The Baltimore Ravens needed a tight end. They also needed a wide receiver. They ended up taking two of each over the course of the 2018 NFL Draft. But one of the reasons that they opted for the tight end over the wide receiver in the first round was because they felt that history indicates a tight end in the first round will have more success.
They need only look at their own draft history to see that. Just days after the draft ended, they chose to decline the fifth-year option on Breshad Perriman, the wide receiver on whom they used their first-round selection in 2015.
Baltimore has now in its history used first-round draft picks on wide receivers twice and tight ends twice. The other wide receiver was Mark Clayton in 2005. He had a seven-year career, five in Baltimore, but he only amassed 3448 receiving yards for 14 touchdowns over those seven years.
The other tight end was Todd Heap, one of the greatest players, at least on offense, in the franchise’s history. An all-around player who blocked as well as he caught passes, Heap finished his career just shy of 500 receptions for nearly 6000 yards with 42 touchdowns.
While Perriman flounders into obscurity, and faces an uphill battle of even making the 53-man roster in 2018, the Ravens are hoping for much different results from Hayden Hurst, their latest first-round pick. But it very nearly went another way.
According to General-Manager-In-Waiting Eric DeCosta, Baltimore had to decide while they were on the clock whom they would prefer between Hurst and Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley. These decisions would ordinarily be made in advance, but in their defense, they did trade back twice.
“I also think that if you’re just looking at predicting success, first-round tight ends, historically, have done much better than first-round wideouts, which is a much more volatile position in the draft”, DeCosta said recently in explaining why they leaned toward the tight end position over wide receiver.
The Ravens have remade the latter position almost entirely since last season, releasing Jeremy Maclin and allowing Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro to leave in free agency. They then signed John Brown, Michael Crabtree, and Willie Snead in free agency, and just drafted Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively.
As for the tight end position, Baltimore went back there for a second time in the draft with Mark Andrews in the third round. He joins a group that already consists of Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle, and Vince Mayle. For what it’s worth, they are a team that likes to carry four tight ends.