The Ravens’ record-setting offense is well positioned for sustained success with reigning league Most Valuable Player Lamar Jackson along with Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews, Pro Bowl running back Mark Ingram and wide receiver Marquise Brown headlining a group of skill-position players who all return in 2020.
If the Ravens have one pressing offensive need — and an interior offensive lineman becomes another big one if Marshal Yanda decides to retire — it would be for a big-play wide receiver who could line up opposite Brown. According to NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, this is an ideal draft for the Ravens to find that player.
“This is a really a phenomenal group of wideouts,” Jeremiah said on a conference call Feb. 21 in advance of the NFL Scouting Combine, which takes place this week in Indianapolis. The wide receivers work out on Thursday, Feb. 27.
“I’ve got 27 wide receivers with top-three-round grades in this draft,” he said. “And consider [an] average 31 are taken. … Not all those guys are going to go early. They’ll end up spreading throughout the draft, but it’s a really good group.”
The Ravens’ tortured history with wide receivers in the draft is well established; of 29 receivers they have drafted, only one (Torrey Smith) has had a 1,000-yard season for the team. But with Brown, the Ravens are hoping that narrative has started to shift.
Despite being bothered all season by a foot injury, Brown finished with 46 catches for 584 yards and tied a Ravens rookie record with seven touchdown catches. He figures to return as the Ravens’ No. 1 receiver, complemented by veteran Willie Snead (31 catches, 339 yards, career-best five TDs in 2019) and Miles Boykin, who had 13 catches for 198 yards as a rookie in limited duty.
Seth Roberts (21 catches, 271 yards, two TDs) and special teams ace Chris Moore, who had three catches for 21 yards in limited duty on offense, are pending free agents.
Snead and Boykin, and even the diminutive Brown, proved to be strong downfield blockers, an unheralded but vital part of the Ravens’ record-setting rushing attack led by Jackson. But the Ravens know they need to add to their offensive firepower with another wideout who can make contested catches, create separation and be a reliable option when the Ravens need to play from behind.
The Ravens figure to retain their best-available-player strategy when they are on the clock, and their needs are most pronounced with the front seven on defense. In fact, Jeremiah said LSU linebacker Patrick Queen would be a “home run pick” if he’s available to the Ravens in the first round.
The top receivers such as Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy figure to be gone when the Ravens — barring any trades — are on the clock at No. 28. But Jeremiah cited Laviska Shenault (Colorado), Brandon Aiyuk (Arizona State) and versatile Lynn Bowden — who spent time as a quarterback this past season because of injuries at Kentucky — as potential targets with one of the Ravens’ early picks.
“I would … just continue to add more speed like the Chiefs have done,” Jeremiah said. “I would double down. And I think Shenault would be a fun toy for them.”
Jeremiah said he could envision the Ravens using the 6-foot-1, 227-pound Shenault in the slot, on jet sweeps, on deep routes and even in the backfield alongside Jackson.
“He’s done that a bunch at Colorado for a creative offense. There’s none more creative than [Ravens offensive coordinator] Greg Roman,” Jeremiah added. “Shenault would be a heck of a lot of fun.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy of CU Athletics