In a press conference on Jan. 20th, John Harbaugh said that he will not be begging a number one wide receiver to come and join the Ravens this off season. While I do think that he made a fair point, I also think that there is a case for going above and beyond to get Lamar Jackson a true number one WR. The root of my argument is based in the progression we have seen of young quarterbacks following them acquiring a star receiver. On top of helping Lamar develop as a passer, having a star receiver can cause a ripple effect boosting the productivity of the entire offense.
The first example is that of Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins. In Kyler's first year, he was surrounded by mostly young and inexperienced wide receivers with the exception of Larry Fitzgerald who is approaching the end of a Hall of Fame career. With the acquisition of Hopkins we saw Kyler improve his completion percentage by 3% moving from 64.4% to 67.2%. He accompanied that improvement with an increase of 300 passing yards as well as 6 more passing touchdowns compared to the previous year. On the side of advanced metrics we saw his passer rating jump from 87.4 to 94.3 and his QBR jumped over 10 points from 57.7 to 68.9. When it comes to the ripple effect, Kyler rushed for almost 300 more yards and 7 more TDs compared to his rookie year. As a team in 2019, the Cardinals ranked 21st in total offense (24th in passing and 10th in rushing). Compare that to 2020 where the Cardinals were ranked 6th in total offense (17th in passing and 7th in rushing). I understand that there were other factors but Hopkins played a massive role in the offensive improvement of Murray and the Cardinals.
The second example is Josh Allen and the acquisition of Stefon Diggs. This is a little different than the previous example because Allen saw MASSIVE improvements this year. With the addition of Diggs to the Bills receiving corps Allen boosted his completion percentage by more than 10 points, going from 58.8% to 69.2%. The climb in yards and touchdowns was just as drastic; Allen added 17 more TDs and nearly 1500 yards between his '19 and '20 seasons. As far as team improvement, in 2019 the Bills ranked 24th in total offense (26th in passing and 8th in rushing). In 2020 the Bills jumped all the way to 2nd in total yards (3rd in Passing and 20th in rushing). One final note with the Bills is that despite Diggs having a monster year, their WR2 Cole Beasley managed career highs in both catches and yards.
What does this mean for Lamar? Throughout Lamar's first three seasons we have seen him progress as a thrower but there is obviously still room to grow. With that being said, he also hasn't exactly had the best wide receiver groups to work with. Hollywood Brown showed flashes during the back half of this year, but I also think that a star wide receiver could potentially lead to more production from him (as with Beasley in Buffalo). While you can certainly identify other factors that played a role in the growth of Murray and Allen, the acquisition of a star receiver in both cases played a major factor. A star wide receiver is a piece of the puzzle towards developing Lamar as a passer and also eventually reaching a Super Bowl.
I respect the fact that the Ravens are a run first team and are going to stick to that identity. However, they can do that while also bolstering the passing game. It has become clear that having the number one rushing offense is not enough to win games in January when you accompany it with the 32nd ranked passing attack.
I don't want to drag this Fan Post out too long so I won't go into too much detail about how the Ravens can go about fixing this problem. My dream scenario is one in which the Ravens trade up in the first round to grab Kyle Pitts (probably in the 20th-15th pick range) and find a way to sign Will Fuller. The pairing of Will Fuller and Hollywood Brown gives the Ravens the speed to take the top off the defense while also being able to throw the ball underneath and picking up yards after the catch. Adding Kyle Pitts, a player who I think has Darren Waller or maybe even Travis Kelce potential, gives Lamar the big, athletic, and sure handed target that many are saying he needs. While that is my dream, I think that it is more realistic that they sign a receiver like Kenny Golladay, draft a receiver like Tylan Wallace or Amon-Ra St. Brown, and add a tight end late in the draft. Either way, I will take any help that they can find to bolster the passing game.