys like Hollywood and DK have crazy high ceilings, but they come with inherent risk that the Ravens can ill-afford to take on given a piss poor history drafting the position.

Players in this category, however, are exactly the type of receiver the Ravens should be coveting and ranking high on their Draft Big Boards. You won’t whiff. They will help the offense grow, and in turn, help Lamar develop. And even in the event a QB change is needed in 2-3 years? These ‘Precision’ guys will be there to transition with ease. 

Feel free to drop your two cents, and let me know why I’m 100% wrong!

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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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