For the first time since 2008, the Baltimore Ravens used their first two picks in the NFL Draft to select offensive players. In the first round, they took speedy wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who looks to fill in for Torrey Smith. With their next pick, the Ravens selected Maxx Williams, the first tight end drafted, who many considered to be the best in this year’s rookie class. The Ravens want to shed the long-held belief that they are just a defensive team, especially as they have made significant progress on offense just last year. Both players seem to factor into starting roles during the season with the skill sets they bring to the team out of college.
After notching career highs in passing yards and touchdowns, Joe Flacco seems to only progress over time. Yet, Flacco will be without deep threat Torrey Smith this year, after he left for the 49ers in free agency. The Ravens quickly addressed his departure by drafting Perriman, whose 6-2 frame and 4.24 40-yard dash helped send his draft stock high. Perriman should look like Smith out on the field with his blazing speed and ability to stretch the field. A deep threat is essential for Flacco in new coordinator Marc Trestman’s offense, and there is no doubt that Perriman will be running long from the beginning of the season.
Perriman will be essential to the Ravens’ success during the season, as he’ll be lined up across from Steve Smith from the start. Smith is still an incredible player, but at 36 years old, he can’t do all the work alone. Many evaluators show concern over Perriman’s hands because of drops in college, although Torrey Smith had the same issue early on. The first-rounder out of the University of Central Florida will play a vital role for the Ravens, especially with questions at the third wide receiver and tight end positions.
Williams will either be very important or extremely important this season, depending on the health of Dennis Pitta, Flacco’s favorite target and best friend. The Ravens have historically been successful at the tight end position, starting with Shannon Sharpe and Todd Heap, and more recently Pitta and Owen Daniels. This position has constantly provided insurance in the passing game, especially in the underneath passes. A two-tight end base system looks to be the way the Ravens are headed, and Williams figures to be an integral part of it. Hopefully Pitta will return, but with no guarantees, Williams will be involved greatly on offense.
With much youth in the receiving game, Flacco will be certain to use Williams on short passes and in the middle of the field, especially when under pressure. Similar in build to Pitta, Williams should provide a matchup problem for most linebackers covering him. His ability to block will probably be greatly overshadowed by his receiving production, as the Ravens have focused more on developing pass catchers at tight end, a common trait among the elite at the position in the NFL. Flacco needs more big targets like Pitta because of his comfort level throwing to him, especially as an option when other receivers are covered. The Ravens got through most of last season with one tight end, but just the potential of having Pitta and Williams on the field this season could make this offense that much more dangerous.
(Breshard Perriman and Maxx Williams photos courtesy of BaltimoreRavens.com)