The Baltimore Ravens are turning the ball over to the running game this season on offense, or at least that’s what we’ve been hearing throughout the offseason. We’ve also heard that Greg Roman’s scheme is going to surprise a lot of people. Yet in spite of all that, they used some of their most premium picks in the 2019 NFL Draft on a pair of wide receivers—including a first-round pick with a slight build who is still recovering from a foot injury suffered in college last year.
That would be ‘Hollywood’, Marquise Brown, the cousin of former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. He was the first wide receiver selected, with the 25th-overall pick, and one of only two taken in the first round, the other being N’Keal Harry, who would go to the New England Patriots with the last pick of the first day of the weekend-long event.
But when will the Browns actually see him on the field? Head Coach John Harbaugh said weeks ago as their spring practices were closing—in which their first-round pick of course did not participate—that “my expectation is that he’ll open training camp”. But to that he added, “I don’t think you can say that for certain. You just don’t know how things are going to progress”.
Especially with something like a foot injury, which can involve a tricky recovery period, in part given how difficult it is to actually fully rest the injury with no strain at all, but also due to the complexity and relative fragility of its structure.
The last time the Ravens drafted a wide receiver in the first round, it didn’t go so well. That was Breshad Perriman in 2015, who was injured during his rookie season, but was ever able to establish a role. His most accomplished season was in 2016, when he caught 33 passes for 499 yards and three touchdowns. He was released last year and ended up having some success with the Cleveland Browns.
But it’s vital for the future of the team’s offense that Brown, and the quarterback throwing to him, Lamar Jackson, both work out. Jackson, the 32nd-overall pick last year, helped the team go 6-1 in the final seven games last year, but that was predicated largely on his unique rushing ability and a lack of proper scouting by opponents, the latter of which will not be an issue in year two as the designated starter.
The Ravens have had such difficulty drafting and developing wide receivers that the majority of their career leaders at that position have been free agents. That includes the man atop the list, Derrick Mason, though former second-round pick Torrey Smith is next among wide receivers. There was also Mark Clayton, but he had all of 3116 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Others like Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith are likely better-remembered.