Willie Snead vs. Devin Duvernay: The battle at Ravens slot WR
Is there room for both Willie Snead and Devin Duvernay to flourish in the Ravens offense?
Devin Duvernay and Willie Snead could be battling for the same spot in the Baltimore Ravens offense. Duvernay is best suited to work out of the slot receiver position. That’s where Willie Snead also does his most accomplished work.
Snead is the trusted veteran receiver, Duvernay has to prove it. Duvernay has the more dynamic traits, yet Snead already has chemistry with Lamar Jackson. Snead is the incumbent starter. Duvernay is the coming onto the scene. While both of these players are obviously making the team, this is the competition to be eyeing once training camp starts.
The first thing you have to note is that Snead has been very solid for the Ravens. He had 62 receptions for 651 yards and a touchdown in 2018. The changing of quarterbacks and the offensive schemes didn’t do Snead many favors. Jackson used his tight ends even more than Joe Flacco did, the run game was the entree and Snead dropped to just 31 receptions. Snead’s level of play didn’t really drop. In fact, he averaged a little more per reception and had four more touchdowns.
Pro Football Focus gave an overall grade of 61.0 for Snead’s 2019 season. That’s not great and it’s not horrible either. It may be a little unfair of a grade considering how unique the Ravens were offensively and the fact that nobody seems to be complaining about his performance. The PFF grade does allow us to explore the idea that the Ravens could get more from another player.
Duvernay is more dynamic than Snead. It’s a fact. He’s faster, he’s more explosive and his ceiling is objectively higher than Sneads. While they have almost the same exact build, Duvernay is the more physical receiver. Duvernay also comes into the NFL with reliable hands. If the Ravens can get him the ball in the open field, he could theoretically become a key play-maker. That’s why it’s a position battle. Snead isn’t bad, he’s just not a player defensive coordinators are afraid of. Duvernay has the skills that could be problematic for opposing defenses.
The good news is that the natural thing for the Ravens to add this offseason is more spread out offensive looks. Four wide receiver sets could become more viable now that the Ravens have two slot receivers that they think they can rely on. If the Ravens can run the football out of a spread out passing formation, they will become incredibly hard to stop.
On top of this occupying defensive backs with receivers, could free up some room for Jackson to run. The biggest problem last season was that teams loaded the box and clogged things up. Even when it worked (and the Ravens were good enough that it almost always did) it wasn’t like the Ravens had a numbers advantage in the box.
It’s not like there won’t be room for both Snead and Duvernay. They both can coexist, but the offense isn’t set up for them to be equal contributors. The Ravens are still going to use a lot of 11 personnel (1 back, 1 tight end, three receivers) 12 personnel (1 back, two tight ends, two receivers) and 21 personnel (two backs, one tight end, two receivers). Whoever is the primary slot receiver is going to be stealing snaps from the other.
The Bottom Line:
Snead and Duvernay are similar players. Duvernay is a younger and faster player. It’s very likely that Snead will beat out Duvernay early. As Duvernay becomes more comfortable at the NFL level, he should start to steal some snaps from Snead. Snead is serviceable while Duvernay has a chance to be more than that.
The Ravens have one major conflict at the wide receiver position. Other than Miles Boykin, they have nothing but smaller quick receivers. The Ravens need Boykin and Brown to be their two main outside receivers. If Boykin doesn’t take a step up in the 2020 season, the Ravens will have to line Snead up on the outside more, giving more chances for Duvernay to shine. The dynamics at receiver, not just with Snead and Duvernay make for a very compelling story line.