NFL Draft Talk Volume XXVII
As the NFL draft draws closer and closer here are some questions that are circulating that pertain to prospects and their draft stock as well as their potential and projected impacts at the next level. Will this finally be the year that the Ravens crack the code at the receiver position in the draft? Prior to stepping down as the General Manager of the Baltimore Ravens at the end of the 2018 season, Ozzie Newsome had built up a Hall of Fame resume as a league executive that is equal to or in the eyes of some even more impressive than his Hall of Fame playing career. If a person was available to be inducted into to Canton twice, he’d have two bronze busts in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He drafted two first-ballot Hall of Fame players with his first two picks as a General Manager in 1996 when he took Johnathan Ogden and Ray Lewis in the first round that year and has constructed two Superbowl winning rosters. However, the one thing that he was not able to accomplish during his time at the helm of the Ravens front office is that he was never able to draft a receiver that developed into a star or even made a Pro Bowl. His successor and longtime friend and understudy Eric DeCosta, who is in his inaugural season as the team’s General Manager, will be tasked with succeeding in the one area that Newsome couldn’t deliver. They hold then 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft and are without a second-round selection after trading it to get back into the first round last year to take starting quarterback Lamar Jackson. While this is considered a deep wide receiving class, many of the top prospects at the position are expected to be gone by the time they are going to on the clock again in the third round barring a trade. There are some talented receivers that should be available at 22 and here are some of those prospects and why they’d make a good fit in Baltimore: Hakeem Butler: The former Iowa State Cyclone and Baltimore native would be right at home and in my opinion a perfect fit with Ravens. He has a huge catch radius that would benefit Jackson in his second year as he looks to improve as a more consistent passer. Butler excels at yards after catch because he is extremely hard to bring down and possess superb breakaway speed at 6”6” and 225 pounds. AJ Brown: While all of the pre-draft buzz has been circulating around his freakishly athletic teammate at Ole Miss in D.K. Metcalf who will likely go in the top 15 picks after being the star of the Scouting Combine, Brown was the more productive, consistent and healthy Rebel receiver over the last two seasons. He can dominate out wide, line up inside as a slot option and runs the entire route tree. He’s a smooth route runner and gets in and out of his breaks effortlessly. Jackson is at his best when throwing between the numbers and Brown’s versatility will help him grow in throwing outside of the numbers as well. N’Keal Harry: He’s the best of the bunch at coming down with the 50/50 ball and his large catch radius coupled with his excellent body control has led to some of the most acrobatic catches in all of college football during his time as a Sun Devil at Arizona State. He already tracks the ball and climbs the ladder at a Pro Bowl level and he also runs crisp routes and is explosive out of his breaks as well as off the line of scrimmage. He would be a good outside option to pare with Jackson's strong arm and could be the kind of receiver that hauls in what looks like a throw away through the back of the endzone for a touchdown. Marquise Brown: Even though he couldn’t run a 40-yard dash at the combine or his Pro Day because he was recovering from Lisfranc foot surgery, his game tape shows that he is hands down the deadliest deep threat in this year’s class. His blazing speed makes him a home run threat every time he takes the field. Although he is the cousin of seven-time Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown, his game most resembles that of Philadelphia Eagles’ wideout Desean Jackson in the way he can outrun coverage and run underneath any long ball. Kyler Murray rarely underthrew the speedster last season at Oklahoma and with John ‘Smokey’ Brown now in Buffalo, Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown could be the Ravens next vertical threat if he’s still available at 22.