The Baltimore Ravens signed veteran receiver Sammy Watkins in free agency but are still in need of some more quality perimeter targets for former league MVP Lamar Jackson to throw to outside the numbers.
This year’s class is loaded with wide receivers of all shapes and sizes. While perceived slot types are abundant, there aren’t nearly as many big-bodied options that can come in and have an immediate impact.
One prospect that not only has the prototypical physical profile of an ‘X’ receiver but also has experience catching passes from Jackson is the University of Louisville’s Dez Fitzpatrick.
The former Cardinal was a freshman in Jackson’s last college season in 2017. He finished as the team’s second-leading receiver in receptions and receiving yards, and led the team in receiving touchdowns with 45 catches for 699 yards and nine scores.
Dez Fitzpatrick is my top receiver for the Ravens in the 2021 draft based off of skillset, value, and potential— Kevin Oestreicher (@koestreicher34) February 22, 2021
If Fitzpatrick is drafted by Baltimore, Lamar Jackson would have a big target to throw to who he’s very familiar withpic.twitter.com/Tyq27kSPJ4
Fitzpatrick’s collegiate career didn’t ascend in the way that many believed it would after his one year with Jackson. While he was never the true No. 1, he was a close second each year as the complementary piece opposite of the team’s top target.
He played the Robin role to former Ravens undrafted free agent Jaylen Smith from 2017-2018 and then to Chartarius ‘Tutu’ Atwell from 2019-2020. The only reason he ended up leading the team with a career-high 833 receiving yards as a senior was because Atwell opted out of the final two games of the 2020 season.
Fitzpatrick displayed flashes of dynamic playmaking ability throughout his career, especially downfield where he averaged 18.1 and 19.4 yards a catch the past two years, but he never consistently dominated. However, despite inconsistent quarterback play, he managed to be a steady producer and a dependable target.
He possesses good build-up speed and ran a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. His ability to utilize his frame helps him box out defenders at the catch point. He can go up and win contested catches as well as make last-second adjustments to back shoulder and slightly errant passes.
Fitzpatrick was invited to the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl and had a solid week of practice where he displayed some polished route running, the ability to run routes out of the slot, and showed off his ball skills.
In the game itself, he was the most impressive receiver on either team as he exhibited great body control on the boundary, inside/outside versatility, and was a reliable chain mover. Fitzpatrick finished with a game-high 90 yards including a long of 29 and five of his game-leading six receptions resulted in first downs.
Louisville's Dez Fitzpatrick leads all receivers at the Senior Bowl with six catches and 90 yards, including this snag. It was polite of him to inform this defensive back he'd be taking the ball and casually letting him through on the way to more yards. pic.twitter.com/j2saVklzJ9— Tyler Greever (@Tyler_Greever) January 30, 2021
He still has some work to do in the route running department and isn’t great at getting in and out of his breaks sometimes. If drafted by the Ravens, he’d greatly benefit from receiving positional tutelage from new coaching hires Tee Martin and Keith Williams.
Fitzpatrick may never blossom into a perennial Pro Bowler, average 1,000 plus yards a season, or even be in the conversation for the top wideout on the team. However, he can still be a reliable possession receiver for his quarterback in the passing game with the ceiling to become a high-end No. 2 that complements a team’s top target like he did in college.
He’s projected to be a day three pick and could be selected as high as the fourth round, as low as the seventh or even undrafted in some evaluators’ eyes. The Ravens currently have a pair of picks in the fourth and fifth round and might have more depending on if they trade back on day one or two.
Even if they select a wide receiver earlier in the draft, they’ve taken two in each of the last three years. Fitzpatrick would be an ideal candidate to be the second wideout taken if they were to double-dip at the position for the fourth year in a row. He is worth a mid-to-late round flier.