Other than Lamar Jackson’s ongoing contract negotiations, the Baltimore Ravens‘ wide receivers – or lack thereof – have been the biggest storyline of the offseason.
But rather than using one of their 11 draft picks on a wide receiver or signing an established veteran at the position, the Ravens only added undrafted receivers to their roster.
That’s a major vote of confidence in Baltimore’s current group of pass-catchers as well as wide receivers coach Tee Martin and pass game specialist Keith Williams.
Expectations are high for 2021 first-rounder Rashod Bateman, who flashed WR1 potential as a rookie, while 2020 third-rounder Devin Duvernay is looking to emerge as a consistent weapon after being buried on the depth chart for his first two NFL seasons.
Bateman Ascending to WR1 Status
After injuries limited Rashod Bateman and Lamar Jackson to just seven games together in 2021, the duo has been working to build chemistry this offseason as Bateman tries to replace Hollywood Brown as Jackson’s favorite wide receiver.
There’s no one standing in Bateman’s way on the depth chart – and only All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews could command more targets – so the former Minnesota Golden Gopher is primed for a breakout season.
“Bateman has a chance to be wildly productive without much in the way of competition for targets at wide receiver in Baltimore’s offense,” wrote PFF’s Doug Kyed on August 4. “Still, he must prove he can be a No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL this season.”
Bateman is already standing out at Ravens training camp as by far the team’s best receiver. Though he’ll likely be limited in preseason action, a Week 1 matchup against 2022 fourth overall pick Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner will be an excellent test for Bateman’s ascension to WR1 status.
Duvernay Leads Supporting Cast
A combination of Rashod Bateman and Mark Andrews won’t be enough to keep the Ravens offense afloat on its own this year, especially when defenses adjust and throw extra defenders at Baltimore’s top targets.
Rookie tight end Isaiah Likely is turning heads at training camp, as is third-year receiver James Proche. But Bleacher Report’s Alex Kay still thinks that Devin Duvernay still has a solid chance of emerging as the Ravens’ third weapon:
Devin Duvernay is one of the leading candidates to work as Baltimore’s No. 2 WR. The 24-year-old earned an All-Pro nod as a return man last year, but he has yet to truly cut his teeth as an NFL receiver, reeling in only 53 receptions for 473 yards and a pair of touchdowns over his first two professional seasons.
After impressing as a returning in his first two seasons – including Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro nods in 2021 – Duvernay should be in line for an expanded role on offense this year. He leads the Ravens wide receiving corps in career targets (73), receptions (55) and touchdowns (2), a reminder of the group’s overall inexperience.
“He possesses blazing speed and quickness that will allow him to burn slower defenders,” wrote Kay, “but he still must show he can win contested balls and run crisp routes.”
Duvernay was both a deep threat and YAC specialist in college due to his speed and elusiveness as a ballcarrier, but he’ll need to harness those physical gifts to separate from defenders in order to star in the pros.