In the SB Nation 2021 Mock Draft, the Baltimore Beatdown staff came to the decision to select Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU with the 27th overall pick. This would mark the second straight year the Ravens used a first round pick to dip into the talent pool that took the world by storm in 2019 when LSU went one of the more memorable collegiate championship runs in recent history.
Joining Patrick Queen in Baltimore, Marshall brings height, speed and spice. Marshall racked up 23 touchdowns in his final 19 games for LSU. His final 10, which came across seven games in 2020, might be the most impressive.
Considering that LSU had 13 players drafted following their 2019-20 National Championship, the cupboard was left barren. That doesn’t include Ja’Marr Chase, who opted out ahead of the 2020 season and seems primed to be one of the first players selected in this year’s draft. Marshall rose to the occasion and averaged 100 yards and a touchdown per game while playing an all SEC schedule
Marshall’s production was also impressive considering the drop-off in quarterback play from Joe Burrow to a platoon of inconsistent and erratic passers. LSU also lost whiz-kid offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who orchestrated one of the most efficient offenses in college football history before joining the Carolina Panthers in the same position this past year.
Marshall played primarily on the boundary (73.9% of 2019 snaps) during LSU’s championship run. Aligning in a variety of splits, he demonstrated explosive downfield speed in his release paired with strong deep ball tracking and a considerable catch radius. He wins in contested situations with his height, 40-inch vertical and by adjusting to the ball at the catch point over defenders.
Terrace Marshall, the most underrated WR prospect in the NFL draft pic.twitter.com/IMd1Gbt2ZL— Cardinals Fanatics (@cardsfanatics_) April 24, 2021
2021 WR Terrace Marshall Jr. has an obvious strength when you turn on the film - adjusting his body to the catchpoint to finish explosive plays pic.twitter.com/EezZrSACGx— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) March 26, 2020
That was the majority of Marshall’s workload in 2019. In 2020, Marshall kicked inside to replace Justin Jefferson. 76% of Marshall’s 2020 snaps came from the slot, where he demonstrated pace variation and burst to separate over the middle of the field. Marshall also showed his dynamic speed after the catch, where he was rarely tackled once he found a seam and stepped on the accelerator.
Some variation and burst to win and get in the end zone. This looks professional. pic.twitter.com/ECxUwpjAwY— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) April 25, 2021
This is what a first round receiver should look like.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) April 25, 2021
Pace variation to cause flat footed DB ✅
Physical at the stem to establish leverage ✅
Secures the catch cleanly ✅
Hits the jets ‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/22b2Etn31I
He’s a runna he’s a track stah— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) April 25, 2021
Breakaway speed ✅
Finds the throwing window in zone ✅ pic.twitter.com/JSNgzdwvjV
Has legitimate speed in his release.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) April 25, 2021
Propels himself with a clean push off that would rarely garner a flag.
Tracks and gets two feet down.
He’s an extremely legit deep threat who can make contested catches deep. pic.twitter.com/sD89BLhNVj
SMOOTH hesi into the seam and snags the ball at its earliest point with strong hands when he could’ve taken a shot. pic.twitter.com/rjB9DguOuH— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) April 25, 2021
Reflecting on Marshall’s past two seasons, he’s shown that he can function inside or outside at a high level. This should allow him to be relatively scheme versatile, and a chess piece who can be moved around the find the best matchup. In 2020, the former Tiger also showed a knack for reading and finding throwing windows against zone coverage, which the Ravens see more of than any team in the NFL due to Lamar Jackson’s lethal mobility.
Marshall has been commonly mocked to the Ravens because many believe Marshall is the prototypical “X” receiver that Baltimore has lacked. The issue with that statement is that Marshall wasn’t that guy at LSU. In 2019, it was Ja’Marr Chase, who plays with far superior physicality. In 2020, Marshall played almost exclusively in the slot. Marshall fits the profile of a flanker much more so. His contested catch ability and subtle late push-offs, while considering he’s young and has the frame to fill out more, are promising at the same time.
Marshall’s game isn’t all rainbows and sunshine, however. While “stiff” may be too strong of a word to describe Marshall’s lateral breaks, his speed cuts require rounding. He doesn’t quite sink his hips in and out of breaks the way elite route runners like Elijah Moore can, unable to flatten and work back to the ball without wasting motion.
Marshall relies more on pace variation to mask his shortcoming, where he approaches his stem under control, then accelerates out of his break to create separation. More technically sound defensive backs in the NFL will be able to disrupt Marshall’s stems as he can’t threaten sharp angles at full speed consistently.
Additionally, reports of medical concerns at the NFL Combine have surfaced.
Interesting. @MoveTheSticks says on a conference call that some medical issues “popped” for LSU receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. at the medical combine in Indianapolis.— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) April 21, 2021
Marshall missed time in high school and college with foot and leg injuries that required surgery.
