Ravens overhauled receiving core gives Baltimore fans hope

Baltimore Ravens, NFL Draft

In his last offseason as the Baltimore Ravens’ general manager, Ozzie Newsome has revamped the team’s receiving core.

Last season, the Baltimore Ravens’ receivers didn’t get the job done. Leading receiver Mike Wallace had 748 receiving yards and tight end Ben Watson only had 522. Jeremy Maclin was a disappointment with only 440 yards in 12 games. Part of that, of course, was on quarterback Joe Flacco. But the receivers didn’t give him much help.

General manager Ozzie Newsome promised to address their issues this offseason and appears to be making good on that promise. So far, Newsome signed free agents Michael Crabtree, John “Smokey” Brown, and Willie Snead. The last of the trio was signed to an offer sheet, which the New Orleans Saints didn’t match. With the 2018 NFL Draft, he added Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley to complete the overhaul of the entire receiving core.

There are only two receivers left on the Ravens roster who played significant time for them last season: Chris Moore and Breshad Perriman. The latter is most likely done in Baltimore, as it’s difficult to imagine the team would cut a rookie they just drafted. Perriman will likely be kept around through training camp in case an injury opens up a spot for him.

Moore’s spot is virtually guaranteed, as he brings a ton of value to the special teams unit. He has returned a fumble for a touchdown in each of the past two seasons. Moore has blocked punts and kicks throughout his career. He’s also developed enough as a receiver to be a competent spot-starter.

Crabtree gives Flacco one of the best targets he’s ever had. He can make plays and is a reliable target. Though Crabtree had five drops last season, he was targeted 101 times and had 58 receptions. So his drops are more of a product of being targeted a lot than anything else.

Brown is an effective deep threat, accumulating 17 touchdowns in his first four seasons. He also averages 14.5 yards per reception, which would have led the Ravens last season. On paper, his 38.2 percent catch rate looks bad. However, Brown only had one drop in 55 targets and was overthrown or underthrown consistently. Flacco is never afraid to throw it deep, so expect him to put up solid numbers if he’s healthy.

Snead had a bad 2017 season thanks to injuries and other factors. But from 2016 to 2017, he accumulated 1,879 receiving yards, 141 receptions, and seven touchdowns. Snead provides Baltimore with a reliable threat as a slot receiver.

Scott, drafted in the fourth round, is arguably the Ravens’ best red zone threat. He has outstanding size, long arms, and huge hands. While Scott is raw, his sheer size should earn him playing time right off the bat.

Lasley, drafted in the sixth round, was seen by many to be a first or second round talent. However, drops and off the field issues caused him to fall. Lasley contributed on special teams at UCLA, which should make things interesting in training camp.

Newsome also spent two draft picks on tight ends. Both are more receivers than blockers, which is fine because Baltimore has two effective blocking tight ends. Hayden Hurst didn’t drop the ball at all last season, which is a great thing for the Ravens. Flacco has been at his best when he has a reliable third-down option. Hurst gives him one. Mark Andrews is an excellent route runner, which should make him a valuable asset opposite Hurst.

The Ravens’ bold decision to trade into the first round and draft their future franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson will steal the spotlight. And rightfully so. But don’t overlook how Baltimore has overhauled their receiving core, providing Flacco with arguably the deepest group of receivers and tight ends he’s ever had.

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