Exaggeration? Sure. It’s April. Every spoken word in NFL circles is inherently an exaggeration.
But it may only barely be a stretch. What’s becoming clear as more mocks are tweaked in the final days before the first round is that whether it’s through a legitimate need for a starter, the desire for more depth, or capitalizing on a slight tumble, teams at No. 16 and beyond could strain a muscle or two reaching for a wide receiver.
When a shortage of supply meets an increase in demand, there’s only one outcome: overspending. We saw the height of this phenomenon when it spread like a viral disease in the first round last spring, leading to massive leaps at the quarterback position by Christian Ponder and Jake Locker. The top two wide receivers in this year’s draft (Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd) will almost surely be long gone by the time we cross the halfway point of the opening round.
But Kendall Wright, Stephen Hill, and Reuben Randle will likely still be lurking, and if the price is right the Jets, Titans, Browns, Texans, and 49ers could be interested. Which brings us to the Ravens, a team left off that list because of far more glaring needs elsewhere, particularly at center, where Matt Birk is aging and nearly retired after the 2011 season, and Peter Konz is an ideal replacement. Konz could also temporarily slide over and fill the vacancy at guard left by Ben Grubbs.
Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun thinks there’s a chance the Ravens could give in to the wide receiver itch if the right name is there at No. 29, although seeing that chance become reality is a matter of balancing price and value, as it is at every draft position.
Ozzie Newsome and company may not be able to resist giving quarterback Joe Flacco another weapon in the form of a big and fast outside wide receiver. That would allow offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to move veteran Anquan Boldin into the slot in certain situations with second-year speedster Torrey Smith remaining on the outside. As for tight end, that’s clearly not a need and the draft class at that position is also extremely weak.
Zrebiec goes on to speak more logic, saying that the offensive line and possibly drafting Ray Lewis’ future replacement if Dont’a Hightower falls is much higher on Baltimore’s list of draft needs, and the wide receiver class is deep enough that a secondary home run threat to stretch the field can be picked up in the second or third round. There’s a gap between the likes of Randle and Alshon Jeffrey and Mohamed Sanu, but it may not be nearly large enough to justify taking Randle with a first-round pick, especially after Torrey Smith was selected in the second round a year ago, and Anquan Boldin is still under contract for two more years.
The problem, though, could be the allure of Hill’s size, or Randle’s speed if they’re available. They would both be fine assets, and they’d help Joe Flacco in his quest to become the best that ever was. But to do that, Flacco also needs to be consistently in an upright position, and Newsome should be looking to the future to maintain Baltimore’s effective offensive line that allowed a modest 33 sacks and 78 quarterback hits last year. Grubbs left a hole when he signed on in New Orleans, Birk will leave one soon too, and the Ravens whiffed in their pursuit of Evan Mathis.
This could become a case study in want vs. need, luxury vs. necessity, and most importantly, common sense vs. sex appeal, a battle that the male species rarely wins.