Scouting: Eye on Big Receivers For the Ravens to Target
The Ravens currently have five wide receivers under contract for 2019, but that can change. John Brown is an unrestricted free agent but there is time to bring him back if the brass desires (Giving the Ravens six). Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead would pose as significant savings on the salary cap if they were to part ways. That leaves 2016 fourth round pick Chris Moore, and a couple mid round picks from 2018 in Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley. Both of whom never saw playing time last year.
The group was put in place when Joe Flacco was the quarterback, but it is the Lamar Jackson show now. A different skill set and different offensive scheme under new architect, Greg Roman. You have to wonder which guys are willing to see their numbers and opportunities take a hit in a run friendly system. Are any of these guys a fit? Are none of them a fit? Crabtree was part of Roman’s offense during his time in San Francisco. But As much as I’ve seen Crabtree, I think Richard Sherman has been right about him all along, and wouldn’t be so upset if they parted with the veteran. Enough stop gaps like this, like Jeremy Maclin, etc…
I will say that I hope the Ravens don’t make the mistake they made with Joe Flacco all over again. That being not surrounding him with a real weapon at the WR position. However, this is not a top heavy draft for wideouts. So I don’t expect them to pick one in the first round, and that’s okay. No sense in reaching when there are other needs too. But I do think a WR should be pick at some point in the draft.
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I have my eyes on the two biggest wide receivers in the draft class. Hakeem Butler and Jazz Ferguson. I look at the big receivers for a two reasons. First reason is that Lamar Jackson doesn’t have pinpoint accuracy with the football. So I’m looking for guys with a large catch radius. Someone who can win a 50/50 battle against a smaller DB when Jackson throws a jump ball. Secondly, the Ravens need receivers who are not afraid to do the dirty work and get out in front and block on run plays which the Jackson led Ravens will do a lot of. Let’s start with Butler.
Hakeem Butler – WR, Iowa State (#18)
6’6”, 225 lbs.
CBS Sports prospect rank: #69 Overall. #10 WR.
Butler was born right here in Baltimore, Maryland. He started his high school career at City College before he moved to Texas to live with his cousins, the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, who were once the nation’s top basketball recruits and part of the Kentucky basketball program from 2013 to 2015, going to two Final Fours. Butler lived with his extended family when his mom passed away from breast cancer seven years ago.
Here is game film from Butler and the Cyclones against West Virginia, Kansas State, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and Iowa.
Pros: Saying Butler is strong is an understatement. He doesn’t just stiff arm guys. He pulls defenders out of the way, shrugs them off after the catch to gain extra YAC. He also isn’t afraid to block in the run game and will pancake guys that get in his way, or block them all the way to the locker room. He plays on the left and right side, and out of the slot. For a big man he runs some pretty good routes, shows the ability to sink his weight and turn on a 90 degree angle on the short outs and ins rather than rounding them off. He is threat in the red zone, and wins a lot of contested jump balls. He makes catches with his hands rather than the body.
Cons: Butler will fail to corral some balls that hit him in the hands. This has to be the only thing keeping him from being the top WR on the board. His tracking skills are good…on well thrown balls. When a ball is under thrown, or thrown to the opposite shoulder, he has trouble adjusting to make the play. He is so active after the catch that sometimes he will hold the ball out away from the body. Only a matter of time until someone strips him while he is trying to get some extras yards. Love the effort. Gotta secure the ball though.
Summary: If Butler makes it to day two of the draft where the Ravens have round three pick numbers 85 and 102, I’d have no problem with the Ravens drafting him there. His size will play. He comes from a pro-style offense at Iowa State. He’s got big play potential and as long as he isn’t selfish about receiving numbers, he’ll be exactly what you want in a receiver on run plays. Butler is also a man of the highest character. He’ll be representing and raising money for the Susan G. Komen foundation at the NFL Scouting Combine, in honor of his late mother. You can read more about his story on his pledge it page.
Jazz Ferguson – WR – Northwestern State (#1)
6’5”, 223 lbs.
CBS Sports Prospect rank: #255 overall, #42 WR
Ferguson, no relation to Gabe, was a four star recruit coming out of high school in Louisiana. He was recruited by LSU and played nine games for them before getting suspended on a failed drug test. He would transfer to Northwestern State in 2017 and sit out the year. But then went on to set all kinds of receiving records in the Southland conference in 2018. Jazz is the brother of Louisiana Tech edge rusher, and NFL hopeful, Jaylon Ferguson. Both will be entering the draft this year, but Jaylon had his combine invite revoked after a background check revealed a battery charge and public intoxication during his freshman year. Jaylon is the NCAA’s all-time leading sack leader (45).
The problem with guys from little schools are this is little game film out there. There is one film from his game against Texas A&M this past year. Here is a link to his highlight reel, where he makes a sick one handed grab early on in the video, and takes it to the house. Only thing about highlight reels is they don’t show you the bad with the good, so it’s hard to weigh the big picture.
Pros: He had a nice showing against Texas A&M going 4/129 and the Demons only TD, albeit after the game was well out of hand. Large catch radius is on display. His ability to secure the football even against tight coverage is grown man type ability. He’s got a size and speed combo that will play at the next level, and has elusive ability in the open field. Probably picked that up as a running back high school. What I really think makes him a fit for the Ravens is his ability to go over the middle which we see him do quite often. We don’t ever see him alligator arm a ball. Why does that make him a fit for the Ravens? Check out Lamar Jacksons passing chart I put together, based on games he started last year.
Jackson excels in passes over the middle of the field, and Ferguson lives there at times. Build on that. Jackson also has trouble completing deep balls, but when he does connect, it goes for big time gains. Ferguson is going to win a lot of 50/50 battles and will come down with contested catches with a DB draped over him, no problem. The running threat Jackson and the Ravens possess makes secondaries susceptible to big plays. If they cheat the big play with a guy like Ferguson, it opens up more room for the Ravens to run the ball with success.
Confidence is high, given his twitter handle, “CantGuardJAZZ”.
Cons: Arrogance is high, given his twitter handle, “CantGuardJAZZ”.
The obvious downside is the small school, and weaker competition. Looks like a man amongst boys which will hurt his draft stock. He was a non-factor against his best competition, Texas A&M, until the game was well into garbage mode. We don’t see him engage too much in run blocking. He’ll be there, but he isn’t looking to knock someone on their backside either.
Summary: Ferguson could be the kind of guy that flies up draft boards if his combine results match the ability we see on film. I’m sure teams interview questions at the combine will center around his drug suspension, and even around his brother’s past involvements with the law, because nothing is off limits it seems in these interviews. Have small reservations about that given that it runs in the family. But if it was also just weed, once, and his brothers was a wrong place wrong time type of deal, I think it will be something we don’t have to worry about. We’ll see where his draft stock ends up leading up to the day. But today, a day three grab of Ferguson looks like a steal. The Ravens have five picks between round four (pick 113) and round six (pick 193). For all we know he could have stuck at LSU, performed just as well, and been the top receiver in the draft because of it.