Baltimore Ravens: Defining a number one wide receiver
The Baltimore Ravens need more at the wide receiver position. That’s a consensus opinion, one that’s fairly easy to go along with. There is clearly a problem to fix though there are various ways to go about it.
Some would argue that the Ravens are just missing a number one receiver. Others would make the case that the Ravens just lack the right compliment to Marquise Brown in the passing game.
Those in the first camp don’t see Marquise Brown as the number one receiver. Those in the latter portion see Brown as a number one receiver who needs help.
Willie Snead has been with the Baltimore Ravens for a few years now. This offseason he is an unrestricted free agent and he may or may not be back with the team. He had something interesting to say on Twitter on Tuesday.
His tweet touched on what constitutes a number one wide receiver. It brings up a conversation we need to have.
Snead is suggesting that an offense can select a number one receiver based on the system of that offense. It could be seen as a shot against Greg Roman, the offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens. Whatever the point, Snead is wrong here.
A number one receiver is a player that the defense can’t come up with a simple answer for. The answer to stopping a number one target cannot be just putting one man on him in coverage. You can’t say that a number one receiver doesn’t matter in Baltimore because of the way the offense is built. A number one receiver has success one way or another because he’s just that good.
What is lost in Snead’s argument is that there is a difference between being the best receiver a team has and being a number one receiver. Torrey Smith is a great example of this. When Anquan Boldin was traded in 2013, he was the best receiver the Ravens had. Smith had the only 1,000-yard season of his career.
After the 2014 season, the San Francisco 49ers paid Smith bigger money than the Ravens were willing to give him. Smith never was a number one receiver. As much as Baltimore will always love Smith, the 49ers overestimated what he would do for them.
He was a strong number two option and he was what he was. Smith’s best seasons were all with Baltimore. Smith’s best year in receptions and yards came in a 2013 season where he was literally the only option Joe Flacco could lean on.
Coincidentally his touchdowns were down that season. When Steve Smith Sr. came to Baltimore his touchdown total went from four to 11. In the 2012 season, with Boldin still with the Ravens, Smith had eight touchdowns.
This paints the picture that not just any receiver can be a number one. This means that there are teams that don’t have a player that truly has a number one receiver. This makes a ton of sense when you consider that all 32 teams have at least five wide receivers and we’re talking about the top echelon of receivers.
Marquise Brown is right on the border of being one of these receivers based on his production. Brown did score 15 touchdowns in the past two seasons.
He fits more into the Torrey Smith role as a solid number two more than comfortably. While the defensive coordinator has to account for his speed, Brown usually doesn’t take over a game by himself. Defenses had to give more attention to Mark Andrews this past season, and that answers the question right there.
So what do the Ravens need?
The Ravens need a player that is open even when he’s covered. They need a player that no defensive gameplan is going to have a full answer for. You don’t stop Tyreek Hill, you just hope to slow him down. You don’t stop DeAndre Hopkins, he pulls the ball in one way or another.
It doesn’t matter what scheme or strategy Roman uses for the offense. None of the receivers the Ravens have had for the past handful of seasons can be the true number one just by the design of the offense. Unless Brown steps his game to a whole new level, that’s not going to change without adding a name to the mix.
The Ravens need a big-bodied receiver that can win the 50-50 balls, They need a receiver that can make the most out of each target because the offense is only going to change so much. If you’re looking for a true number one receiver, you need a player that makes Brown a complementary weapon. If you can’t get that, just have two very good second-tier options, Brown and a player to be named later.
It’s not as simple as saying anybody can be a number one receiver. The Ravens would love that to be the case. Solving their problems would be cheaper in free agency and less of a challenge in the 2021 NFL Draft.