Over the last 18 years, Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has been known as one of the best GMs in the NFL. That has especially been true when it pertains to drafting quality players.
Almost all of the Ravens’ current core players were drafted by the team and it has been that way since the team came into the league in 1996. However, nobody’s perfect, and that includes Newsome. His one flaw has been when it come to drafting or acquiring receivers – he hasn’t snagged the most talented guys at that particular position.
Just take Mark Clayton for example. The 32-year-old wide receiver was taken 22nd overall by the Ravens in the 2005 draft. Coming out of Oklahoma State, Clayton was one of the top prospects in that draft class and the Ravens expected big things from him. After catching 67 passes in his second year and totaling 939 yards and five touchdowns, the Ravens’ excitement grew even larger.
However, Clayton went downhill from there. He caught 48 passes in 2007, 41 in 2008, and then 34 in 2009 before getting traded to the St. Louis Rams. He played two seasons for the Rams, totaling 26 receptions and 332 yards while playing in just seven games in the two years combined. He has been out of the league since 2011.
That was a fail – perhaps the largest in Ravens history.
They have also tried to draft receivers in later rounds and have picked up veteran receivers such as Lee Evans and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but they just get cut one or two years later either way. The Ravens never went all-out on a receiver in the first round or in free agency, and that was a problem.
That all changed in 2009 when they traded a 3rd and 4th round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for Pro-Bowl receiver Anquan Boldin. Boldin caught over 100 passes twice and totaled over 1,000 receiving yards five times in his seven years with the Cards. He brought to Baltimore a totally new dimension of receiving for the Ravens, posing a 6-foot-1, 220 pound body.
Although he didn’t perform nearly as well on the Ravens as he did with Arizona, he brought something to the table that the Ravens never had. Boldin caught 64 passes for 837 yards in his first season with the Ravens and ended his three-year stint in Baltimore totaling 186 receptions and 2,645 yards through the air.
To everyone’s knowledge, he was extremely helpful in the Ravens’ 2012 Super Bowl run. He caught 22 passes for 380 yards and most importantly scored four touchdowns in the Ravens’ four playoff games. The Ravens traded him to San Francisco following the 2012 season.
Just a year after the Ravens traded for Boldin, they struck more gold at the receiver position when they drafted speedy receiver Torrey Smith out of Maryland in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft. Smith ran a 4.43 40-yard-dash in the combine and was considered a steal for the Ravens in the second round.
When he received his first playing time in week three of his rookie campaign, he shined brightly. The first three receptions of his career each went for touchdowns as he became the only player to accomplish such a feat. Smith ended the season with 50 receptions and 841 receiving yards. He then caught 49 passes for 855 yards in 2012, averaging 17.4 yards-per-catch.
Last season, he eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career, accumulating 1,128 yards. He will be the number one receiver for the Ravens this coming year and will have a mentor lining up on the other side of the field.
Earlier this offseason, the Ravens signed veteran receiver Steve Smith to a three-year deal. The potential Hall-of-Famer will not only be huge in mentoring Smith, but will also be vital in the Ravens passing game. Smith and Smith Sr. (the name that Steve Smith will have on the back of his jersey) will couple together with possession receiver Marlon Brown and the speedy Jacoby Jones to form what is perhaps the best receiving corps in Baltimore Ravens franchise history.
Undrafted free agent Marlon Brown posed a pleasant surprise for the Ravens last year, as he caught 49 passes in his rookie season. The Georgia standout poses a huge 6-foot-5 body, which is extremely tall for a wide receiver and it gives him a distinct advantage. Getting him and forcing Jacoby Jones into the fourth slot rather then the third was huge.
What do you think, is this the best receiving corps that the Ravens have ever had?