The Baltimore Ravens took significant steps forward in revamping their offense to move in line with the modern-day NFL in the 2019 Draft.
New general manager Eric DeCosta made his intentions clear by selecting Marquise Brown with their first-round pick, adding a dynamic player to the receiving corps. The Ravens were not done there, bolstering their ranks further by selecting Miles Boykin out of Notre Dame in the third round.
Brown arrives in Baltimore with a higher degree of expectation. He is the cousin of former Pittsburgh Steelers and now Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown. Marquise enjoyed two impressive years in the college game for the Oklahoma Sooners, surpassing 1,000 receiving yards in both of his seasons under the tutelage of Lincoln Riley.
Brown along with quarterback Kyler Murray were key contributors last season to the team that reached the semi-finals of the College Football Playoffs, only to be beaten by the Alabama Crimson Tide. Without Brown and Murray, the Sooners are backed at +1400 in the American football odds to claim the crown in the 2019 season, although their task will be harder with a new crop of players.
The performance of Brown was one of the key factors in why the Sooners crashed out in the semi-finals, which may have given the Ravens cause for concern before selecting him with the 25th pick in the first round. The 21-year-old went into the contest with a leg injury, and although he took the field, Brown failed to make an impact as he was held without a catch.
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Brown was withdrawn from the fold in the second half, highlighting that he was hampered by his ailment, although the quality of the Alabama defensive backs may have also been an issue. Nick Saban’s defense has the characteristics of an NFL-style unit, displaying physicality at the line to disrupt timing and precision. Brown’s asset is his speed downfield, which makes him a tough matchup if he does get a free release. However, NFL teams will look to jam him with press coverage, preventing the 21-year-old from exploiting his opponents in space.
There are plenty of examples of players that have managed to thrive at the receiver position with his attributes and size – notably DeSean Jackson. Brown’s cousin Antonio is only an inch taller than the wideout, although he does carry more weight. The 21-year-old will have to learn the nuances of the NFL to enhance his game.
Lamar Jackson needs a steady reliable target downfield and there are not a great deal of options currently on the roster that are capable of rising to the occasion. Therefore there is pressure on Brown to hit the ground running, although the style of Ravens’ offense – run-first option could open room on play-action for him to deliver.
Baltimore has not enjoyed a great history of drafting receivers in the early rounds. Breshad Perriman was a notable recent failure, but it has not stopped DeCosta from making the move. Brown has the attributes to become a huge asset in the evolving world of offenses in the NFL. Paired with Jackson, the Ravens could have one of the most dynamic threats in the league on their hands.