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Ravens News 3/29: WR surplus, boom/bust prospects and more

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NCAA Football: Kent State at Mississippi Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

4 ways free agency affected Baltimore Ravens’ draft needs - Aaron Kasinitz

Free agency showed finding a receiver — or two or three — in the draft is by far the most important task

We knew entering the offseason the Ravens would hunt for young wide receivers to put around 22-year-old quarterback Lamar Jackson because of the makeup of their roster and the franchise’s perennial struggles to develop talent at the position.

So far, Baltimore hasn’t used free agency to address the need — and it looks like that avenue might not even be an option.

The Ravens turned to a run-heavy attack when Jackson took over behind center last year, which caused receivers’ numbers to plummet. Others across the league took notice at how few catches and yards John Brown and Michael Crabtree piled up.

Coach John Harbaugh told reporters at the NFL meetings in Arizona this week that some veteran free agent wide receivers did not return the Ravens’ phone calls, and general manager Eric DeCosta suggested the team would be better suited to find pass catchers in the draft.

At this point, the Ravens have just two receivers on their roster who’ve caught an NFL pass: slot specialist Willie Snead and dependable backup Chris Moore. The early segments of the offseason suggest Baltimore will have a difficult time adding any additional experience to the mix.

While increased passing at the collegiate level has contributed to the shortage of quality offensive lineman entering the league, the opposite holds true at receiver. Seemingly every recent draft class possesses a surplus of respectable wide receivers, leading to crowded depth charts around the NFL. Chances are some decent veteran receivers will become available after the draft.

Lamar Jackson putting together un-Joe Flacco-like offseason - Jamison Hensley

Unlike his predecessor, Jackson has gotten together with his receivers in Florida for extra throwing sessions.

Where Jackson is expected to make his biggest strides is in the spring workouts and training camp. But Jackson’s practices will be different than other starting quarterbacks around the league.

“He’ll be working extra on little things that a veteran quarterback wouldn’t have to do,” Harbaugh said. “Drew Brees doesn’t have to make certain throws. He’s made them thousands and thousands of times. Lamar’s going to have to replicate throws and ballhandling a lot. And that will be in drills. A young quarterback needs to work harder at the fundamentals than a more veteran quarterback does. He’s developing the fundamentals still.”

Developing Lamar Jackson into a consistent passer remains the Ravens top offseason priority.

Five boom-or-bust prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft - Cam Mellor

D.K. METCALF

Metcalf wowed scouts and those watching the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine with his athleticism. Still, Metcalf’s strong performance in the so-called testing at the combine shouldn’t outweigh his production on the field. Through three seasons at Ole Miss, Metcalf managed a career-high grade of 71.9 and played just 1,070 snaps, with 692 of them coming in 2017 alone. He can run right by defenders and plays violent at the catch point, as noticed by his draft-class-best grade on ‘off-target’ throws, but he still managed seven drops on 74 catchable career targets. There is no question the skills are there to make him a top-notch receiver, but the fact remains: he has never shown that ability when the results actually matter.

Metcalf is the quintessential boom or bust prospect. Mellor also highlights Montez Sweat, Greedy Williams and Rashan Gary’s bust potential.

2019 NFL Draft Big Board: By-Position (March 27) - Scott Pavelle

EDGE Christian Miller, Alabama. 6’3⅜”, 247 lbs. with extraordinary 35⅛” arms. The Draft Network scouting profiles and this excellent gif-supported January article from Brad Kelly combine to say Miller has all the athletic tools that Pittsburgh will look for but in measured amounts; i.e., almost-great burst, bend, ability to play in space, sophistication as a pass rusher, ability to set the edge, etc. He’s also known as a real team leader whose absence was a genuine issue in the big Bowl game. The only red flags are health related: a bad bicep tear that ended 2017 and an equally severe hamstring that ended 2018. The NFL.com scouting profile adds some concerns about his ability to anchor against the run and to turn strength into power on rushes. Here is a February scouting profile from our sister site for the Lions. This gif-supported March scouting report has no particular criticism aside from being a one year starter, but nevertheless ends in a fringe-3rd grade. This brief March scouting profile from our sister site for the Chiefs ends in a Round 2 grade as a 4-3 Sam with pass rushing chops.

EDGE D’Andre Walker, Georgia. 6’2⅜”, 251 lbs. with long 34⅜” arms. The Draft Network scouting profiles describe a player who has all the individual assets you want but has never managed to unite them into an organized pass rush. The NFL.com scouting profile suggests that he ”could find early work as a rotational edge-bending rush specialist” while he works on various technical shortcomings. He’s reported to be good but inconsistent at setting the edge in the run game and capable of dropping into space. This goes to a DraftWire interview. This solid looking March scouting report compares him to a bendier Kyle Van Noy.

Two of the edge rushers Baltimore may consider on Day 2. Behind the Steel Curtain’s big board contains a wealth of knowledge.