Whether the Ravens have been coming off a Super Bowl victory or a season in which they fell short of the playoffs, team officials have never put a greater importance on any single draft. Their stated focus has always been on the one immediately in front of them.
It’s indisputable, though, that the 2018 version is arriving at a critical time for the organization. The Ravens have missed the playoffs in three consecutive years, the longest stretch since they failed to qualify for the postseason in their first four seasons in Baltimore. Fan frustration with one of the most stable franchises in the NFL might be at an all-time high, evidenced by the number of empty seats at M&T Bank Stadium last year as the team fought for a playoff berth. General manager Ozzie Newsome is preparing for his final season in his current position and the 2018 season will also bring questions about the futures of several other long-term franchise mainstays, including coach John Harbaugh, quarterback Joe Flacco and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.
With several holes on the offensive side of the ball, the pressure is on the Ravens’ top decision makers to turn their draft currency into immediate roster help. The Ravens will head into the three-day draft, which gets underway on April 26, with eight total picks: one each in the first (16th overall), second (52nd), third (83rd), fourth (118th), fifth (154th) and seventh (238th) rounds, and two in the sixth round (190th and 215th).
Through next Wednesday, the day before the start of the three-day draft, The Baltimore Sun will break down what the Ravens have at each position, the chance that they will add to it and what prospects could possibly be targeted with those picks.
Today we’ll look at wide receivers.
Chances that the Ravens will draft a wide receiver in first three rounds: High. The Ravens explored just about every wide receiver option in free agency and continued the search for pass catchers even after adding Crabtree and Brown. They haven’t spent many early-round picks on receivers, and when they have, they’ve mostly been disappointed. However, Brown is on a one-year deal and Crabtree essentially is as well. Perriman is in the final year of his rookie contract. The Ravens need to add some young building blocks so they don’t have to overhaul their receiving group every year. This year’s receiver draft class is lacking in elite options, but it has a lot of depth. Rounds two through four should be fertile turf for the Ravens to grab a receiver or two.
Possibly on Ravens’ radar: Michael Gallup (Colorado State), DaeSean Hamilton (Penn State), Christian Kirk (Texas A&M), DJ Moore (Maryland), Calvin Ridley (Alabama), Courtland Sutton (Southern Methodist), James Washington (Oklahoma State)
Outlook: Fans are clamoring for the Ravens to use the 16th overall pick on Ridley, considered the top receiver in the draft, or Moore, who has a chance to become the first Maryland player taken in the first round since Darrius Heyward-Bey in 2009. If the Ravens believe either is a potential No. 1 receiver, they’ll pull the trigger and not be affected by their poor history with first-round receivers as well as the long list of recent first-round misses around the league at the position. However, evaluators don’t seem convinced that Ridley will become a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver and Moore seems like an overdraft at No. 16. Either might be more desirable targets if the Ravens traded back in the first round. Otherwise, the Ravens will have plenty of wide receivers to choose from on Day 2 or 3. Sutton is in the Anquan Boldin mold with his physicality. Kirk is a dynamic presence in the slot. Washington is dangerous after the catch. Hamilton’s intangibles are off the charts. Gallup is a nice combination of size and speed. There will be opportunities for the Ravens in just about every round to add a receiver with the potential to contribute immediately. The challenge for them will be finding the right fit. That’s not been the front office’s strong suit.