Marshall missed three games in 2019, but returned to form and played well in 2020 to follow. Baltimore was unbothered by injury risk in 2019 when they made Marquise Brown the first receiver off the board despite having two screws inserted into his foot ahead of the draft.
Another area of concern is that simply put, Marshall drops passes. All receivers drop passes, but Marshall drops more than you’d like to see out of a first-round receiver. Pro Football Focus tagged Marshall with seven drops on 55 catchable passes in 2020. The drops seem to be of the classic “running before the catch” variety.
Second atrocious drop of this game. pic.twitter.com/nzb0Br6vK8— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) April 25, 2021
It’d be a lot cooler if ya did pic.twitter.com/foXAmyrx72— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) April 25, 2021
Finally, receivers aren’t drafted to block, but in Baltimore’s offense, they will have to. Marshall, on his best days, is an average blocker. In space he consistently stops moving his feet, allows his man a runway to gain momentum and gives up his chest. His effort and technique seemed miles better in 2019, when LSU was a more competitive team overall.
He brings that weak weak too often in the run game. Consistently misses angles and lets DBs blow up run plays.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) April 25, 2021
Ravens would hound him to improve, ha ha ha. pic.twitter.com/BYla8njHsI
Again WEAK. Doesn’t cut the distance or engage. Gives defenders a runway and gets blown up.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) April 25, 2021
Unsurprisingly, the former five-star recruit lit up LSU’s pro day, earning the third highest Relative Athletic Score in the 2021 receiver class behind only Ja’Marr Chase and Jacob Harris.
Marshall stamped his height, explosiveness and speed. His RAS does come with an asterisk, as he didn’t test for agility, which leads me to believe that his inability to sink his hips would’ve shown up in the 3-cone or short shuttle. Marshall’s athletic testing profile is remarkably similar to Jaguars receiver and another former LSU Tiger, D.J. Chark.
If Marshall can become remotely as successful as Chark, the Ravens would hit a home run with this pick. Baltimore has lacked a dynamic receiver with a large catch radius since the Anquan Boldin days of old. While Marshall isn’t overly physical, he possesses a large catch radius and consistently creates late separation by subtly pushing off. He would become perhaps Baltimore’s best contested catch target, as he brought down 25 contested catches on 41 such targets over the past two years according to Pro Football Focus.
Terrace Marshall Jr.: 59.5 career contested catch %— PFF (@PFF) April 22, 2021
Best in the 2021 NFL Draft pic.twitter.com/Wa6y9GUnDl
Drops and a lack of run blocking effort/ability might grow frustrating for the young receiver, who is still only 20-years-old. As the Ravens have seen with Miles Boykin, when receivers are given a small target share and struggle to be effective in the passing game, problems can compound.
Marshall would bring a more diverse skill set than Boykin, as he’s able to work in the slot and possesses substantially more speed after the catch. Boykin also only has two more years on his contract, which could make him dispensable of Marshall were to come in and provide an upgrade.
Drafting Marshall would give the Ravens a full, diverse receiver room for the first time in years. Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay and James Proche would allow for depth at both boundary positions as well as the slot, while bringing very different body types and skill sets. Marshall also steps his game up in the red zone, which could provide a lethal pairing alongside Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown, who have both done considerable damage in that area to this point in their respective careers.
Terrace Marshall Jr. didn't drop a single pass in the redzone at LSU (25 targets) pic.twitter.com/12FisbwNZ6— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 18, 2021
Baltimore’s new wide receivers coach and pass-game specialist, Tee Martin and Keith Williams, would certainly be ecstatic to see a specimen like Terrace Marshall Jr. in Baltimore. While he does need sharpening in certain areas, Marshall possesses size, explosive movement skills and a strong production resume.
If Marshall is able to manage his drops while continuing to develop strength in his 6-foot-3 205-pound frame, he provides Lamar Jackson with a rare combination of explosive speed and juice after the catch. With almost 33-inch arms, Marshall can reel in deep balls and continue to hone in on his contested catch prowess. Yet another red zone weapon, Marshall has potential to be more of the “true No. 1” that Ravens fans have clamored for with just a smidge of development over the next two years.
With only two years remaining on Miles Boykin and Marquise Brown’s contracts, Marshall could become the featured piece in year three, allowing the Ravens flexibility in free agency/roster construction down the road.
If Marshall’s career is somewhere between D.J. Chark and D.K. Metcalf, he will elevate the Ravens offense. Marshall’s athletic profile is similar to Chark out of LSU. Marshall’s strengths and weaknesses are similar to Metcalf’s (if Metcalf didn’t have an additional 20 pounds of muscle.) Both Metcalf and Marshall are height/speed/length receivers who struggle to sink their hips. Both receivers struggle with concentration drops. Both receivers can run away from a defense if they catch a seam. Metcalf has 20 pounds of muscle on Marshall. He isn’t as explosively fast, he doesn’t block as well, but he’s also not as stiff (due to not being as bulky).
If Marshall can resemble either of those receivers for Baltimore, they couldn’t do much better with a late first round pick.