Marquise Brown was the first wide receiver taken off the board in the 2019 NFL Draft. This was in spite of the fact that he suffered a significant foot injury during his final season in college, and that it would be known he would be spending the bulk of his offseason with whatever team that drafted him simply recovering from that injury.
The Baltimore Ravens weighed the risks and rewards and determined that it was worth making the plunge. At least so far, that investment has appeared to pay off. While he would obviously cool down from the four-catch, 147-yard, two-touchdown debut he had in Week One, he had a fine rookie season for an offense that failed to produce even 3300 passing yards.
Brown finished his rookie season having caught 46 of 71 targets for 584 yards and seven touchdowns. In the Ravens’ lone postseason game, he caught seven passes for 126 yards as well. And he did all of this while playing with a screw in his foot.
Late last month, he underwent surgery to have that screw removed. He is expected to miss some of the offseason as a result of this as he heals from this latest surgery, but he should be fine by training camp, and will now finally be at 100 percent.
Baltimore fell in love with Brown because of the deep-speed dimension that he could add to an offense that, by admission, would be focusing on the run game. With Lamar Jackson functioning as their lead runner, in essence, and traffic cop of sorts, and paired with free agent signing Mark Ingram, the Ravens posted one of the most prolific rushing offenses in years.
As a team, they rushed for 3296 yards, the most in NFL history, with 21 touchdowns. That is more than double the total rushing yards that they allowed, over 200 yards per game, and only 29 yards fewer than they had through the air, amazingly enough.
The Ravens rushed for over 200 yards in nine of their 16 games, and never had fewer than 118. Only three games saw them gain fewer than 173 rushing yards, which is remarkable. It’s no surprise that they sent something like a dozen players to the Pro Bowl.
But if they can open up the passing game, particularly with a field-stretching threat like Brown, the offense could be taken to a whole other level. Last season, the offense ran primarily through its tight ends, who not only were critical run-blockers but also their primary targets in the passing game, with Mark Andrews leading the way and making the Pro Bowl.
Baltimore began overhauling its wide receiver position last offseason, letting John Brown walk and releasing Michael Crabtree. In addition to Brown, they also drafted Myles Boykin early, and both young wide receivers are expected to take a significant step forward in 2020 to help with Jackson’s passing game, whose most established receiver was veteran slot presence Willie Snead.