Last year, the Baltimore Ravens’ everyday receivers consisted of Torrey Smith, an undrafted free agent, a drop-prone tight end, Peyton Manning’s tight end from ten years ago and a guy that was cut and re-signed midseason — abysmal to say the least. Now, with free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft not far ahead, the Ravens have a chance to add huge improvements to their existing core of Dennis Pitta and Torrey Smith.
Let’s clear some ground rules, first, let’s rule out the names that meet my criteria but are out of the draft range or would be too expensive:
Draft: Sammy Watkins (projected top ten pick), Mike Evans (Great, but more fitted for a west coast offense)
Free Agency: Eric Decker (Too expensive), Golden Tate (too short, too cocky), James Jones (never amazing, even in Aaron Rodgers offense), Emmanuel Sanders (inconsistent), Danario Alexander (too small, coming off major injury), Kenny Britt (head case).
With that out of the way, I’ll be showing the receivers that I believe will compliment the existing core.
1. Hakeem Nicks
The 6’1”, 208 pound wide out from the University of North Carolina has been linked to the Ravens since he came out in 2009, perfect chance for the two sides to finally meet up, right? Not necessarily. Nicks is long removed from his elite status of 2010 and 2011, and with an injury history a mile long, one could argue the risk is greater than reward when signing him. When healthy, Nicks brings a unique combination of size and hands – seriously, his hands measure in at 10.5 inches, the guy orders custom fitted gloves – Nicks can play big when needed, but is also brings the ability to over the top of the secondary from time to time. Nicks’ size is a nice complement to Torrey Smith’s playmaking ability down the field and could come at a very cap friendly price. I’d say the Ravens should take a shot at the risk, barring Nicks asking for a large salary, and see what comes of it.
Edelman is one of the true Swiss army knives in the NFL, the man can play anywhere; Wide Receiver, Cornerback, Returner. I’m a huge Edelman fan, not just because he was amazing for me in fantasy last year, but because I feel like he’s a very undervalued slot receiver. The two things that could separate him and the Ravens are; he’s coming off a 1,000 yard season and he was Tom Brady’s only consistent target last year. Edelman is going to be asking for a decent sized contract no matter where he goes, which is a problem for the Ravens, but Edelman was also the only main receiver on the Patriots that wasn’t hurt. This somewhat makes Edelman a priority for the Patriots if they don’t see their other young receivers as consistent options. Edelman would make a great offensive and special teams pick up for the Ravens.
3. Donte Moncrief – Mississippi
4.4 40-yard dash? Check.
39.5 inch vertical? Check.
Moncrief is my personal dream wide receiver, he’s tall, he’s fast, and he can jump. Moncrief is coming off a Junior season where he accumulated 59 reception, 938 receiving yards, and 6 receiving touchdowns. The only knocks on him is the fact he is still young and needs time to grow into his body and his route running needs improvement, but it isn’t terrible. His projection of being taken in the second or third round of the draft is a huge plus for the Ravens. With the status of Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher still in the air, the Ravens first pick would be much better suited being focused on the offensive line. Moncrief should be what the Ravens focus on outside the first round.
4. Davante Adams – Fresno State
Athletically, there isn’t much that attracts you to Adams outside of his 6’1” height and his 39.5 inch vertical. What attracts you to Adams is his tape; he has a nose for the ball in the air and can adjust very well to it. He can win jump balls and his route running skills are above average. A season with 131 receptions, 1,718 receiving yards, and 24 is much to scoff at either. Adams problems lie in his technique; his route running isn’t very explosive when he cuts and he can be jammed at the line of scrimmage consistently. Adams is a possible first-round candidate with lots of upside, but might be too low for the 17th overall pick and too high for the 48th overall pick.
5. Martavis Bryant – Clemson
This is my contingency plan for the Ravens. If they are not able to obtain any of the other guys listed above, they SHOULD NOT miss on this guy. A height at 6’4”, 4.42 40-yard dash, and 39 inch vertical, very similar to the other two receivers in the draft that I pointed out. What comes with him though is probably the worst weakness any receiver could have coming into the NFL, inconsistent hands. He’s also a horrible route runner. The only thing this guy has going for him is his athleticism, and the last time I checked, the Ravens’ colors aren’t silver and black, and being run by Al Davis.