The Baltimore Ravens will surely take at least one receiver in the NFL Draft this week. But even in such a deep class, they should consider trading up.
At some point during the NFL Draft this weekend, the Baltimore Ravens are almost certain to take at least one wide receiver. Eric DeCosta has said as much and indicated he believes there should starter-caliber players available as far down as the fifth round. That syncs up with the consensus that this could challenge the 2014 receiver crop as the deepest draft class the position has ever seen.
Said consensus has made the idea of trading up for a wide receiver sound foolish and led most to believe it would be a waste of draft capital for the Ravens to go up and get someone rather than let the board fall their way. DeCosta himself characterized moving up the board as “dangerous”, saying he would only consider making such a move for a “difference-maker.” But even in such a deep class, the case can be made that Baltimore should go get that difference-maker.
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I certainly don’t have access to the Ravens’ scouting reports, so I don’t know how they size up this year’s receiver group. But DeCosta did say he thinks Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb will be “long gone” by the time Baltimore is on the clock in the first round. If the Ravens think Lamb, or for that matter Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, or another receiver, is “their guy,” they should have no qualms about making the move to go get him.
Making such a move is not without risk, but Baltimore is in as good of shape as any team in the league to take such a risk. While the roster is certainly not without its holes, there’s no such thing as a perfect NFL roster. An obvious example of that is the Kansas City Chiefs, who won the Super Bowl last year despite glaring holes on the defense.
And it worked because the Chiefs were a team that was designed to play from ahead, much as this Ravens team is. And since the draft will always be something of a crapshoot, no degree of perceived depth at a position should stop Baltimore from getting the guy they believe can succeed. When there are no guarantees, it’s always better to “get your guy” if you believe he stands out among the rest.
Conventional wisdom suggests that would be Lamb. Not only is he a perfect on-paper compliment to top Ravens receiver Marquise Brown, but he starred opposite of Brown at Oklahoma, a program Baltimore has shown a serious affinity for since Lincoln Riley took over the Sooners. Brown himself showed Lamb some love on one of the prospect’s Instagram posts, commenting “Lamb to the Ravens 😌.”
Brown’s affinity for his former teammate is obviously not justification for the team parting with valuable draft capital to go get him, but Lamb has drawn comparisons to NFL star De’Andre Hopkins, and would certainly take the Ravens offense to the next level in the passing game. Lamb’s chemistry with former Sooner teammates like Brown would also be valuable coming into 2020, as teams figure to have less time to acclimate rookies to the system given the restrictions related to COVID-19.
A case could also be made for Jeudy, who would also fit quite well into the Baltimore offense, and who is known to be friends with both Brown and Lamar Jackson. While locker room culture alone doesn’t win Super Bowls, it was certainly a part of what fueled the Ravens to such a dominant 2019, and giving the league MVP a pair of his close friends to throw to would only stand to help him improve. He obviously brings a different “flavor” to the table than Lamb, more in the mold of an Amari Cooper, but could still create a lethal one-two punch with Brown at receiver.
Coming off a 14-2 season, the Ravens are not far off from a Super Bowl despite the holes on their roster. And to get there, they need to put Jackson in the best possible position to take his passing game to the next level. There’s obviously a case for keeping more picks and equipping Jackson and the offense that way, but prospects are not guarantees. And while the Ravens have one of the best scouting departments in the league, that is all the more reason for them to go get their man if they believe Lamb or Jeudy has a chance to be a true “difference-maker” in a way that other receivers in the class may not.