Despite being the first wide receiver to top 1,000 yards for the Baltimore Ravens since Mike Wallace in 2016, Marquise Brown was traded to the Arizona Cardinals on draft day in exchange for a first-round pick. That move can be interpreted in one of two ways: Either the team was convinced Brown wasn’t a true No. 1 receiver, or Rashod Bateman is ready to take a leap.
Perhaps it’s a bit of both.
Regardless, between the Brown deal and Sammy Watkins signing with the Green Bay Packers, the Ravens find themselves minus two of their top three receivers in terms of yardage from 2021. Of course, the caveat to that is the presence of tight end Mark Andrews (107-1,361-9), who is the real No. 1 option in Baltimore no matter what’s happening outside.
Still, Brown and Watkins were collectively targeted 195 times last season, and those passes will have to go somewhere else in 2022. Let’s see what options quarterback Lamar Jackson will have as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.
Drafted 27th overall in 2021, Bateman suffered a groin injury in training camp that landed the rookie on the Reserve/Injured list and cost him the first five games last season. It didn’t take him long to assimilate, totaling 18 receptions for 241 yards during his first four outings. He’d top 50 yards just twice the rest of the season, however, and managed a single touchdown among his 46 receptions. Bear in mind, though, Jackson was hurt in Week 14 and never took another snap.
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Bateman was considered a polished route runner coming out of the University of Minnesota, and he should be even better with a year under his belt. Despite not being physically imposing, the 193-pound wideout is tough for defensive backs to bring down in the open field. His speed isn’t elite, but it should be adequate to make some big plays. That’s something the team could use more of after Bateman averaged just 11.2 yards per catch last year and didn’t have a gain longer than 36 yards.
Duvernay caught passes in 14 of the 16 games he appeared in last season, but he never landed more than four in a single week and failed to reach the 50-yard plateau.
While Duvernay boasts excellent speed, he has just two catches of more than 20 yards since entering the league in 2020. That doesn’t mean those big plays aren’t coming, though, as Duvernay has the physicality, speed, and moves in the open field to make things happen. If he becomes the primary slot receiver, he could surprise.
James Proche and Tylan Wallace
When you’re talking about players like Proche (16-202-0), a sixth-round pick in 2020, and Wallace (2-23-0), a fourth-rounder last year, they feel like long shots to contribute. Yes, as currently constructed, one of them would likely have the inside track on a top-three job. In this offense, though, we’re talking about a mostly irrelevant role.
Whether Baltimore would enter training camp without adding to this group is debatable, however, and it feels as though a veteran signing is more a matter of when than if — why burn important developmental reps on a seasoned pro when younger players would benefit more?
Fantasy football outlook
There’s only one player in Baltimore’s current receiver room who should 100 percent be drafted, and it’s Bateman. The second-year wideout has the look of a solid WR3 with the potential to creep into low-end No. 2 territory, much like we saw from Brown in 2021.
Duvernay has enough juice that he bears a late-round flier in larger leagues, yet any additions to the depth chart could affect his role in a significant way. There will be enough action sent his direction to make for an inconsistent but useful asset. Predicting his successes could be frustrating.
The rest can be safely ignored in single-year redrafts until they produce. Both Proche and Wallace could warrant a final-round flier in best-ball leagues with at least 20-player rosters.
Ultimately, the lack of volume in the Baltimore passing game and target dominance by Andrews makes even the No. 1 receiver a rather pedestrian fantasy commodity.