The Baltimore Ravens are only one season removed from having a wide receiver reach 1,000 receiving yards. That player was 2019 first round pick Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown in 2021 when he recorded a career-high 1,008 and was granted his request to be traded the following offseason.
Prior that occurrence, the last two occasions were Mike Wallace in 2016 (1,017) and Steve Smith Sr. in 2014 (1,065). The last time the Ravens had two pass catchers regardless of position record 1,000 or more receiving yards was in 2021 when three-time Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews led the team with a career-high 1,361 yards during his first team All-Pro season.
There’s only been instance when in franchise history where the Ravens had two wide receivers record 1,000 or more receiving yards and that was nearly three decades ago in the franchise inaugural 1996 season. That year, Michael Jackson led the team with a career-high 1,201 yards and Derrick Alexander came in second with a then career high of 1,099 yards.
A new era is dawning in Baltimore with the hiring of offensive coordinator Todd Monken and the offseason additions of three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., veteran Nelson Agholor and first round rookie wideout Zay Flowers, all which have generated buzz throughout the offseason and during training camp.
The new offensive system and explosive playmaking receivers that will be featured has created high expectations for the position group that has been much-maligned for the vast majority of the franchise’s history.
Despite having a wealth of talented pass catchers at both wide receiver and tight end behind Andrews and only one ball to go around, three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey foresees the team having not just one but two wideouts reach 1,000 or more receiving yards in 2023.
“I see us having at least two 1,000-yard receivers this year,” Humphrey said. “Whatever two guys that’ll be, I’m excited for.”
Humphrey went on say that he still believes Andrews continuing to be a focal point in the offense moving forward is a given but those lofty expectations for a position group with a lot of new faces in the first year of a new system.
Nevertheless, since Humphrey didn’t provide any specific names, it’d be a fun exercise to ponder who the most likely candidates to become the first 1,000-yard receiver duo could be.
The clear and most obvious answer is Beckham Jr. given the fact that he has been there and done that with five 1,000-plus yard receiving seasons under his belt in the first nine years of his career. While the last time he reached that threshold was in 2019, that was also the year he worked with Monken who was serving as the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns at the time, although he didn’t call plays.
After sitting out the 2022 season while he recovered from a torn ACL he suffered helping the Los Angeles Rams finish the 2021 season as Super Bowl champions, the 30 year old super star on and off the field looks as smooth, explosive and dangerous as ever based on reports and highlights from camp.
The fact that he is still in his ramp up period according to Head Coach John Harbaugh yet is still able to regularly beat Humphrey and other starting caliber cornerbacks is highly encouraging. When thinking about the kind of impact he can have on the offense as whole but especially quarterback Lamar Jackson and his maturation as a passer, the excitement level for fans and both local and national media should be very high.
While Agholor will certainly have a role in the offense based on how consistently he has been standing out through training camp thus far and dating back to the offseason program, the top candidates to be the Ravens second 1,000-plus yard wide receiver are Flowers and 2021 first rounder Rashod Bateman.
The rookie has been right up there with and even above Beckham Jr. at times in terms of generating excitement during training camp and his impressive limited performance in the preseason opener only further stoked the coals of that hype train even more. Flowers continued to standout during one-on-ones of Tuesday’s joint practice session with the Commanders and will certainly heavily factor into the team’s plans on offense this year, how much remains to be seen.
Bateman has kind of been the forgotten man a little bit in large part because he has been out of sight and out of mind after missing mandatory minicamp and the first couple of weeks of training camp. He was officially activated from the Physically Unable to Perform list last Wednesday and has resumed practicing on a limited basis.
However, the talent to the Ravens No. 1 receiver even over Beckham Jr. is still within Bateman and it could very well come to fruition this year as long as he can stay on the field. Injuries have hampered him in his career up to this point with availability and durability being the only obstacles preventing a breakout for the former University of Minnesota standout.
He missed the first give games on his rookie season and 12 of the last 14 in his second season including the playoffs but prior to that, he was leading the league in yards per reception with 19 through the first five weeks of the year.
Can’t understate how excited I am right now… Rashod Bateman is a terror in the night. pic.twitter.com/raHcXXnV2M— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) August 9, 2023
The key to determining who wins the race to 1,000 yards is contingent on health more than opportunity because as long as both Flowers and Bateman are available and in uniform, Monken will find a way to get the ball in their hands in space to make plays. Even if the rookie starts off the season outpacing the third-year pro, it could only takes a few explosive outings to close the gap.
Either way, the fact that the Ravens even have one, let alone two or more wide receivers that are capable of reaching such heights is a fun problem for both the team and fan base to have. Fantasy football owners would be making a safe bet with Beckham and solid one with either Flowers or Bateman as long as he continues to progress positively.