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Could the Ravens have drafted a better WR?

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With Steve Smith being the clear cut number one receiver for the Ravens and Torrey Smith frequently having trouble on every other route that isn't straight ahead, fans could easily say that the Ravens have had trouble in drafting that homerun hitting type of player to team up with quarterback Joe Flacco.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

With Steve Smith being the clear cut number one receiver for the Ravens and Torrey Smith frequently having trouble on every other route that isn't straight ahead, fans could easily say that the Ravens have had trouble in drafting that homerun hitting type of player to team up with quarterback Joe Flacco.

But let's actually look around and see what the Ravens could have done in the last few years to have improved on their fortune with receivers.

Note that when looking at the draft selections, I will only go 10 spots ahead or 10 spots below the Ravens original pick. Anything more than 10 spots ahead would have cost the Ravens far too much in trade bait and anything more than 10 picks behind was a pretty clear consensus that the player would have been drafted too high. Every team has to do homework and every player has their reasonable spot in the draft, so reaching too far in either direction ends up being pointless for this discussion.

2013 NFL Draft

No standout WRs were drafted in the top 4 rounds.

2012 NFL Draft

The Ravens traded out of the first round to grab Courtney Upshaw. With that original first round pick, the Ravens could have reached forward 9 spots to grab Kendall Wright. However, Wright is questionable on his value as a first round pick and certainly wouldn't have been worth the amount the Ravens would have had to trade to get him.

In the second round, when the Ravens selected Upshaw, they could have nabbed Alshon Jeffery as he went 10 spots later. Jeffery as the focus of the Ravens offense could be expected to put up similar if not better numbers than his time in Chicago, making him a better pick than Upshaw at this point in their careers.

2011 NFL Draft

The Ravens drafted Jimmy Smith in the first round. Only one receiver was picked within 10 spots ahead of Jimmy Smith, that being Jonathan Baldwin. With Jimmy Smith being a shut down corner on a top rated Ravens defense, he clearly was the best pick the Ravens could have reasonably made here.

In the second round, the Ravens grabbed Torrey Smith. The only receiver around that pick that could be a challenge to Smith's production would be Randall Cobb. This one is a bit of a toss up at this point as Cobb currently has less receptions, yards and touchdowns than Smith, but has not been the feature receiver for the Packers due to other guys being ahead of him.

2010 NFL Draft

This is the draft where the Ravens missed out on some serious talent. The Ravens pushed down into the second round, allowing the Broncos to famously select Tim Tebow, while selecting Sergio Kindle with their newly acquired pick. However, with Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas selected just a few moments prior to the Ravens initial first round selection, the Ravens could have easily traded up to grab either of these receivers for a very limited cost.

Then again, when you look at the picks, Bryant came into the draft as a bit of a problem child and has made a shocking change in his personality to match his talent level with professionalism. It would have been likely that the Ravens had Bryant on the 'do not draft board'.

Conclusion:

In 4 drafts, the Ravens could have reasonably grabbed 4 better receivers than the pick they actually had with only 3 of them possibly being rated as a #1 receiver. With one of those (Bryant) being a bit of an exception due to his personality going into the Draft, knocking it down to only 2 real options to better themselves.

It isn't as easy as it looks and there are few true game changers in the NFL at the receiver position. While the Ravens could have gotten lucky to get a guy in the later rounds that turn into the next Jerry Rice, it is far less likely. They could have traded an entire draft to move up into the early first round and take the top receiver in the draft, but as we see from the 2013 NFL Draft, that would have been wasted by any measure thus far. The only other option that is reasonable would be for the Ravens to pursue a top guy in free agency, which as we know from the absurd contracts currently being talked about in regards to Dez Bryant, isn't a viable option for the often cash-strapped Ravens.