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Devin Duvernay needs to be the Ravens starting slot WR next season

Duvernay is the Ravens’ slot receiver of the future. All he needs is more opportunities.

NFL: New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Upgrading the wide receiver position will be a big topic this offseason for the Baltimore Ravens, and for good reason, the Ravens were ninth in drop percentage (5.2%) and 31st in yards after catch (1,272) last season.

Currently, Marquise Brown is the only wide receiver locked in as a starter for next season. Across from the 5’9” Brown, a large, jump-ball receiver would be ideal. Free agents Allen Robinson and Marvin Jones would be perfect fits or the Ravens could elect to find a receiver in the draft. The last spot remaining is the slot position. However, the Ravens already have the perfect slot receiver on their roster, Devin Duvernay, and it is still baffling that he was scarcely utilized there last season.

Coming out of Texas, Duvernay was one of the best slot receivers in college football. In 2019, he had 104 receptions out of the slot for the Longhorns; Justin Jefferson was the only player with more (109). He was also PFF’s third-highest graded slot receiver in 2019, behind only CeeDee Lamb and Tyler Johnson.

I was a big fan of Duvernay’s game prior to the draft. He had elite speed, hands, and played with surprising physicality for a 5’11” receiver. That physicality was on full display on this play, where he ran over LSU safety Grant Delpit.

As for his hands, this quote from former Texas head coach Tom Herman to Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman says it all: “I don’t think I have (seen him drop a pass). I literally can’t remember when I’ve seen one.”

As a rookie, Duvernay did not have a large role. He was targeted only 26 times (fifth on the team). Still, he was impressive in his limited action, and the statistics solidify that. Duvernay led all Ravens’ wide receivers in catch percentage with 76.9% and yards after catch per reception (minimum five targets). In addition, he was able to showcase his big-play ability as a kick returner, as he averaged 27.5 yards per kickoff return, which was eighth in the NFL (minimum 10 returns). His biggest play of the season was a 93-yard kickoff return touchdown against the Chiefs.

Yes, Duvernay was a rookie. Still, it is odd that a team searching for wide receiver help did not turn more to the third-round pick. Additionally, it is staggering how little Duvernay actually lined up in the slot. Duvernay played 193 snaps wide and only 163 snaps in the slot. So, where did the slot snaps go? Well, Mark Andrews will rightfully continue to get his share of slot snaps, and he had 333 snaps there last season. However, Willie Snead IV actually led the Ravens in snaps from the slot with 476. We can see a direct correlation between Snead and Duvernay’s playing time. Snead missed Week 12 and Week 13, and Duvernay played 41 snaps in Week 12 and 44 snaps in Week 13. He then only played 13 total snaps in the two following games with Snead active. Snead might have been the Ravens’ most consistent wide receiver over the course of last season, but he does not have Duvernay’s upside. Snead is set to hit free agency, and the Ravens have a limited amount of cap space and multiple needs to fill. So, Duvernay taking over Snead’s role makes a lot of sense.

If the Ravens want to take their passing game to another level, the simplest upgrade is making Duvernay a bigger part of their offense.