Ex-Patriots Super Bowl Champ Names Surprising Top Offseason Need for Ravens

Ravens Treylon Burks

Getty Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Treylon Burks stiff arms an Alabama defender during a November 2021 game.

The Baltimore Ravens have spent two picks on wide receivers in each of the last four NFL drafts, but former New England Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich still thinks the Ravens haven’t found a true No. 1 wideout for Lamar Jackson.

“I think he needs a No. 1 receiver,” said Ninkovich of the Ravens’ 25-year-old star quarterback during an appearance on ESPN on February 16. It’s a surprising need considering the Ravens’ recent investment in the position after multiple offseasons of fans clamoring for better targets for Jackson.

“What was Josh Allen before Stefon Diggs came to Buffalo?” asked Ninkovich before answering, “He was a developing quarterback.” But, while Diggs’ arrival certainly aided Allen’s breakout 2020 season, Allen deserves the bulk of the credit for taking his game to the next level. 

Besides, it’s not clear that Jackson doesn’t have the necessary weapons in Baltimore. Gone are the days of drop-riddled playoff games with the likes of Seth Roberts, Miles Boykin and Willie Snead starting at wide receiver; now, the Ravens boast two thousand-yard pass-catchers in Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Mark Andrews, with 2021 first-rounder Rashod Bateman showing plenty of promise in a rookie year stunted by a preseason injury.

Still, Ninkovich doesn’t think the Ravens have the top-tier receiving talent that can help their offense keep up with Allen’s Bills and the rest of the AFC’s elite offenses. He noted that Jackson has thrown most receiving yards to tight ends in the past three season, but just the 20th-most to wide receivers in that same period.

While that’s partially due to the evolution of Andrews into one of the NFL’s best tight ends, it’s also a reflection of the lack of receiver talent in Baltimore in Jackson’s first three seasons.

“They need a number one receiver,” insisted Ninkvoich, “A big-time target, like a [Ja’Marr] Chase,” arguing that all successful quarterbacks have a receiver of that caliber.


Do Ravens Have a No. 1 WR Already?

However, Andrews spent more than two-thirds of his snaps either in the slot or out wide in 2021, per Pro Football Focus, finishing the regular season with the fifth-most receptions (107) and the sixth-most receiving yards (1,361) of any player, ahead of players like Diggs and the Chargers’ Keenan Allen.

Between Andrews and Brown, who was on pace for undeniable No. 1 wide receiver production before Jackson’s season-ending injury, the Ravens may have enough proven talent at receiver to open up favorable matchups for their younger, less-proven targets like Bateman and Devin Duvernay. Both the Ravens and NFL analysts have even expressed confidence in Bateman growing into a top-tier receiver in his own right, and with promising young depth like James Proche and Tylan Wallace, it’s easy to be optimistic about the wide receiver talent in Baltimore.


Will Ravens Draft a Receiver in 2022?

With veteran wideout Sammy Watkins not expected to re-sign with the Ravens, the team will enter the 2022 season with six receivers who could be worth a roster spot – Brown, Bateman, Duvernay, Proche, Wallace and 2019 third-rounder Miles Boykin – with former Ohio State standout Binjimen Victor and 2020 undrafted free agent Jaylon Moore signed to Reserve/Futures contracts as well.

That could mean that the Ravens do not need to prioritize adding a wide receiver during the offseason for the first time in a few years that have been filled with connections to seemingly every potentially-available star receiver, including Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr. and Michael Thomas.

Spending a first-round pick on a wide receiver seems unlikely – and even illogical – but in a postseason dominated by physical playmakers deciding the outcomes of games, drafting a player like Arkansas Razorbacks wideout Treylon Burks could ensure the Ravens have the offensive firepower to keep up with an AFC filled with dangerous offenses.

Arkansas practically ran their offense through Burks in 2021, and he racked up 1,104 receiving yards and 12 total touchdowns operating lined up out wide, in the slot and in the backfield.

“Burks is an exciting playmaker with a rare combination of size, physicality, and speed,” wrote The Ringer’s Danny Kelly, who ranked Burks as the top pass-catcher and 11th-overall prospect in his 2022 Big Board.

Kelly even wrote that Burks has “shades of Deebo Samuel with a Power Up Mushroom,” due to his physical gifts and versatility, though it’s worth cautioning that simply drafting Burks and expecting him to become Samuel would be unwise.

While the Ravens currently need help at a few other positions – offensive tackle comes to mind – the draft board could fall in such a way that Burks is the best player available by the time Baltimore is on the clock with the 14th pick.

Burks plays with a physicality that would be appreciated by coaches and fans alike, and if deployed right, he could finally make the Ravens offense truly unstoppable.

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