Dec 28, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken (11) is congratulated by quarterback Joe Flacco (5) after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
The wide receiver position was widely viewed as a weak spot for the Ravens going into the offseason, especially after the loss of Torrey Smith. But with additions in the draft, where do the Ravens’ pass catchers rank in the NFL?
The statistics from last year offer much reason for optimism. Doubt Joe Flacco as much as you’d like, but he and his unheralded group of receivers ranked 6th in pass offense according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings. The only teams ahead of them (in order) were 1. Pittsburgh 2. Green Bay 3. Denver 4. Dallas 5. New England. Pretty good company.
Torrey Smith led all Ravens receivers, ranking 9th in DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement, more info found here) with 310. This put him ahead of more vaunted receiving threats Alshon Jeffery (13th), Calvin Johnson (16th), A.J. Green (29th) and just behind Demaryius Thomas (8th). Granted, there were some injury concerns, but that certainly factors into a receiver’s value as well.
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Among the other pass catchers on the roster, Steve Smith Sr. checked in at 45th (79 DYAR). Kamar Aiken didn’t catch enough passes to be ranked, but had 106 DYAR, Marlon Brown had 61 DYAR, and Jacoby Jones had 11 DYAR. As for the Tight Ends, Owen Daniels ranked 16th with 49 DYAR, and Crockett Gillmore finished with 20 DYAR in limited action. You add all of that up and you’re looking at a pretty good group of receivers.
So where does that leave the Ravens for this year? The losses of Torrey Smith and Owen Daniels hurts, but they are offset by the additions of Breshad Perriman, Maxx Williams, and dark-horse sleeper TE Nick Boyle. Given Smith’s age (36) and the rookie learning curve, statistical regression should be expected. However, an increased workload and contributions from the other receivers on the roster should be factored in as well.
“To have a successful season, Perriman has to make an impact. But what the Ravens won’t need to do is put too much on the rookie early. They should have the luxury to let Perriman grow into his role and put him into positions where he’ll be able to succeed.”
–Jeff Zrebiec, Baltimore Sun
The dark horse here is really Kamar Aiken. While playing in a limited role, he still managed a higher DYAR (106) than starter Steve Smith Sr. (79). Though listed on the depth chart behind Perriman, Aiken has been running with the starters in OTAs and is a bit of a darling in insider circles. He really has a chance to contribute in this offense. Don’t be surprised if Aiken splits starting reps with Perriman early in the year and makes it hard for John Harbaugh to push him down the depth chart.
Another name to remember is 6th round pick Darren Waller. At 6’6, 238lbs, the kid is a specimen but is still very raw. He’s got great speed and could eventually pair with Perriman as another deep threat on the outside. This is probably more of a redshirt year for him but he could make an impact down the stretch. DeAndre Carter is another young receiver to watch, but it’s doubtful he cracks the top six receivers on the roster, unless the quadriceps injury to Michael Campanaro causes him to miss valuable training camp snaps.
Bottom line: the Ravens’ receiving corps is deceptively good and with a group of up-and-coming young players, is only looking to get better. Throw into this mix new pass-happy offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, and another top ten passing offense finish is certainly possible, with even higher expectations for the future.