Recently, there was an article on Cincy Jungle ranking the AFC North teams receiver groups. No surprises here, the Steelers were first, followed by the Bengals. It is hard to argue with those rankings, since both teams boast both an elite #1 wide-out and depth at the position.
But a ranking behind the lackluster group the Browns are fielding this year seems a bit much. Here is what the writer had to say:
Projected WR Depth Chart: Steve Smith Sr., Breshad Perriman, Marlon Brown,Kamar Aiken, Darren Waller, Michael Campanaro Any Ravens fans who have made it to this point of the article are likely seething, but I have my reasons for this fourth place ranking. After a solid 2014 campaign (79 receptions, 1,065 yards, 6 touchdowns), Steve Smith Sr. proved he still has a little left in the tank. However, it is fair to wonder how much is still left. At 36-years-old, it is hard to imagine Smith’s number doing anything but declining at this point in his career, especially for a receiver who relies on his speed (and offensive pass interference) in order to get open. And, despite his solid 2014 season, Smith tied for the league lead with 10 dropped passes and no receiver with 65+ receptions dropped a higher percentage of their passes (7.5%) than Smith.
Beyond Smith, the Ravens don’t have much in terms of experience when it comes to receivers. The Ravens’ remaining depth chart had a total of 55 receptions in 2014. The Ravens lost their top deep threat in the offseason (Torrey Smith) and his 11 touchdowns, and while they took a big and fast receiver in the first round to replace Smith (Breshad Perriman), the knock on Perriman is dropped passes. In fact, despite playing against less than impressive competition in the American Athletic Conference, Perriman dropped 8 of 54 catchable passes – or a whopping 14.8%! While this Ravens wide receiver corps has some potential in 2015 if all pans out, relying on a 36-year-old receiver and a bunch of unproven players is a dangerous recipe – one that Joe Flacco is likely concerned about.
The Ravens group is unproven for the most part, and the position is definitely the biggest weakness on a team that is stout up and down the roster. But the Ravens do have some solid options:
1) Veteran Steve Smith- Although he slowed last year, he is a better #1 option than the Browns can boast. Projected Browns #1 WR Dwayne Bowe has experienced a severe dropoff for 3 years now. He has not eclipsed 801 receiving yards for the past 3 years, and has 8 touchdowns combined over those 3 seasons. Steve Smith had over 1000 yds and 6 touchdowns last year.
2) Rookie Breshad Perriman- With no Josh Gordon, the entire Browns receiving group lacks any player with a pedigree like this. The Browns have not invested much draft capital in their receiving corp recently, and it shows.
3) Players who have shown flashes- Kamar Aiken was a reliable 3rd option last year. Marlon Brown had a great rookie year before receiving less targets in 2014 with the Ravens boasting a deeper WR group. Michael Campanaro also showed flashes in a rookie season where he was in and out of the lineup. Darren Waller is also a monstrous, albeit raw target with great speed and hands.
So while this may not be a unit to write home about when comparing it to groups with elite options like Antonio Brown and A.J. Green, and better depth like Mohammed Sanu and Marvin Jones in Cincinatti or Marcus Wheaton, Martavius Bryant, and Sammy Coates in Pittsburgh, this is not a worse group than one featuring Dwayne Bowe, Andrew Hawkins, Brian Hartline and Taylor Gabriel as their top 4 options.
Even the Browns writer had trouble putting much enthusiasm for this group:
Chris Pokorny (@DawgsByNature), Dawgs By Nature
Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel are matchup problems for third and fourth cornerbacks due to their quickness, but we're putting a lot of faith in Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline to step up as No. 1 receivers.
I would take the Ravens group ahead of this ragtag group, but then again I am a Ravens fan. Maybe Browns fans feel the same about their group. Guess we will have to wait and see once the season starts. One thing I will tell you is, there is a huge difference between Elite Joe Flacco throwing the ball and Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel throwing to you!