Baltimore Ravens 2021 draft: Why pass catchers aren’t a massive need

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JANUARY 10: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates with Marquise Brown #15 against the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card Round of the NFL Playoffs at Nissan Stadium on January 10, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JANUARY 10: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates with Marquise Brown #15 against the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card Round of the NFL Playoffs at Nissan Stadium on January 10, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Many want the Baltimore Ravens to spend premium picks on pass catchers in the 2021 NFL Draft, but I’m here to tell you it isn’t a necessity.

It’s hard to be a Baltimore Ravens fan and see other teams with young, star quarterbacks going out and getting them premier pass catchers to throw to. Patrick Mahomes has Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Josh Allen has Stefon Diggs, who the team traded for last offseason, and Cole Beasley. Justin Herbert has Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Kyler Murray has DeAndre Hopkins, who, like Diggs, was acquired last offseason via trade, and A.J. Green. Baker Mayfield has Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Meanwhile, Lamar Jackson doesn’t have a true number one receiver like one of those other guys. But to Baltimore’s credit, it’s not for a lack of trying.

Ravens Flock needs to give some good grace to the team in this area. After all, the front office has spent six draft picks at wide receiver since 2018, the year Jackson was drafted, with two in each of the last three drafts. The investments are solid value, too, with four of the six drafted in the top four rounds, including two in round three and one in round one. That first-round pick, by the way, was Marquise Brown, who is Jackson’s BFF.

In addition to this, the Ravens have also drafted two tight ends including Pro Bowler Mark Andrews, who is Jackson’s safety valve and red-zone go-to target. So just like the quarterbacks listed above, Jackson has himself Brown and Andrews to throw to. Is it the best of the options the other quarterbacks have? No, but it could be a heckuva lot worse.

This has led fans to want the team to address adding better pass catchers early in the 2021 NFL Draft. It’s a very exciting thought considering the talent available at both wide receiver and tight end, but I’m here to tell you that it shouldn’t be the team’s top priority… If you’re in the camp that believes it is a higher priority, get ready to roast me in the comments.

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Let’s start with what we already know. Brown and Andrews are very quality pass-catching options for Jackson. Andrews is a Pro Bowler who leads all tight ends in receiving touchdowns over the last two seasons (17) and that’s without playing a full 16 games in either season. Andrews has proven to be one of the best red-zone targets in the league regardless of his position and he has shown no signs of slowing down. The 25-year old is entering the prime of his career and his chemistry with Jackson is unparalleled. Brown, like Andrews, also has a great connection with Jackson as evident by his 15 touchdown receptions in his first two seasons. He may not be the star X-receiver that many wish he was, but “Hollywood” Brown a VERY good option in the passing game; much better than given credit for.

These two give Lamar Jackson a solid one-two punch to throw to and that’s all you can really ask for. Sure, we all wish that the team could’ve landed the aforementioned Diggs or Hopkins last offseason but it’s not as though they would’ve come cheap and/or put up the same numbers they did in their debut years with their new teams.

Here’s a cold hard fact you: the Baltimore Ravens aren’t a pass-heavy team. Shocker, I know. Here’s something else you don’t want to hear: adding either of those two guys wouldn’t suddenly change that philosophy, either.

Whether or not you like him, offensive coordinator Greg Roman is here to stay and his offense is tailored around Jackson’s strengths. In case you forgot, Jackson is a mobile quarterback who is looking to run a more spread-out offense that is more accustomed to running the ball first. With that in mind, Baltimore has done a near-perfect job at getting the right pieces in place to run that kind of offense well (pun absolutely intended).

The Ravens have two terrific running backs at their disposal between Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins. Edwards has yet to record fewer than 700 rushing yards in his first three seasons as a UDFA and Dobbins led all running backs in YPC in his rookie season with a flat 6.0. This duo combined for 1,528 rushing yards in 2020, which is a lot in case you were wondering. The two are one of the top running back duos in football and accentuate Jackson’s strengths as a quarterback. Isn’t that what we all want?

Jackson has also proven that he can be a top-five quarterback in the league without elite receiving options. Jackson has thrown 62 touchdowns over the last two seasons with basically the same pass-catching options at his disposal, including a league-best 36 in 2019, the same year he won the league MVP award.

Naturally, we can all dream about what Jackson would do with a true number-one guy, but he’s shown he doesn’t need one to be elite. So then why spend top capital on pass-catching options that this offense doesn’t need or want to use?

Besides, the Ravens have bigger fish to fry. The pass rush is in dire need of options after losing two former Pro Bowlers this offseason. Another developmental linebacker could also be used, as could some more bodies on the defensive line. And if you want to give Jackson more help, you should invest in some better options for the offensive line. There’s a real chance that Orlando Brown Jr. won’t be with the team in 2021 and the interior of the offensive line, especially at center, needs improvement. A better offensive line means a better run game and also more time to throw the ball. Last I checked, both are pivotal to Jackson’s game and would be a huge investment in his growth.

Before we close out let me just say this: I would be the furthest thing from upset if Baltimore decided to add pass catchers early in the 2021 NFL Draft. The more options Jackson has to use the better, right? We all want to see the Ravens get that elusive X-receiver, but all I’m saying is it may not be the biggest need for them. I’m sorry if you feel differently (I’m really not), but it’s simply not the biggest priority for Baltimore right now.

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I know I just gave off a huge read on why adding pass catchers shouldn’t be the Baltimore Ravens’ number one priority in the upcoming draft, but just know this: adding a top guy won’t magically solve the Ravens’ biggest issues. The bottom line is the best way to continue building around and improving Lamar Jackson is to give him a better offensive line and go on with giving him more running backs to keep defenses honest. It may not be what you wanted to hear, but it’s the truth. If you want to make life better for Jackson then build around his strengths and don’t focus on trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole. Jackson has proven that he can be one of the deadliest quarterbacks in the league without having to have elite pass catchers, so why try and force a change?

Just some food for thought, I guess.