Baltimore Ravens General manager Ozzie Newsome and assistant general manager Eric DeCosta on why the team chose wide receiver Breshad Perriman with the first pick. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
After weeks of insisting that they didn't feel pressure to add a wide receiver, the Ravens couldn't resist adding another target for quarterback Joe Flacco.
Ten years since last picking a wide receiver in the first round of the NFl draft, the Ravens used the 26th pick on Central Florida's Breshad Perriman, considered one of the fastest players in the draft.
"My emotions were all over the place, at an all-time high. I just feel like it's a dream come true," Perriman said. "That was actually the team that I was wishing to go to. I know that it was a great opportunity and I can't wait to get there."
Perriman, 21, didn't work out at the NFL scouting combine because of a hamstring injury, but he ran a 4.22 in the 40-yard-dash during his pro day. That elevated his draft status to the point where it wasn't clear if Perriman would even be available when the Ravens were on the clock.
Perriman worked out with the Ravens before the draft and called it his best visit with an NFL team.
"We're excited about him," said Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta. "He's a guy that we watched. I think [general manager Ozzie Newsome] is one of the first guys to watch him. We were in draft meetings, we took a break and he watched him, came back and said, 'You need to watch this guy.' I did and saw a big, fast, physical stallion. A younger player, he's going to get better. We're very excited about him. He complements our team extremely well and he's a great kid, as Ozzie alluded to. I think he makes us a better football team."
Perriman certainly adds much-needed outside speed to a team that lost Torrey Smith (San Francisco 49ers) and Jacoby Jones (San Diego Chargers) this offseason and has just one returning receiver, Steve Smith, who had more than 25 catches last year.
The son of Brett Perriman, who played receiver in the NFL for a decade, Breshad is the first receiver that the Ravens have drafted in the first round since Mark Clayton in 2005. He's also the first offensive player that they've taken with their first pick since tackle Michael Oher in 2009.
"The game is not going to be too big for him," Newsome said. "He brings an element to our offense that plays into Joe's strength in that he can be a vertical threat, but he also has the ability to run the full route tree."
Newsome said that if Perriman wasn't available, the Ravens would have probably traded back or out of the first round altogether. Several other players that the Ravens were targeting had already been taken, as the San Diego Chargers selected Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon with the 15th pick, the Houston Texans grabbed Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson at 16 and the Kansas City Chiefs took Washington cornerback Marcus Peters at 18.
"I was sweating it quite a bit," DeCosta said. "Our board got wiped. The last couple of years, not last year, but a couple of years, we've had that happen to us that we just got wiped out and in some drafts we've had to draft up. This year, we finally got something to fall our way, because we were getting wiped out, but fortunately he was there."
For all their drafting success, the Ravens have struggled to develop pass catchers and Yamon Figurs, a third-rounder in 2007, and Torrey Smith, a second-rounder in 2011, are the only receivers that they've drafted within the first three rounds since 2005. Smith is viewed as one of their only homegrown wide receiver success stories. But team officials are obviously confident that Perriman will change that script and be a difference maker.
He joins a receiving corps that has plenty of possession receivers in Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown and Michael Campanaro (River Hill), but lacks a legitimate deep threat after Torrey Smith's departure. That was an issue given Flacco's reputation as one of the league's best deep-ball throwers and new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman's desire to develop a dynamic downfield passing attack.
"It forces a defense to consider him, and that's very important, plus it opens things up for everybody else," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. "This is a guy that's exciting."
Perriman, a Georgia native, caught 115 passes for 2,243 yards and 16 touchdowns in three seasons at Central Florida before declaring for the draft following his junior year. He caught four touchdowns and averaged 20.8 yards per reception in his sophomore year, but emerged as a strong NFL prospect last season with 50 catches for 1,044 yards and nine scores.
At 6 feet 2 and 212 pounds, Perriman has all the attributes of the game-breaking wide receivers that are so in demand in today's NFL. His speed helps him get behind the defense and his size and strength allow him to shed cornerbacks and make plays on the ball. He's not exclusively a deep threat, but he does the most damage on the outside and working in the red zone.
Perriman, who took part in the U.S. Junior Olympics track and field program, has top-end straight line speed. However, he's also shown plenty of explosiveness and quickness getting in and out of breaks, and gaining separation on underneath routes. He also gets high marks with his downfield blocking and his ability to run after the catch.
If there's a knock on Perriman, it's that he has lost his focus at times and dropped some routine passes.
"That was my big problem at UCF," Perriman said. "I always tried to make the big play, no matter what. Sometimes, the first down is good. Sometimes, the completion is good. I've been working on that tremendously."
The Ravens were impressed with Perriman's candor during his predraft visit. He acknowledged that his issues with drops were a result of lapses of concentration.
After having filled one of their biggest needs with an outside receiver, the Ravens can now turn their attention to their other roster holes. The Ravens would like to come out of the draft with another cornerback, running back and pass rusher.
The Ravens have nine more picks: one each in the second, third and sixth rounds, and three each in the fourth and fifth rounds. Rounds two and three will begin Friday night at 7 p.m. The draft will then wrap up with rounds four through seven on Saturday, starting at noon.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Yamon Figurs as a third-round pick in 2011. He was a third-round pick in 2007.