If newly appointed Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta wants to make a lasting early impression on fans, then he should draft a legitimate No. 1 receiver.
That’s been the Achilles heel of this franchise since the Ravens moved to Baltimore for the 1996 season. The situation became even worse Monday once the team announced that they weren’t going to bring back veteran receiver Michael Crabtree for the 2019 season despite having two years left on his contract.
He was another potential No. 1 receiver that failed to meet expectations.
DeCosta has an opportunity to change history. This isn’t to say the Ravens need to take a receiver with their first-round pick, but there are a lot of good players at that position available, including Mississippi receivers A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf, Ohio State’s Parris Campbell, Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown, South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel and North Carolina State’s Kelvin Harmon.
DeCosta, as well as the Ravens, need to prove that they can select a receiver because of past first-round failures such as Travis Taylor, Mark Clayton and Breshad Perriman. This is the perfect time because they need to find young receivers they can develop and who can bond with second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The Ravens proved last year that they have the tight ends who can work the middle of the field in Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews. Both can play on the outside on occasion, but the Ravens need a legitimate, fast receiver who can challenge defenses all the time from anywhere on the field.
They’ve tried the free-agent market in the past and had very little success. Anquan Boldin still has star status in this town because he played so well during the Ravens’ Super Bowl run in 2012, but Boldin wasn’t dominant during the regular season.
Steve Smith Sr. had a good run for the better part of his three years in Baltimore, but was past his prime when he signed for the 2014 season. Since then, more veterans have come and gone, from Mike Wallace to Jeremy Maclin to Crabtree.
Each year Ravens fans get excited about these stop-gap free agents, hoping that one can deliver and become the legitimate No. 1 receiver that has eluded this franchise for so long.
Crabtree had 54 catches for 607 yards and three touchdowns in 16 starts in 2018. He never became that top red-zone threat the Ravens envisioned and had problems holding onto the ball. Once Jackson became the starter for Joe Flacco in the final seven games, Crabtree had only 13 catches for 135 yards and a touchdown.
It might be difficult to lure a top free-agent wide receiver to Baltimore with a running quarterback. That might happen if a player has already won a Super Bowl and wants to secure another big pay day, but he certainly isn’t coming here to load up his statistics with Jackson as the quarterback.
That’s why the draft is the best place for the Ravens to get a quality receiver. Those young guys will be on a mission. They want to prove they can play. They have that hunger to win that first Super Bowl and they will block.
The Ravens, though, also need to look at their coaching staff to see why there have been so many failures. Is it something they need to improve on? What do they need to do differently?
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It’s about time the Ravens find a No. 1 receiver. They never found one for Flacco, and Jackson will need one more than Flacco. That’s for sure.