2012 NFL Draft: 5 Wide Receivers Baltimore Ravens Must Target
Even though they may not address it in the first round, the Baltimore Ravens clearly have a pressing need at wide receiver. This need was compounded on Friday with the news that the Ravens cut Lee Evans.
Even with all of the criticism surrounding Evans' play in 2011, he was their third-string receiver, and his departure leaves a void in the Ravens receiving corps.
Currently, most of the Ravens' backup receivers are young players, including 2011 rookies Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams. The team could stay with the current crop of youth, or it could try to add new receivers, whether through the draft or free agency.
This year's draft class is rich at the wide receiver position, so it's possible that the Ravens could pick up a receiver in the later rounds that could contribute in the NFL soon.
Here are five of those receivers that could end up wearing a Ravens jersey next season.
Rueben Randle is viewed as one of the top wide receiver prospects in the entire class. The junior out of LSU has been projected to go as early as the later part of the first round.
Randle has been dealing with high expectations ever since he joined LSU as the No. 1 wide receiver in 2008's recruiting class. For the most part, he lived up to them, ending his career with 97 receptions for 1,634 yards and 13 touchdowns.
He put up those numbers amid inconsistent quarterback play from Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson, two quarterbacks with career completion percentages of less than 60 percent.
Recently, Randle has been dealing with a disappointing combine showing that could drop his draft status. His times were particularly disappointing in the 40-yard dash, where he ran a 4.55, and in the vertical jump, where he jumped 31.0 inches.
Despite the setbacks that could come from his combine performance, Randle should still go fairly high in the draft thanks to his strong hands and his vertical route-running. He has a very high ceiling, and the Ravens could benefit should he drop a little further in the draft.
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It might be a long shot to think that Michael Floyd will slip all the way to the Ravens' No. 29 spot. As the second- or third-best receiver prospect, Floyd could slip simply because of NFL teams looking to address different positions in the earlier rounds. He could also slip due to lingering concerns over his maturity.
These maturity questions come from a drunk driving incident in March of 2011 that resulted in a lengthy suspension from Notre Dame football. Although Floyd missed the majority of the team's offseason workouts, he didn't let it affect his statistics. He had his best collegiate season, finishing with 100 receptions for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns.
Despite these concerns, Floyd has a lot going for him. He demonstrated his speed by running a 4.42-second 40-yard dash, and he's also a big target at 6'3" and 220 pounds. Floyd also has amazing body control and nearly perfect hands.
The Ravens would be a good place for a receiver with character concerns like Floyd. With the strong veteran presence in the locker room, Floyd could grow into an elite NFL receiver should he come to Baltimore.
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One of the most gifted all-around athletes available in this year's draft is Baylor receiver Kendall Wright. In addition to playing football, Wright also played on Baylor's basketball team during his freshman year in 2008.
During his freshman season, he won a starting wide receiver job that he kept for the entirety of his college career.
Like Rueben Randle, Wright also disappointed in the 40-yard dash, only running a 4.61. A good pro day could go a long way in improving his draft status and could even jump him ahead of Michael Floyd.
For the 2011 season, Wright finished with 108 receptions for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns, which was his best season as a receiver. He was clearly the favorite target of Robert Griffin III and contributed greatly to his Heisman-winning season.
As a Raven, Wright could step into a third- or fourth-receiver role and contribute to the team early.
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If the Ravens want to look for speed, they might consider Stephen Hill.
The junior receiver from Georgia Tech ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash time at 4.36 seconds. His body of work shows that this 40 time was no fluke, either, as he has been fast his entire career.
Hill's main value is based on his ability as a deep threat. He recorded nearly 30 yards per catch during his senior year, which is just crazy for a starting receiver. However, his value is mostly limited to being a deep threat since he struggles with reading coverages and even with catching balls sometimes.
Still, his deep passing skills alone should assure that Hill gets picked midway through the first round. If the rest of his game can catch up, Hill could even be the draft's top sleeper pick.
Having him and Torrey Smith would suddenly make the formerly slow Ravens receivers very fast.
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Alshon Jeffery is likely going to be picked somewhere between the mid-first round and the mid-second round. Although the junior from South Carolina is said to be lacking in speed, he's still a physical player that shines as a red-zone target.
Last season, Jeffery caught 49 passes for 762 yards and eight touchdowns.
Those numbers were not as good as the 1,517 receiving yards and nine touchdowns he had the season before, however quarterback troubles in 2011 could explain the regression. Jeffery caught passes from both Connor Shaw and Stephen Garcia, two quarterbacks who did not have very good seasons.
There was also some concern over Jeffery's weight before the combine, as he had been 230 pounds during his playing days in South Carolina. The critics were silenced when Jeffery showed up at 216 pounds and looking physically chiseled.
Having shown great hands and range during his time in South Carolina, Jeffrey has upside that the Ravens could use for a potential third-string receiver.