Just minutes after drafting Kyle Hamilton with the 14th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens were back in the news cycle. The team sent wide receiver Marquise Brown, the most successful Ravens wide receiver over the last few seasons, and a third-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for the 23rd pick in the draft. Without Hollywood Brown, many were questioning the talent and depth of the remaining Baltimore Ravens wide receivers.
Any Immediate Replacements?
The mental arithmetic began. Which wide receivers would be available with the 23rd pick? Could Eric DeCosta move up with his stockpile of fourth-round picks? Jahan Dotson went off the board with the 16th pick. Treylon Burks followed soon. With more receiver-needy teams coming up, would the Baltimore Ravens need to move up?
No. Instead, the Ravens moved down with the Buffalo Bills and took a center. Day 2 came and went without any new Ravens wide receivers being added. Day 3 came and went without the Ravens adding a wide receiver. The Ravens wide receivers were already projected to be one of the worst receiving rooms in the AFC entering the 2022 season. If not for the Atlanta Falcons missing Calvin Ridley, the Ravens could have been a shoo-in for the worst set in the league.
However, this is by design. The Ravens are observing the rest of the league pay (and overpay) for receivers. Tyreek Hill. Davante Adams and A.J. Brown helped to set a new baseline in contract expectations for wide receivers. Meanwhile, holdouts from D.K. Metcalf and Terry McLaurin potentially served as a warning sign for the team’s future extension talks with Brown. Instead of building the best receiver corps in the NFL, the Ravens are trying to be good enough for it to not hurt the team.
The name of the game for Baltimore is “traits.” Sure, a superstar Baltimore Ravens wide receiver can be fun and helpful, but the Ravens prioritize having a stable of competent receivers. With the abundance of receiving talent around the NFL, excellent prospects slip through the cracks in the NFL draft every year. The Baltimore Ravens follow this formula of drafting the best players regardless of position, but they have quietly assembled a band of receivers with immense potential.
According to Spotrac, the average NFL team has 11.21% of its cap dedicated to wide receivers. Teams are on the hook for $761 million for wide receivers, about $23.8 million per team. The Ravens wide receivers are last in wide receiver spending, with not even spending $11.7 million allocated to the position.
For context, 10 individual receivers have a cap figure that exceeds Baltimore’s entire receiver room. Nine receivers account for at least 5.9% of a team’s cap space. The Ravens’ entire room is just 5.7% of the team’s cap space. Meanwhile, the team is likely setting aside money to extend their former MVP quarterback, Lamar Jackson.
Every roster decision has consequences. Instead of building a stellar receiver corps, the Ravens have opted to put resources into other positions. By cap hit, the Ravens rank fourth in money allocated to tight ends, sixth in money allocated to offensive linemen, and first in money allocated to the secondary.
All is not lost, however. The Baltimore Ravens have made savvy pickups in recent drafts. Fortunately for the team, they still posses one of the best tight ends in football in Pro Bowler Mark Andrews.
The Potential Star
Rashod Bateman is the ace in the sleeve in the Ravens wide receiver room. If he breaks out in 2022, any receiver conversation will cease. He was a legit first-round caliber player whom the Ravens nabbed with the 27th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. He has Michael Thomas upside in the Ravens’ offense as a contested-catch machine and chain mover.
Comparing Bateman to a former All-Pro is high praise, but Daniel Jeremiah pulled out the comparison before Bateman was drafted. Bateman won’t match the 1,725 yards Thomas posted in 2019, but a leap is not out of the question. A better statistical comp could be Michael Pittman Jr. Pittman posted 503 yards and one touchdown as a rookie, eerily similar to Bateman’s 515 yards and one touchdown. Pittman recorded a 1,000-yard season in 2021, and Bateman is the logical second option in the Ravens’ offense.
While it remains to be seen, a Bateman breakout will go a long way in restoring the faith of the average fan in the Baltimore Ravens wide receivers.
The Super Slot
The All-Pro returner, Devin Duvernay, had 73 targets in two seasons, posting 53 catches for 473 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He brings great speed and shiftiness to the position, and he will likely have an uptick in targets as the Ravens replace Brown and Sammy Watkins. He likely slots in as the third option in the Ravens’ offense.
Duvernay is on the gadgety side of receivers, but he has been effective on end arounds and other designed touches. With a larger role, he could be a tertiary playmaker and seam-ripper in the Ravens’ offense. In 2021, Duvernay took 348 snaps out of the slot while playing on the outside for 244 snaps. Mark Andrews will likely remain as the top option in the slot, but many of Brown’s 206 slot snaps will go to Duvernay.
He could also take on a bit of a Deebo Samuel role if the Ravens angle their offense that way.
Call Him Bollywood
While he’s not Hollywood, the skills are surprisingly similar between Brown and Tylan Wallace. Brown has the game-breaking speed to put him over the top (literally), but Wallace is technically sound as a deep route runner. He stacks corners well, and he has superb body control when contorting for difficult catches.
Wallace only has six NFL targets to his name, but Brown is vacating 450 boundary snaps. Watkins is also vacating 250 snaps on the outside. Wallace played 57.6% of his 2021 snaps in the slot, but that is a lower percentage than both Duvernay and James Proche. Wallace has the skills to be a reasonable deep threat on the opposite boundary of Bateman.
One common trait in the Baltimore Ravens wide receiver room is finding talented players that fit their system. The similarities between Hollywood and Wallace are no coincidence.
Speaking of hands, James Proche was featured in the slot on 86.4% of his snaps in 2021. He had 20 targets in 2021, hauling in 16 of them. He caught three of four contested passes, and he contributed to 10 first downs. Proche is a bit of a cross between Bateman and Wallace as he plays with Bateman’s physicality despite being Wallace’s size.
Duvernay and Proche will likely steal reps from each other in the slot, but they fill two different roles in the offense. Duvernay is more of a gadget type with his speed and agility. Proche is more of a walking first down. He might only be the fourth option when he is on the field, but he is a player Lamar Jackson can trust to move the chains.
Despite the similarities between the two Baltimore Ravens wide receivers, the team will certainly find a way to utilize both.
The Verdict on the Baltimore Ravens Wide Receivers
The Ravens’ receiving corps will likely function similar to platooning in baseball. As an individual Wallace, Duvernay, and Proche might not be good enough to be a No. 2 wide receiver, but their collective ability can be deployed in the right spot.
The group is contingent on Bateman taking a step in the right direction. Even if the Ravens add a veteran receiver through free agency or a trade, Bateman will still be asked to be the go-to threat.
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