Okay, we all know the Ravens need a wide receiver or two; that’s been the case for what, the last five years? The position group is quite barren at this point, with the two primary producers – Willie Snead and Seth Roberts – being rather similar players who will likely have the most success in the slot. Don’t get me wrong, I like both of them, but they’re not good enough to make the offense competitive on their own. Of course, we can hope that Chris Moore will take the next step, but we asked the same of him last year and he didn’t produce consistently. The same could be said of the two picks last year, Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley. For that reason, the Ravens are likely stuck needing to double-down at the position in two weeks.
Whether the Ravens take one in the first round, trade back and get one in the second, or take one later than expected in the third, I cannot see Baltimore getting past their first three selections without addressing the hole at wideout. There are good options, too: DK Metcalf, Hollywood Brown, AJ Brown, N’Keal Harry, Hakeem Butler, Riley Ridley, Kelvin Harmon, the list goes on. But one name that is relatively far down the draft board for many experts is Louisville’s Jaylen Smith.
Smith has decent measurables, as he’s 6’2” and 220 lbs, yet he still posted a 4.47 40-yard dash. That combination of height, weight, and speed is impressive, though his production in college has left question marks. According to NFL.com, Smith struggled with consistency and will continue to be a talking point among GMs throughout the draft process. However, the line that caught my attention was this: “Smith’s 2018 offering was a far cry from what he posted in 2016 and 2017 with Lamar Jackson leading the way.”
Jaylen Smith had his best production with Lamar Jackson running the offense, and I’m not going to lie, the highlights are very impressive. The two players clearly have chemistry, and Jackson has even taken the agency to throw to Smith as part of his offseason workouts this spring. Through that, their chemistry will only build, and we can see that there’s a strong, trusting relationship between them that would be well-established as soon as the two hit the field for summer practices.
Something that had always been troublesome about the Ravens while Joe Flacco was here was their inability to surround him with talent. The year they did in 2012, he rewarded them with a Super Bowl title. But something else that flies under the radar is his relationship with TE Dennis Pitta. Flacco and Pitta were best friends off the field and it showed during the games, as they connected for critical conversions and touchdowns for their entire time together. If the Ravens are able to give Jackson an ultra-talented rookie in rounds 1-3 and add a big-bodied target that he can trust in rounds 5-7 in Smith, they will have already begun to improve upon the work they put into the offense under the Flacco regime.
As for Smith, if he is to struggle with consistency early in his career, I will make the argument that the most likely spot for him to squash that issue is in Baltimore. If he’s around a hard-working quarterback who he knows well and has produced with, while playing for a contending team where every play matters, Smith is in a terrific situation. That is especially true given Jackson’s ability to run, as Smith will be able to exert energy on fewer plays so as to get the most out of them.
If I’m Eric DeCosta, and I know that I need to take a flyer on a late-round receiver in this year’s draft, what better option is there than a guy who is familiar with your quarterback and has succeeded in catching passes from him? Jaylen Smith has the frame and the athletic gifts to be a solid contributor in Baltimore, now it’s up to the Ravens to go out and get him.