This post is a live post, meaning I am not sure of the conclusion it is gonna make on which WR (s) to prioritize in the draft. What follows is the decision process I will make towards finding the best fits for the Ravens at WR.
Assumption 1- The different WR positions are not equal. They each have their own difficulties that shape the type of WR that can play them.
- The X, aka the split end, is the hardest WR to fill in that it is the only one that must be at the line of scrimmage at the snap. The difficulty there is that opposing CBs can not only use press coverage most effectively against X receivers but that gives them a leg up on continuing to harass the WR as he moves down the field. Thus receivers need a combination of strength, release moves, and ideally speed, in that order. Speed is not a requirement here and you see many X receivers being possession receivers. Since the X is out wide they have to deal with the sideline and so throws to them tend to be vertical in nature: go routes, back shoulder throws, curls, etc. (They can do other throws as well but those throws are staples of X receivers.) Finally because of their size and strength a good X is a good blocker. That can be an underrated trait by fans but is pretty important to coaches, especially coaches involved in the running game which the Ravens' coaches are.
Because the X is the hardest WR position the X guys can play the other positions as well. For the Ravens defense AJ Green has presented a constant nightmare when he moves inside to the slot and the likes of Corey Graham or Tavon Austin are guarding him, which is just a crazy mismatch. (This is why Humphrey was an all pro last year- he could move inside as a bigger CB who could handle shiftier smaller slots receivers and stop the likes of AJ Green also.) The X at his best is the prototypical WR: think Calvin Johnson as the ideal. Anquan Bolden was an X. In the AFC North think AJ Green, OBJ, and JuJu. The Ravens have two of these guys on their roster at present: Boykin and Scott, with Scott being kinda marginal. Boykin is the default starter unless the team finds another in the draft.
- The Z, aka flanker, can line up off the LOS so strength and size is not as big a priority for them though a nimble X can play the Z quite well. They also are often int motion pre-snap to help get a better release. Dexterity and speed are the most important qualities since the Z can have a step or two before the encounter a CB. Like the X they also have the boundary to deal with so they get the vertical routes too but since they have a step or two to start their route freely they are more likely to go over the middle on slants and such.Think AB as the ideal and is his nephew one Hollywood Brown. The Z can usually also line up in the slot...
- The slot receiver also lines up behind the LOS by a step or two and as such they can often line up at the Z position though it must be said only the best slots are effective at the Z. Being in the middle of the field they specialize mostly in slants and crossers though they can run down the seam vertically. You get two types of slot receivers: smallish ones like Wes Welker or Edelman that are real shifty and can use the greater number of players in the middle of the field to their advantage on picks to get open and big slots who shade towns being TEs who use their size to create space like Kelce or Jimmy Graham. In either case speed is not the most important characteristic here. Short area quickness is. For the Ravens they have two slots: Snead and Mark Andrews.
- Then you have the Y or in-line TE who can block as well as catch passes. Many of these guys are only fair to poor pass catchers, emphasizing blocking first. Gronk was the ideal here. The Ravens have Boyle. Notice that Boyle played more than any other pass catcher last year so don't discount his importance.
Assumption 2- The Ravens have starters at each receiver position. The most entrenched starter is Hollywood at the Z. The slot is also basically taken care of with Snead and Andrews so this year there's not much need for a slot. It would be good to have another Y though perhaps Ricard could slide there if need arises. The X basically has only Boykin unless a light bulb went on in Scott's head this winter and there is where the team could use more depth and possibly a starter if Boykin doesn't improve. So X and Y are the weakest positions. But the point is that the team isn't desperate for a starter WR but they should bolster the positions.
Assumption 3- this year's WR draft class is very deep. We all know this. That makes it not iso mportant to find one in round one.
Assumption 4- The team won't trade up for a WR in round 1 because of Assumption 2 and the need for players at other positions (EDGE, iOL, LB, S, OT) and Assumnption 3 because there's starters available on day 2. The team will want to keep as many picks if possible. That means that Lamb, Jeudy, and Ruggs are all out of bounds as they will get picked well before 28. They are also Z/slot types and though they are very very talented they are also redundant to a team with Hollywood. None of the three are X receivers so we can let them go.
