By: Ashley Anderson
Last year, the Ravens had the worst passing attack in the NFL. It was clearly an area where they needed an infusion of talent, so they set to work adding pieces in free agency and the Draft. Now, Baltimore has a plethora of receivers, and the future looks bright. There are also some crucial questions about the group.
3.) Can Sammy Watkins stay healthy?
Selected fourth overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 2014 NFL Draft, Sammy Watkins exploded onto the scene with 982 receiving yards and six touchdowns as a rookie. Unfortunately, after topping 1,000 yards in his second season, things got off track for Watkins due to injuries. Since then, he has never topped 700 yards or played a complete season.
Knowing this, the Baltimore Ravens signed Watkins to a modest one-year, $6 million deal looking to add veteran insurance to a relatively young receiving core. Still, Watkins has more than enough ability to disrupt a defense. He just turned 28-years old and has the frame to play on the outside at 6-foot-1, 211-pounds.
Baltimore desperately needs a guy who can take some attention off Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews. Watkins looks to be the perfect person to fill that role if he can stay on the field. The Ravens are known for having an excellent strength and conditioning program, and Watkins seems to have a renewed dedication to taking care of his body. Now, only time will tell if Watkins can hold up for an expanded 17-game season.
2.) Will Marquise Brown (or someone else) top 1,000 receiving yards?
Third-year man Marquise Brown is clearly Baltimore’s top receiver, and he has tremendous chemistry with Lamar Jackson. However, he struggled to find success at times, mostly because the Ravens lacked diversity in their receiving core. After getting a makeover this offseason, the anticipated receivers heading into 2021 should be greatly improved.
Brown, along with tight end Mark Andrews, will likely continue to be Jackson’s go-to targets. Still, with other reliable receivers to spread the ball around to, some of the pressure should be alleviated from Brown. He already showed growth from year one to two, and he could make an even bigger leap in year three.
The last time a Ravens receiver topped 1,000 yards was Mike Wallace in 2016. Joe Flacco was still Baltimore’s starting quarterback, Jackson was a sophomore at Louisville, and Brown was fighting to get noticed at College of the Canyons. Brown will benefit from a 17th game on the regular-season schedule, and he managed nearly 800 yards in 2020. If Brown can build on his performance from last year, it will go a long way to helping the Ravens stay competitive in an extremely challenging AFC North.
Another scenario is that someone other than Brown emerges from the pack. The clear favorite would be Watkins, but as previously mentioned, he has not topped 700 yards since his second season. Will any Ravens receiver top the grand mark in 2021?
1.) How many receivers will the Baltimore Ravens keep, and who will they be?
This is a big two-part question to round out this segment. Last year, Baltimore rolled with six receivers on their initial roster, but they shuffled things a bit throughout the season. Chris Moore, Dez Bryant, and Willie Snead all left this offseason. The Ravens then added Sammy Watkins in free agency and Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace in the Draft.
If the Ravens stick to six receivers, there are a few locks: Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins, and Rashod Bateman. After that, Baltimore is all but guaranteed to keep second-year man Devin Duvernay and rookie Tylan Wallace. Duvernay excelled on special teams in his rookie campaign and is looking to take over the slot role vacated by Snead. Wallace is a fourth-round pick, so the Ravens will have a hard time stashing him on the practice squad.
Beyond those five is where things get murky. Entering his third season, Miles Boykin is the best blocking receiver the Ravens have. However, he has yet to emerge from the pack as a true receiving threat despite his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame. His primary competition comes from James Proche. Though he had a modest rookie season, coaches are excited by Proche’s sure hands and could keep him based on sheer potential.
Should the Ravens choose to keep all seven receivers, they would have to make a sacrifice elsewhere on the roster. Could Proche sneak onto the practice squad? It is a possibility, but then they risk losing him to a receiver-needy team. Before you ask, it seems highly unlikely Boykin converts to tight end. This is a large question looming over a talented group that will ultimately impact the entire roster composition.