The Baltimore Ravens have a couple of needs this offseason to help them bounce back from a disappointing 8-8 season. Offensive linemen (both on the inside and out), a safety to play opposite Matt Elam, a tight end to either replace or play alongside Dennis Pitta (who the team seems intent on re-signing), depth along the defensive front seven, and wide receiver are all positions that require attention, and not necessarily in that order.
As far as wide receiver goes, I don’t think the Ravens need to spend a first or even second round draft pick addressing the situation. Yes, this is an outstanding year for receivers, and if someone like Marqise Lee (USC) or Sammy Watkins (Clemson) somehow fell to the Ravens at 16 (or 17 depending on coin flip), it’d be hard to pass them up.
But this class is as deep as it is talented, and there’s plenty of talent to be found in the middle to late rounds for the position.
I think the Ravens would be wise to focus on adding a game-breaking slot receiver like Jeremy Gallon (Michigan) in the 4th or 5th round. It’s enticing to take a top notch outside receiver to play either ‘X’ or ‘Z’, but Baltimore may not need someone like that.
Smith and Marlon Brown, paired with an explosive slot receiver like Gallon, could be the combination the Ravens have been looking for. Three different receivers with three different skill sets who offer three different things.
Smith has proven to have the skills to be a number one option; good enough hands, deep speed, good route running, etc. Brown can be a capable number two, though his speed is less than desirable. Still, at 6-foot 5, 215-pounds with excellent leaping ability, you can’t help but wonder what his potential could be with more experience and opportunity. He finished his rookie campaign with 49 receptions for 524 yards and an impressive 7 TD’s. All that seems to be missing is a viable slot receiver.
Gallon is somewhat diminutive in stature at 5-foot 8, 187-pounds, but is absolutely electric with the ball in his hands. Early in his career in Ann Arbor, Gallon was known more for his special teams and elite speed, but he took the next step in his development during his senior year, when he blew up with 89 receptions for 1,373 yards and 9 TD’s.
Yes, his size may turn some off to him, but it’s not like shorter receivers haven’t succeeded in the NFL before, playing both inside and out receiver. Steve Smith (5-foot 9), Wes Welker (5-foot 9), and Randall Cobb (5-foot 10) are just a few of the dynamic receivers currently in the NFL who don’t fit the trendy mold of gigantism. Heck, the St. Louis Rams took WR Tavon Austin 8th overall in last years draft, and he’s only 5-foot 8.
Gallon would not only provide another explosive element to the offense to help QB Joe Flacco, but would also help Baltimore’s special teams. Jacoby Jones, who’s played multiple receiver positions for the Ravens in addition to returning duties, isn’t expected back, leaving a hole. Gallon could easily slide into that role, even if he’s not quite ready for serious snaps at receiver.
Yes, Gallon needs some refining. I’m not saying he’ll walk onto an NFL field and simply blow by everyone, but he’s got a lot of enticing skills that a creative coach can play with.
Plus, he’s not likely to be drafted too early, largely because of his size. He’s viewed by many as a late-round prospect, but I think his stock will increase significantly when his 40 is officially timed, so a 4th or 5th round pick on Gallon could be well merited.