While the Baltimore Ravens have been a sort of model franchise for an expansion team—they have won two Super Bowls in the past two decades, after all—and have done a very good job of building from the ground up via the draft, their longstanding blind spot in acquiring draft talent has been at the wide receiver position.
One would be hard-pressed to find many exciting names that they have drafted. Arguably the most accomplished such wide receiver would be Torrey Smith, as they have had to rely on free agent signings instead, such as Steve Smith, Mike Wallace, and John Brown most recently.
One of the reasons they haven’t had a lot of success, at least recently, however, is simply because they haven’t used many draft picks on the position, according to General Manager Eric DeCosta. They have only selected 11 wide receivers in the past decade, and of that group, only Smith and 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman have been selected earlier than the fourth round.
“One of the biggest things that we have to do is just take some at-bats and swing”, he said during the team’s pre-draft press conference yesterday. “It’s hard to be a .400 hitter if you’re only at bat twice. We’ve got to take some chances. We’ve got to find some guys that we like and try to appreciate the really good football players, the guys that make plays”.
In contrast, the Steelers have drafted 12 wide receivers (depending on whether or not you’re willing to call Dri Archer one) in the same time period. That’s obviously a similar amount, but it also includes seven players drafted in the second or third rounds: Mike Wallace in 2009; Emmanuel Sanders in 2010; Markus Wheaton in 2013; Dri Archer in 2014 (and Martavis Bryant in round four); Sammie Coates in 2015; JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2017; and James Washington in 2018.
The Ravens’ starting lineup last season featured three wide receivers that they had just acquired in free agency: the aforementioned John Brown, Michael Crabtree, and slot receiver Willie Snead. Of the three, Crabtree was released earlier this offseason and Brown signed elsewhere.
Baltimore currently only has five wide receivers on their roster, some of whom have never caught a pass before, including their two draft picks in 2018, Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley, who were early day-three picks.
In addition to Snead, there is Chris Moore, their number four receiver last season, going into his fourth year, and Quincy Adeboyejo, a former undrafted free agent who spent almost all of 2017 on the practice squad and then all of last season on the PUP List.
The team had better get the bat of the shoulders and start swinging, because right now they can’t even run an 11 personnel package with players who have caught a football in a game before.