The post-NFL draft process that is filled with instant reaction and grades has passed, and it’s time to look more in depth at the results. Teams that are successful in the draft are able to identify what skills their roster needs to improve. One team that will get high production from their rookie class is the Baltimore Ravens.
Three of the Ravens’ first four picks were dedicated to bolstering their offensive playmakers. The first- and second-round selections were specifically added to help improve a passing offense that ranked 13th in the NFL last season.
Losing receiver Torrey Smith via free agency was a painful pill to swallow. Smith never developed into a true No. 1 receiver, but he was able to stretch the field and give quarterback Joe Flacco a proven deep threat. His departure ensured the Ravens would invest early into the receiver spot.
We’ll be focusing on the first three offensive players the Ravens selected in the 2015 draft. These three will help the Ravens’ rookie class be the most productive in the NFL. Let’s see why.
Breshad Perriman, WR
With the 26th overall pick, the Baltimore Ravens didn’t hesitate to select former UCF receiver Breshad Perriman. It was surprising that Perriman was still on the board, as he was receiving some top-10 hype prior to the draft. His incredible 4.24 40-yard dash time at his pro day was a huge stock booster.
Perriman’s speed was a big reason why he was selected to the 2014 first-team All-American Athletic Conference. He caught just 50 receptions in 2014, but averaged an impressive 20.9 yards per catch. Of nine receivers who averaged more than 20 yards a reception, Perriman was the only one with more than 37 catches.
The speed isn’t what Perriman relies on to be effective, though. He’s as big as most established NFL receivers already. At 6’2”, 212 pounds, Perriman is shredded. Some young receivers need time to bulk up to endure the NFL’s physicality, but Perriman is good to go right now.
And that’s what the Ravens are banking on. With Perriman’s impressive physical profile, he should have no issues working his way into the starting lineup. Filling Smith’s role should be mentally overwhelming, as Smith ran basic routes and won with speed.
What makes Perriman so dangerous is his tracking ability. Throughout his highlights, that is the constant skill that Perriman dominates with. This shouldn’t be taken for granted, either, as the ability to track and chase down deep balls is incredibly important.
The big question mark with Perriman is his drops issues. Despite having 9.25” hands, Perriman struggles clasping the ball on underneath routes. This seems like an issue with focus more than bad hands, based off his tape.
At minimum, Perriman should be similar to Smith. His speed is on par with Smith, but there is significant potential to become great. Smith never showed that promise, and it is likely why the Ravens were fine replacing him in the draft.
If Perriman can shore up his drops issue, the sky is the limit for him. Even as a rookie, the only other receiver who could slow his production is Steve Smith. Smith is very good, but he’s also 36 years old. His reign as the top receiver on the team could end in 2015.
Maxx Williams, TE
With Dennis Pitta’s status unclear as his career has been derailed by injuries, the Ravens wisely added the draft’s top tight end. Getting a receiving threat like Maxx Williams in the second-round was a good reminder of why general manager Ozzie Newsome is one of the best in the business.
Williams was one of the most exciting players to watch throughout 2014. He is a great acrobat on the field. His ability to adjust to the ball mid-air is rarely seen from tight ends.
Working with quarterback Joe Flacco, Williams shouldn’t have to make such difficult catches to be productive. Flacco’s ball placement has improved throughout his career to the point of being above average. This should benefit the young Williams.
The raw numbers on Williams aren’t impressive. He had 986 receiving yards over two seasons. That would ideally be one year of production for most high-end prospects. But he was stuck in a run-until-you-can’t offense at Minnesota.
Despite playing so athletic, Williams tested as an average athlete at the combine. He ran a 4.78 40-yard dash, and his agility scores were poor. That performance could have been what caused his slide into the second round.
Nevertheless, Williams will quickly earn playing time with his receiving acumen. Great athlete or not, he knows how to get open and win at the catch point. His experience in the slot, H-back and tight end will help him earn playing time for the Ravens early on.
The biggest concern with Williams is his blocking ability. He’s 249 pounds, but his frame will massively benefit from spending time in the weight room. His ability to make impact blocks in the run game was underwhelming in 2014.
He simply needs more bulk. That could lead to a receiving specialist role in 2015. That’s good for his production outlook early on. His ability to be a complete tight end is something to watch for 2016 and beyond.
Javorius Allen, RB
The Ravens’ fourth-round pick, Javorius Allen, was a breakout star for USC in 2014. He nearly doubled his career production in 2014 by running for 1,489 yards. His 25 career touchdowns also help show his running power.
Allen will not be a starter for the Ravens if veterans Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro stay healthy. That’s the plan. However, he has the talent to steal carries from that duo, even if they’re able to handle the full workload.
Each back brings a varying skill set to the table. Forsett broke out in 2014 behind the Ravens’ fantastic offensive line. His patience and quickness proved to be a good fit for the Ravens. He is the unquestioned starter.
Taliaferro is the biggest back of the bunch at 229 pounds. He has decent power and earns positive yards effectively. His best trait so far is his pass blocking. He was a plus pass-blocker entering the league, which is rare for collegiate tailbacks.
Allen is more powerful than both. He plays lower to the ground than Taliaferro, which is partially why he was a touchdown magnet in college. His ability to get tough yards when the Ravens need it the most will undoubtedly earn him playing time.
Although Allen is missing that second gear to turn upfield for bigger gains, he has a clear role on the Ravens. When the clock is being run down or it is 3rd-and-goal on the 2-yard line, it’s Allen’s time. He may end up being a touchdown vulture in Baltimore this season.
With the rookie trio of Perriman, Williams and Allen, the Ravens are going to see solid production from their class. They all have clear-cut roles that require their talents. Baltimore has been drafting effectively for more than a decade, and their 2015 class will continue that trend.
Expect big things from this trio early on. Flacco and Co. needed this injection of talent for the offense to get back to the Super Bowl. These three rookies could provide that boost that will elevate the Ravens as soon as 2015.
All stats used are from Sports-Reference.com. Draft information courtesy of MockDraftable.com.
Ian Wharton is an NFL Draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
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