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538: “Ravens acquisition Jeremy Maclin will reshape the AFC”

NFL: Baltimore Ravens-Minicamp Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

Fivethirtyeight is an ESPN spinoff that focuses on analytical statistical analysis. They recently published a piece entitled “Four Offseason Moves That Will Reshape the AFC,” which identifies one player per division who has the potential to alter the balance of power in the conference. Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was their selection in the AFC North:

The numbers that stand out are Joe Flacco’s declining average yards per completion. It appears that Gary Kubiak’s hybrid West Coast scheme was not an ideal fit for the strong armed quarterback’s skillset once the coaching guru stopped calling the Ravens plays. A return to Cam Cameron’s preferred gameplan of smash mouth running combined with an pronounced emphasis on the vertical passing game, including deep shots off play-action, may be in the team’s best interest next season.

By all accounts, the 29-year-old Maclin still has plenty left in the tank. He will essentially be replacing Steve Smith Sr. in the Ravens lineup. Smith was outstanding at providing explosive plays via impressive runs after the catch and caught more than his fair share of jump balls for a man of his stature. Still, Maclin has more raw speed and height than Smith, he should be able to help Flacco connect on a higher percentage of deep balls.

Adding Maclin to the speedy receiving corps of Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman gives Baltimore a trio that would be difficult for any NFL team to top in a hypothetical three-man relay race. Maclin runs a 4.45 40-yard dash, Wallace ran a 4.33 at the combine and Perriman is a sub-4.3 athlete.

The Ravens pure speed at wideout will threaten every opponent on their schedule. But as 538 rightfully points out, the passing game’s success will ultimately be determined by Flacco’s passing accuracy.