“Hollywood” is coming to Baltimore.
After trading down in the first round of the NFL draft for the third time in the past two years, the Ravens took Oklahoma’s Marquise “Hollywood” Brown with the No. 25 overall selection Thursday night, hoping the undersized speedster will solve their long-term and long-running problems at wide receiver.
The Ravens and first-year general manager Eric DeCosta originally had the No. 22 pick but moved down in a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles that netted two additional Day 3 picks (Nos. 127 and 197 overall). When they were on the clock once more, little about the prospects available to them had changed. Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat, Texas A&M center Erik McCoy and Mississippi wide receiver D.K. Metcalf were still unclaimed.
Instead, the Ravens took Brown, a native of Hollywood, Fla., and the cousin of former Pittsburgh Steelers and current Oakland Raiders star Antonio Brown. The 5-foot-9, 166-pound Marquise Brown broke out in his junior season with the Sooners, earning first-team All-America honors after catching 75 passes for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. He had six games with at least 100 receiving yards and ranked No. 32 nationally in yards per catch (17.6).
“He’s the kind of player we like,” coach John Harbaugh said Thursday night. “He’s a Raven. He loves football. He’s had a lot of adversity in his life. He’s fought to get to the point where he’s at. He’s always been a guy who’s had to overcome. He has a certain toughness about him. He’s a playmaker.
“It fits the type of offense we want to build. He’s a perfect fit for what we’re trying to do offensively, so we’re excited.”
Because of a Lisfranc injury, Brown did not run the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine. But Brown, an elite after-the-catch threat at Oklahoma, might even be faster than Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. The receiver’s previous running mates set a high bar for production: He spent the past two seasons with back-to-back No. 1 overall picks Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns) and Kyler Murray (Arizona Cardinals).
"I always dreamed of playing with Lamar," Brown said in a conference call with reporters. The two had squared off in Pop Warner football when they were younger in Florida, and Jackson, a “mentor” to Brown, reached out to him during the predraft process. "We got our chance. Everybody, you know, has their opinion on him, but I know what he can do and I'm looking forward to working with him."
The Ravens entered the NFL draft with needs at interior line, edge rusher and inside linebacker, but their hole at wide receiver was particularly glaring. Only three receivers on the Ravens’ roster have caught a pass in the NFL, and their top returning option, Willie Snead IV, is a slot receiver.
Outside receiver remained a question mark; Brown can be the answer.
“We’re excited to get him,” DeCosta said. “He’s a player we followed quite a bit this fall. Some of you know I have an affinity for Oklahoma players, and in my mind, this was one of the most electric players in college football this year. So we spent a lot of time looking at him, and we brought him in last week and had a great visit with him.
“He’s a playmaker; he’s a guy who can do a lot of different things with the ball in his hands. He can catch screen passes. He can run reverses. He can run deep. He’s got outstanding hands. I think he’s tough. And he’s electric. We think he complements our offense very well, our vision of what we want our offense to be.”
History in Baltimore is not on his side. Wide receiver Breshad Perriman, the No. 26 overall pick in 2015, did not even play out the length of his rookie contract for the Ravens. Fellow first-round picks Travis Taylor (No. 10 overall in 2000) and Mark Clayton (No. 22 overall in 2005) failed to give the offense the downfield threat it’s lacked for most of the franchise’s existence.
Brown, who’s expected to be healthy by the time training camp opens, has managed more daunting obstacles. He was overcome with emotion after being taken Thursday, later saying he was “just blessed” to get the call from the Ravens. Three years ago, he was in junior college, his future dim, his life hand-to-mouth. And now he was in the NFL.
“That moment was just surreal,” he said. “People [were] always telling me what I can't do, and for me to get drafted in the first round, it just means a lot to me."
The Ravens enter Friday with nine picks remaining, but none until No. 85, late in the third round. They also have No. 102 in the third, Nos. 113, 123 and 127 in the fourth, No. 160 in the fifth and Nos. 191, 193 and 197 in the sixth.
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Note: Sweat, once considered a possible top-10 pick, fell to the Washington Redskins at No. 26 overall. He started to drop after health concerns emerged; Sweat reportedly received a diagnosis at the NFL scouting combine of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. But an NFL Network report Thursday said he subsequently had been told by an expert that he does not suffer from the affliction, a thickening of the heart wall that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood.
DeCosta called Sweat a “really good player” but did not say whether the team had taken him off its draft board. After losing outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs in free agency, the Ravens will likely target an edge rusher Friday.
Baltimore Sun reporter Childs Walker contributed to this article.