The Ravens have been one of the top teams in the NFL at drafting and developing talent. When you think of the Ravens, your mind immediately goes to greats like Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Peter Boulware, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Ed Reed and so on. Guys that the Ravens drafted and were able to stay Ravens for the majority of their career and be looked at as pillars of the community as well as on-field greats.
However, while fans can easily point to every position on the field with examples of at least one great player the Ravens drafted and developed; there is a serious lack of names at the receiving position.
The closest the Ravens have come to having a top receiving prospect was the second round selection of Torrey Smith in 2011. A figure that had his uses in the Ravens passing attack, but ultimately took his skill set to San Francisco this offseason as the Ravens didn't feel he deserved the type of money other NFL teams were ready to shell out for him. After Smith comes a long list of guys with promise, but a lack of execution or further development.
Tandon Doss, Patrick Johnson, Travis Taylor, Mark Clayton, Yamon Figures, and Devard Darling are all guys the Ravens have drafted in the third round or higher. Not exactly a list of All-Pros there. So why could the Ravens have such difficulty at a single position when the rest of the draft board is on point?
The receiving position is one of the toughest to truly get a grasp on through measurables. Teams around the NFL are attracted to elite speed as is necessary, but speed isn't the only skill necessary to become a true number one receiver. A player must be able to catch the ball consistently and run crisp routes. A receiver can get away with running sloppier routes if they are physically dominate in their size and speed over the defender, but even that is starting to go away as cornerbacks are getting larger and quicker themselves.
Another thing that is near impossible to tell just by looking at game tape is a player's heart. There are more than enough examples of a guy missing some of the physical traits you'd look for in an elite prospect, but being able to make up for that in just pure will. Guys like Steve Smith are perfect examples of that type of mentality fixing physical limitations to become fantastic players.
A large thing that teams must keep in mind when judging receivers is how much their college quarterback helped or hurt them. Watching film this offseason, it was at times obvious to see how a player was hurt by a quarterback being consistently off in their throws. However, how do you properly judge a player that might not have gotten the same types of throws as another player? How do you rank those players side by side and have expectations for them as a pro?
It is apparent that the Ravens will be looking hard at the receiving position this draft. With a crop of players that is expected to rival the draft class of 2014 (three first round selections put up over 1,000 receiving yards last year), it is the perfect time to study and focus on receivers throughout the entire draft. Quarterback Joe Flacco undoubtedly will be watching the draft this year to see if he will get any assistance and a replacement for Torrey Smith.
Now we just have to hope that the Ravens have learned from their previous woes and will be able to correct the ship.