The Baltimore Ravens are a worse team today than they were only a few weeks ago. This is because they have taken the unusual route of being inactive in free agency. They have also decided to let players walk, some of which were important to the team.
This includes players like Jarrett Johnson and Ben Grubbs, who had been starters for several years now. Although they will be missed, their departures could turn into a good thing since both players were asking for a lot of money and were attracting some high-paying suitors. The Ravens should still be able to replace all of their players that have left so far, whether that be through free agency or in the draft.
Already they have made some moves such as signing safety Sean Considine and special teams ace Corey Graham. They also rewarded some of their own by bringing back linebackers Jameel McClain and Brendon Ayanbadejo.
Still, with the exception of McClain and Graham, most of these players look like they are being added for depth purposes. And these players don't necessarily address most of the biggest needs that the Ravens have at this time. This includes needs like a pass rusher, an offensive guard and the seemingly ever-present need for more wide receivers.
Wide receiver has just been one of those positions that the Ravens have historically struggled with. They have only drafted two wide receivers in the first round (Travis Taylor in 2000 and Mark Clayton in 2005) yet both receivers were considered major disappointments. Even in free agency, the Ravens can't seem to get the wide receiver position right as the last few years they have brought in several veterans who have mostly disappointed.
Among the Ravens' current receivers, only the starting two inspire any confidence whatsoever. Anquan Boldin is still a weapon out of the slot machine, although at 31 years old, his days as a number one wide receiver are clearly dwindling. Then there's Torrey Smith, who led the team with seven touchdowns during his breakout rookie season, which has solidified his place atop the Ravens depth chart for years to come.
Beyond Boldin and Smith, there really isn't that much. Not surprisingly the Ravens cut last year's disappointing free agent acquisition Lee Evans. This leaves only three more receivers on their roster, all of which have essentially done nothing during their NFL careers.
To be fair, all three of these receivers are only in their second or third season in the NFL. It's certainly possible that Tandon Doss, David Reed and/or LaQuan Williams could all be successful receivers in the NFL someday. It's just right now none of these players have given the Ravens any reason to believe that they are reliable receivers.
So the Ravens will need to go back to the drawing board and get a receiver in the early rounds of the draft yet again. The notion that they're going to go out there and purchase one of the top remaining unrestricted free agent receivers just seems unlikely. Especially when it's been these free agent receivers that have disappointed the most in Baltimore in recent seasons.
The Ravens actually have a shot to get the second or third best receiver prospect in the NFL draft. As much as we all like to dream, the Ravens will not get Justin Blackmon. To be realistic, the Ravens may even need to trade up if Ozzie Newsome has his heart set on getting an elite wide receiver prospect.
What kind of receivers could the Ravens trade up for if they really wanted to? Well Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright and Stephen Hill are in the next tier after Blackmon. They'll all likely be going in the first round from as soon as the 15th overall pick to as late as the end of the round.
Trading may be needed for the Ravens to get one of these guys. While the St. Louis Rams and the Cleveland Browns are vying for Blackmon, some other teams desperately need receivers that could possibly start for them. This list includes the Jacksonville Jaguars, San Diego Chargers and Chicago Bears.
All of this year's elite receiver prospects bring something different to the table. Floyd has both the prototypical size and strength to be a starting receiver in the NFL. But injury history as well as run-ins with the law on alcohol-related charges could cause him to drop similar to what happened to Dez Bryant two years ago.
Kendall Wright on the hand is a gifted all-around athlete. Having spent time as a running back and cornerback in addition to wide receiver, Wright has proven to be a playmaker with the ball in his hands. He also has the ability to create great separation with his foot agility and is probably the best deep threat in this year's draft class.
Stephen Hill has improved his draft status thanks to a good showing at the NFL Combine. What he's got going for him the most is his speed, as he ran a blazing fast 4.36 40-yard dash. Hill could also be a great fit for the Ravens since he has experience returning kickoffs, which is an area where the Ravens are in desperate need of a dynamic player.
With so many good wide receivers available in this year's draft, the Ravens will be picking up at least one of them. The question of which one remains up in the air, as well as the question as to when in the draft the Ravens will address their wide receiver needs. By now Ravens fans know it's best to just trust that Newsome knows what is best and hopefully this will be the first season that the Ravens draft a successful wide receiver in the first round.
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