With Steve Smith Sr. retired, Kamar Aiken set to leave in free agency and Mike Wallace a potential cap casualty, the Baltimore Ravens are in desperate need of a wide receiver this offseason. And not just any wide receiver, the Ravens need a true number one.
The first round of the 2017 NFL Draft has two stud wide receivers, both of whom have superstar potential. These two are Mike Williams and Corey Davis. However, with multiple wide receiver needy teams ahead of the Ravens (Tennessee, Arizona and Philadelphia), there is a strong chance neither Williams nor Davis is available with the 16th overall selection.
The Ravens thus will wait until the second round to snag their wide receiver. Enter JuJu Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster will enter draft day as one of the top five receivers in this year’s class, but due to the other wide receiver talent, Smith-Schuster could fall to the second round. If the Ravens go defense in the first round, selecting Smith-Schuster in the second could prove to be a smart decision in the long run.
The general scouting report on Smith-Schuster will say that the USC product his a huge receiver at 6’2” 220, and that he uses his size to his advantage. Smith-Schuster is very physical, and is able to make tough contested catches downfield. The knock on Smith-Schuster is that he doesn’t possess high end speed that teams often are hoping to get in a number one receiver.
Lance Zierlein writes the following about the former Trojan, “Outstanding size and a very available target. Shows no concern working over the middle. Known for his competitive spirit and alpha demeanor. Hyper-aware of defenders around him in space. Works back to the ball as aggressively as he needs to when defenders are attempting to ball-hawk. Searches and sinks into the optimal openings against zone coverage. Plays to his size and has plus route strength. Shows effective uses of frame to shield cornerbacks from contested catches. Plucks it way out front of his body with strong, confident hands. Tremendous ball tracker with ability to search, find and follow the pass in over his shoulder. Has body control to twist and contort in mid-air to pull the throw in. Plays with sideline awareness and consistently drops feet in-bounds on boundary catches. Rugged, aggressive runner after the catch with a stiff-arm to hurt feelings.. Has field vision after catch for maximum YAC yardage. Reliable blocker who can help spring a big run. Able to sustain blocks with power.”
Check out some of Smith-Schuster’s highlights in the below video:
In the video, USC quarterback Sam Darnold is consistently seen throwing it up to Smith-Schuster, allowing his receiver to make a play on the ball. Smith-Schuster out muscles the defensive backs on him, and his able to make all of the tough catches. Throughout the year for USC, Smith-Schuster served as a security blanket for Darnold.
This analysis very much reminds me of the type of scouting report given on Anquan Boldin. Boldin was a not a particularly fast receiver, but a very physical one with extremely reliable hands. The Ravens were able to make up for Boldin’s lack of high end speed by lining up Torrey Smith on the other side of the field. Boldin, like Smith-Schuster with Darnold, served a security blanket for quarterback Joe Flacco. This was epitomized in the Super Bowl XVLII victory of the San Francisco 49ers, as Flacco leaned on Boldin in crucial moments.
A very similar situation could emerge in Baltimore if the Ravens choose to draft Smith-Schuster. The Ravens could line the former Trojan out wide on one side, and either of Mike Wallace or Breshad Perriman on the other. Wallace and/or Perriman will serve Torrey Smith’s prior role as the deep threat, while Smith-Schuster is the big, physical possession receiver. With Steve Smith Sr. gone, and Dennis Pitta nearing the end of his career, Flacco needs a target he can rely on. Smith-Schuster provides the solution.
While he isn’t the most talented receiver in this year’s class, Smith-Schuster has the potential to be a solid pro. In Baltimore, Smith-Schuster will give Baltimore the possession receiver it has lacked, and yearned for since losing Boldin.