Ravens will not force drafting a WR in Round 1

Ravens will not force drafting a WR in Round 1
January 13, 2014, 9:00 am

What should the Ravens address?

The Ravens have not had great success drafting wide receivers. Of the 20 wide receivers the Ravens have drafted since 1996, Torrey Smith is the only one to have a 1,000-yard season.

Travis Taylor (2000) and Mark Clayton (2005) are the only two wide receivers the Ravens have ever selected in the first round. Neither panned out. Both played just five seasons in Baltimore, and never distinguished themselves as a No. 1 target.

That history could impact general manager Ozzie Newsome’s strategy as the Ravens prepare for free agency in March, and the draft in May. Yes, the Ravens are dead-set on adding a playmaker or two. But they might accomplish that via a trade, or free agency. They will only draft a wide receiver in the first round if they are extremely confident he will make a long-term impact.

“You can draft a Torrey Smith in the second round, and you can have some success, and you can draft Travis Taylor in the first (round), and you can blow it,” Newsome said last week. “The wide receiver position in the draft – there are a lot of hits and misses.

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“What we’ve tried to do is identify guys that have certain traits that can come in, and I think we’ve got a real, real good receivers coach in Jim Hostler who helps develop. I think we’ve identified the type of receiver that we want. And when John (Harbaugh) told me, I lit up, because I was right there with him as to what we’re looking for in a receiver this year. And I think before the 2014 season ends, we will have that guy on our football team.”

There is no reason for the Ravens to force drafting a wide receiver in Round 1 if they are not comfortable. Scouts consider this year’s draft extremely deep at the position. Fifteen or more wide receivers could be taken in the first three rounds. The Ravens will draft either 16th or 17th in the first round, depending upon the outcome of a February coin flip with the Cowboys.

Sammy Watkins of Clemson is generally regarded as the top-rated receiver, and he will likely be a top-10 pick. However, Mike Evans of Texas A & M and Marqise Lee of USC are first-round prospects who could still be on the board at No. 16 or No. 17.

Expect the Ravens to draft a wide receiver at some point, but it may not be in the first round. Newsome has missed before on wide receivers. This year, he needs a hit.