Ravens position review: Marquise Brown is a rising star at wide receiver, but the offense needs more help

If the Ravens proved anything during their 14-win season, it’s that they don’t need elite wide receivers to have an elite offense.

With a mix of solid veterans and promising youngsters, the unit wasn’t much of a factor in fantasy football. It still lacks a bona fide star, a recurring lament in Baltimore. But 2019 offered some promise at the position, and the Ravens hope it can be foundational for years of connections with star quarterback Lamar Jackson.


In the third of a series of position reviews, The Baltimore Sun will examine the team’s wide receiver situation. Next up is tight end and fullback.

2019 in review

The Ravens entered last season with a reset at wide receiver. Michael Crabtree had been cut. John Brown had left in free agency. Jordan Lasley hadn’t made it through training camp. Willie Snead IV was back, but around him were young players and complementary pieces.


As Jackson orchestrated a record-breaking offense in an NFL Most Valuable Player-worthy season, his wide receivers did what they could. They blocked. They contributed on special teams. They tried to get open.

In 2020, they’ll probably have to do more. Ravens wide receivers finished with 115 catches for 1,419 yards last season, both NFL lows and the least yardage by a wide receiver group since the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs. Only one player, rookie Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, ranked among the top 80 qualifying players on Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders’ positional rankings.

Brown, the Ravens’ No. 25 overall pick, was explosive but streaky. Snead’s single-game high for receiving yards was 61; for free-agent signing Seth Roberts, it was 66; for rookie Miles Boykin, 55. They made up a sure-handed and hardworking group, but drops cost the Ravens dearly in a playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans.

While there will be some attrition at the position this offseason, at least three of the team’s top four receivers are expected back. Jaleel Scott and practice squad players Antoine Wesley and Sean Modster should also be in the mix for the 53-man roster.


Depth chart

Willie Snead IV

Skinny: Snead’s receiving yardage fell off after a strong first season in Baltimore, from 651 to 339. He did finish with a career-high five touchdown catches, though, and led all receivers in offensive snaps.

Contract status: Snead, 27, signed a one-year extension in October. He’s owed a smaller signing bonus ($1.8 million) in 2020 but a bigger base salary, with a total salary cap hit of $5.4 million.

Marquise “Hollywood” Brown

Skinny: Despite lingering foot pain, the No. 25 overall pick matched the Ravens’ rookie record with seven receiving touchdowns. He led all Ravens wide receivers in both catches (46) and receiving yards (584) and flashed his potential as a game-breaking weapon and unique chess piece.

Contract status: Brown’s entering the second year of a four-year rookie contract that has a fifth-year team option. He has a $2.7 million cap hit in 2020.

Seth Roberts

Skinny: Roberts finished with a career-low 21 catches for 271 yards and two touchdowns, and it will be hard to forget his drop of a potential touchdown pass in the team’s playoff defeat. But he was a solid route runner and strong run blocker.

Contract status: After signing a one-year, $2 million prove-it deal last offseason, Roberts is a pending unrestricted free agent. He turns 29 on Saturday.

Miles Boykin

Skinny: Boykin struggled to translate his training camp success to the regular season. The third-round pick had the lowest catch rate (59.1%) of the team’s regular receivers and just four receptions after Week 9. With his athletic frame, he’s a good blocker and should improve on his 198-yard debut season.

Contract status: Boykin is entering the second year of a four-year rookie contract. He has an $865,000 cap hit next season.

Chris Moore

Skinny: Moore led all Ravens offensive players in special teams snaps, but he played the fewest offensive snaps of his career. He finished with three catches for 21 yards and four kickoff returns, all career lows.

Contract status: After playing out the last year of his rookie contract, Moore is a pending unrestricted free agent.

De’Anthony Thomas

Skinny: Thomas signed with the Ravens in early November as a replacement for punt returner Cyrus Jones (Gilman). He averaged 7.2 yards per punt return and 16.6 yards per kickoff return, among the league’s lower rates. On offense, he had one catch for 6 yards and one carry for 1 yard.

Contract status: As a midyear pickup, Thomas had to prove himself to the Ravens on a short-term deal. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent.

Jaleel Scott

Skinny: Scott made the Ravens’ initial 53-man roster after leading them in the preseason with 11 catches for 146 yards. The 2018 fourth-round pick was active for three games, making his first and only catch in the regular-season finale.

Contract status: Scott’s entering the third year of a four-year rookie contract. He has an $805,000 cap hit next season.

Offseason questions

1. What is Brown’s next step?


After years of heartbreak, mistakes and unfulfilled promise, the Ravens finally have a young wide receiver with Pro Bowl potential. Building on a promising 2019, Brown was an unlikely bright spot in the Ravens’ postseason loss, catching seven of 11 targets for 126 yards, his most since his Week 1 fireworks against the Miami Dolphins.


And he wasn’t even running at full speed. At his season-ending news conference last month, coach John Harbaugh acknowledged that Brown was not 100% healthy for most of the year (“That was pretty obvious, right?”) after returning from offseason Lisfranc (foot) surgery. The former Oklahoma star was limited through the preseason and missed two games in October.

With a full offseason to recover and learn from his rookie-year play, Brown should be a menace in 2020. If he remains healthy, coordinator Greg Roman will have to figure out where in the offense he fits best — and how much the Ravens have to help him avoid potential injury trouble.

2. How much help does Jackson need at receiver?

For how little Ravens wide receivers produced last season, it affected the team’s passing game only so much. With the Ravens’ running game dictating how defenses played them, a dominant offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage, and a talented tight end trio catching almost everything thrown their way, Jackson oversaw the NFL’s most efficient passing offense, according to Football Outsiders.

Still, more weapons wouldn’t hurt. The Ravens were a run-first team in 2019, though not to the extent they were in Jackson’s rookie year, and Harbaugh left open the possibility last month that they’d be even more balanced in 2020. Brown and Snead would be good options in any pass attack, but the depth chart gets murky after that.

If the Ravens don’t spend big on free agents this offseason, Boykin and Scott will need to elevate their play. The front office can have only so much patience while trying to capitalize on Jackson’s team-friendly rookie contract.

Possible additions

With the Dallas Cowboys’ Amari Cooper and Cincinnati Bengals’ A.J. Green considered unlikely to leave in free agency this offseason, the Ravens could turn their attention to the position’s second tier. Emmanuel Sanders, Robby Anderson, Randall Cobb and, yes, even former Raven Breshad Perriman will be coveted — though maybe too much for the Ravens to be willing to invest.

Given the Ravens’ nine projected draft picks, it’s hard to imagine them not taking at least one receiver in April. Most mock drafts have at least six wideouts going in the first round alone, and the Ravens could be tempted to take a big-play threat like Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr. or a slot weapon like LSU’s Justin Jefferson.

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