So Justin Jefferson is our guy! Er, no, sorry. He's also a slot/Z guy. He made his living at LSU mainly in the slot so while he has the size he doesn't have the release that X's need. Maybe in time he could develop better release moves but you don't pick a round 1 guy as a project. So if the Ravens picked him he would take snaps away from Hollywood, Andrews, and Snead and we don't want that. If Snead is not on the team next year then the Ravens could pick a slot guy high. Interestingly LSU does have an X WR who will probably go in the top 5 of next year's draft.
Raegor? I really like him! Sorry- he's a Z guy.
Van Jefferson? Z.
Edwards? Not great outside, sorry. He's a slot until he develops more.
Jesus you are such a buzzkill. Sorry.
Dammit! Are you telling me there's no X receiver who could go in round 1? No.
Then who? Denzel Mims. He's fits the prototypical X mold to a T. If the Ravens use a 1st round pick on a WR that guy should be Mims. Good release, strong, fast. It is weird that he's not being talked about with Ruggs, Lamb, and Jeudy and that worries me that he will get taken before 28.
But are there other X's? Yes.
Can you just say who you are thinking of and don't be so passive aggressive? Maybe. lol. Okay. Probably the 2nd highest rankled X is Tee Higgins, he of the bad Combine and Pro Day which probably will drop him out of round 1 and possibly drop him to the region of round 2 where the Ravens pick. At least Ravens fans can hope as his 40 was slooooow.
Another is Michael Pittman who is a bear to cover one on one. same profile: big, not so fast, good hands, strong, decent release, likes to block. Where he wil get picks I have no idea- anywhere between mid to high round 2 to round 4. Probably day 2 though. A third is Collin Johnson of Texas who may slide to round 4? A fourth one is the underrated Isiah Hodgins. Maybe? A fifth one, definitely a day 3 pick but one I like is Quintez Cephus. I just think he's way underrated.Notice that I am using the word "underrated" a lot. That's because decent but not great X's are not flashy and so don't catch the eye so easily, especially for fans and to some extent the media. In general they are tougher or more subtle than flashy. And because fo that they may go a bit earlier than they are ranked.
After Cephus there other X receivers but at some point you have to ask yourself is Jalel Scott or Antoine Wesley better than them? So the team does have a floor on picking an X and that floor is probably round 5.
You forgot one- Chase Claypool. No I didn't. Claypool is NOT an X as his releases are bad. He's a big slot. He's an odd one as he will win at the slot on short throws due to his big body and long vertical routes due to his speed, but not in between due to his lack of moves. He is also a good blocker. He would be interesting to the Ravens if he were in next year's draft but he isn't. A budget Claypool is Juwan Johnson from Oregon who was at Penn State so some of you may remember him. He's slow but very physical and he is trying to convert to TE.
There is one who I haven't mentioned and he's more of a wild card- Laviska Shenault. You kinda know his story, that he's played all receiver positions including running back, but he does have the abilities of an X if a team wants to play him there. And=-surprise, surprise- his stock is dropping like Higgins' and may be available in round 2. Shenauly is a perfect example of an evaluation needing to take context into account. With Viska his team needed him to do everything because 1) he was easily the best athlete on the team and 2) the QBs at Colorado were awful at downfield throws (more than 10 yards). So he came to them and when healthy he was devastating. But what about his injury history? It says here that if you keep him wider on the field, at X or Z, he will get less injured.
Okay. What about in line TE's? Anyone who can spell Boyle? There are a few and because they are not Gronk and aren't flashy they are being downgraded. So don't let others fiool you- there is value here if you want it.
First off is Cole Kmet. In time he'd be an upgrade to Boyle though he needs to develop his first year. Can block. Good speed so can charge down the inseam. Otherwise shallow crossers like what Boyle lives on are his game. Probanky wil go in round 2 and if he falls to 55 may be the BPA at that point.
Next, Adam Trautman, who I think has a pretty damn high ceiling but is more raw than Kmet. He might go in round 2 because of his upside but probably is a round 3 guy. Third is Devin Asiasi who reminds me of a smaller Boyle. Two interesting wild cards are Dalton Keene and Josiah Deguara, who are more of an H-back type but can play in-limne. Last is Thaddeus Moss I think. Don't let the LSU tape fool you- he is not a very good pass catcher and really I hope the Ravens don't pick him.
What about the other TE's? You mean the Andrews-type slot TE's? Parkinson, both Bryants, Hopkins, and Okwueghbunam and all possible and could fill the Hayden Hurst hole.