The Baltimore Ravens have been one organization more than most that has not only identified the draft as its primary means of building the roster, but has also had a good deal of success doing it. Ozzie Newsome was the only General Manager the franchise has ever known up to this point, so he gets the bulk of the credit for that effort.
One area in which he did not have success, however, was in building at the wide receiver position through the draft. In fact, the best selection he ever made at wide receiver was Torrey Smith in the second round, and they allowed him to leave in free agency. If you look at their history, their best wide receivers were free agent signings, like Steve Smith most recently.
As Newsome steps into the background with Eric DeCosta moving into the formal general manager role, the longtime protégé understands that arguably his number one priority this offseason is to address not just the wide receiver position, but the team’s long-standing deficiencies in evaluating the position.
The Ravens went out this offseason and signed three wide receivers in free agency that served as their top targets. John Brown only signed a one-year deal, while Michael Crabtree could be a salary cap casualty, so they are back looking once again.
“Well that’s a challenging position, I think, to draft, to scout, and to develop for a lot of different reasons”, DeCosta admitted. “In the end, I’ve learned from Ozzie that the guy has to catch the football, first and foremost. And you’d like the guy to have some toughness and some speed, some route ability. There’s a lot of different things that you look for”.
One of the players that they drafted who couldn’t catch the ball was Breshad Perriman, a first-round pick from several years ago who had drop issues in college. He had those same issues in the pros, in addition to injuries, and that ultimately led to him being released last summer.
It certainly helps when a wide receiver can catch the ball, and run routes, and, you know, get open. But we all know that there are other factors to consider. In the Ravens’ offense as it’s currently constructed, the ability to block is being highly valued.
“Now, for instance, blocking as a wide receiver for us is important. Is really important”, DeCosta said. “So again, we’ll hash these guys out in the draft and in free agency and try to find the guys that fit us best, fit our identity, that we like their skill set. Again, under the structure of the salary cap”.
His first test will come this spring. He needs to surround Lamar Jackson with some talent that he can work with in the passing game, but it’s hard to imagine it will be an overnight project.