Ebony Bird round-table: Picking our favorite Baltimore Ravens draft pick
Darin McCann: James Proche
There were a ton of picks I really liked for the Ravens this year and a few that made me scratch my head a little (a lot) at the time. Looking back on the slate in its entirety, it’s a good group, with a few more weapons on offense, some talented bodies to compete for interior offensive line picks, and a major upgrade to the defensive front seven.
But my draft crush this year, based on both ability and value, is James Proche. The sixth-round receiver out of SMU is able to play both out wide and in the slot, and is considered a reliable punt-returner who makes good decisions and gets the most out of his returns. He isn’t a blazer, and he doesn’t use brute strength or explosion to get off the line, but he manages to get himself where the quarterback expects him to be, when he expects him to be there. And, to top it off, he’s very slippery after the catch — meaning he has the ability to grab a slant or crossing route and make some serious hay out of it.
Oh, and he can catch the ball. Like, really, really catch the ball. Check this out.
He’s also a gamer, with some of his best performances coming in big games for SMU. Dan Bernstein of The Sporting News wrote that Proche “caught seven passes for 173 yards and a touchdown against an undefeated UCF squad in 2017 and 12 passes for 100 yards and two scores against the Knights a year later. He caught 11 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns at Michigan in 2018.”
For a team that relies as heavily on the run as the Ravens do, it is imperative that receivers catch the ball. A lot of their throws come on third down, and even a drop on first down puts them behind the down-and-distance quotient, thus restricting their play-call arsenal. For instance, second-and-10 after a drop makes it a little tougher to call a run on second down, thus changing the scope of the Ravens’ offense.
Along with Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and third-rounder Devin Duvernay, the Ravens now have three sticky-handed receivers who can line up all over the field, and the hope is last year’s third-round selection, Miles Boykin, takes a big step forward this year in his development. Add in tight ends Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle, and some nice options out of the backfield, and the Ravens have more weapons at their disposal this year than last.
The guess here is Proche ends up playing a big role for this team into the future, at the cost of a sixth-round pick.