The Baltimore Ravens’ lack of a “number-one” wide receiver has been a problem long before Lamar Jackson was the starting quarterback.
While the Ravens have scored more points and rushed for more yards than any other team over the last two seasons, it has come at the cost of offensive balance. Baltimore finished dead-last in pass attempts and completions in both 2019 and 2020.
This is far from an indictment of Lamar Jackson’s abilities as a traditional passer. Greg Roman’s offensive scheme is designed to utilize Jackson’s legs as much as possible. But last season it looked as though the rest of the NFL finally caught up to the Ravens’ wizardry from the previous year, Roman failed to adapt, and Jackson suffered for it.
It may surprise you to learn that the Ravens’ lack of big-play receiving talent is not a recent issue. Over Lamar Jackson’s entire three-year (well, technically, two-and-a-half-year) reign as the Ravens’ starter, no receiver has picked up more than 1,000 yards in a season, or even come particularly close. Last season’s team leader in receiving yards was Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, with 769. In today’s pass-happy NFL, this is concerning.
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The last Ravens receiver to cross the 1,000-yard mark? Mike Wallace in 2016, with 1,017-yards.
In fact, a look at the Ravens’ all-time record book shows that the team has had far more misses than hits when it comes to scouting wide receiver talent. Only two receivers have ever topped 5,000 yards while wearing the purple and gold — Derrick Mason and Todd Heap.
This hasn’t been for lack of trying, however. Over their franchise history, the Ravens have picked four wide receivers in the first round of the NFL Draft — Travis Taylor (2000), Mark Clayton (2005), Breshad Perriman (2015), and the aforementioned Brown (2019).
Both Taylor and Clayton left the Ravens after five seasons and vanished off the face of the earth, although Taylor earned a Super Bowl ring with Baltimore. Perriman left Baltimore after two seasons and recently signed with the Detroit Lions — his fifth team in six years. It’s hard to call any of them “busts”, as none of them were (or are) truly horrible players. However, none of them picked up over 1,000-yards receiving in a season while with the club.
Oddly, looking at the Ravens’ all-time roster, some of the best wide receivers in franchise history tend to be rentals — free-agent signings or trade acquisitions picked up in the late stages of their careers. These include Anquan Boldin, Steve Smith Sr., and Derrick Mason.
The good news is that the Ravens have already made progress toward rectifying this problem during the offseason. This March, they picked up Sammy Watkins from the Kansas City Chiefs, who should add a new dimension to Baltimore’s passing attack.
There should also be plenty of wide receiver options available in the NFL Draft. Standouts like DeVonta Smith, Ja’Marr Chase, and Jaylen Waddle might still be on the board by the time the Ravens pick at number 27.