Which Ravens Free Agent WR Will Lead The Way?

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The Ravens took probably their most thorough approach in franchise history when it came to addressing their WR depth this offseason.  They added 3 different types of free agents (John Brown was a true Unrestricted Free Agent, Willie Snead was a Restricted Free Agent, and Michael Crabtree was a Cut Free Agent from the Raiders) which shows how well Ozzie does when evaluating multiple ways to add to the team.  They also added WRs with much different skill sets, as Snead is a quicker than fast WR who can fit in the slot role, while John Brown has more straight line speed and can be used as more a Flanker receiver, and Michael Crabtree is the tougher WR that usually fits into a Split End role.  This approach to addressing the WR group is intriguing, but it still leaves some questions.  Which WR is going to be the “first read” on the field?  Which one will have Joe’s trust when it comes to a crucial 3rd down?  Which one will gobble up TDs like nachos at a Super Bowl party?  Here’s my predictions for each of the major WR stat categories, and feel free to vote along so we can get the pulse of Purple Reign readers!

RECEPTIONS

Historical:
  • Michael Crabtree – 9 seasons, 579 receptions, 64 Receptions Per Season average, Best was 89 in 2016 (If we drop an injury shortened 2013, his average jumps to 70 per season)
  • Willie Snead – 3 seasons, 149 receptions, 49 Receptions Per Season average, Best was 72 in 2016 (If we drop his abysmal 2017 season, his average shoots up to 70 per season!)
  • John Brown – 4 seasons, 173 receptions, 43 Receptions Per Seaon average, Best was 65 in 2015

The easy answer here is Michael Crabtree.  Brown and Snead are signings more for their potential development, while Crabtree’s is based on dependable results.  He has 3 seasons of 80+ catches, along with another season with 72 catches.  In this offense, he should easily become the #1 read on the field.  That being said, I wouldn’t totally dismiss Willie Snead.  Again, his 2017 season was absolutely abysmal, he caught only 8 passes, but clearly had a diminished role.  In 2016 and 2015, he was averaging 70 catches in the Saints offense.  Granted, the Saints operate way more of a Pass First offense than the Ravens do, but Snead’s role as a slot receiver lends to some potential mismatches against less effective CBs and if the Offensive Line is still getting up to speed, the slot receiver may act as the “Safety valve” option if Joe can’t wait for Crabtree to get open.  I still say Crabtree will lead in receptions with between 75-80, but I think Snead should end up close behind with 65-70.  Brown and Chris Moore should get targets in the offense as well, but as a flanker WR, they will probably get less receptions and instead more yardage on their targets.

RECEIVING YARDS

Historical:
  • Michael Crabtree – 9 seasons, 6870 receiving yards, 763 Yards Per Season average, Best was 1105 in 2012 (If we drop an injury shortened 2013, his average jumps to 823 yards per season)
  • Willie Snead – 3 seasons, 1971 receiving yards, 657 Yards Per Season average, Best was 984 in 2015 (If we drop his abysmal 2017 season, his average shoots up to 939 yards per season!)
  • John Brown – 4 seasons, 2515 receiving yards, 629 Yards Per Seaon average, Best was 1003 yards in 2015

Again, the historical stats and developed career would favor Crabtree here.  While John Brown had the best 2015 yardage among the 3, Crabtree has topped 1000 yards twice, which bests the remaining receivers.  Where this could get interesting is YAC.  Crabtree has a career average of 11.9 yards per reception.  His average per season has been on the decline recently, with his best seasons coming in his first 3 years in San Francisco, while his years with the Raiders have him averaging just 11 yards per catch.  By comparison, John Brown has never been below 13.3 yards per reception in a season, and Willie Snead averaged 13.4 yards per reception in his best New Orleans seasons.  Crabtree’s role is likely to be more of a possession WR with the Ravens, while Snead and Brown will be expected to get upfield more.  If either of them gets close to Crabtree’s number of receptions, they could end up surpassing him in yardage by end of the season.  A good example of that is the 2016 Ravens season.  Steve Smith and Mike Wallace were only separated by 2 receptions at the end of the season.  However, Wallace had 1017 yards, while Smith only had 799 yards.  It’s no coincidence that Smith was used as more of a possession WR in that season, while Wallace got more of the flanker routes.  However, it remains to be seen if either Snead or Brown will earn Joe’s trust as much as a 9 year proven veteran in Crabtree, so I’ll say Crabtree still finishes the year tops in yards with around 850-950, but I expect Snead to push him a good bit as a slot receiver with YAC potential, finishing with 700-800 yards, and Brown to slot in behind with 500-600 yards.

TOUCHDOWNS

Historical:
  • Michael Crabtree – 9 seasons, 51 Receiving TDs, 6 TDs Per Season average, Best was 9 TDs in 2012 and 2015.
  • Willie Snead – 3 seasons, 7 Receiving TDs, 3 TDs Per Season average, Best was 4 TDs in 2016
  • John Brown – 4 seasons, 17 Receiving TDs, 4 TDs Per Seaon average, Best was 7 TDs in 2015

This is the money stat, in my opinion.  Receiving yards and catches are nice, but we want to see those turn into Endzone dances!  The historical angle is, once again, clearly in Crabtree’s favor.  While his YPR has declined in recent years, his TDs have actually gotten better, with just under half of his 51 career TDs coming in his past 3 years in Oakland.  Brown is the only other WR to even come close to numbers like that, and his best was still just 7 in 2015.  Snead averaged just 3 TDs per season in his 2 good years in New Orleans.  This takes an interesting turn when you consider Ravens history, though.  Going back the last 3 seasons, the top Endzone receiver has only finished with 5 TDs.  In 2015 and 2017, the WRs that finished tops in TDs were also tops in receptions, so that would go in Crabtree’s favor.  But in 2016, Steve Smith edged out Mike Wallace, despite being 2nd in receptions.  The common theme there would be the possession WR.  The Ravens typically don’t have most of their receiving TDs going for long yardage.  Out of Steve Smith’s 14 receiving TDs, half came from within the Redzone.  Mike Wallace had just 2 of his 8 Ravens career TDs from outside of the Redzone.  When Kamar Aiken led the Ravens in 2015, just 1 of his 5 TDs came from outside the Redzone.  So, the TD leader will most likely be the best possession WR, which would be Crabtree.  I wouldn’t count out John Brown though, who has 11 of his 17 career TDs from the Redzone.  Brown’s ability to separate could lead to some secondary read TDs from Joe if the attention is rolled onto Crabtree.  I’m actually going to make the bold prediction that John Brown will lead the Ravens in receiving TDs with 6 TDs, as I think he has the quickness to separate in the Endzone while more attention is put onto Crabtree.  Crabtree should get 5 TDs, and I think Snead gets 3-4 TDs.  The Ravens tend to be a team that relies on their run game when they get close to the Endzone, so I think each WR experiences a drop in their usual TD totals.

 

The Ravens haven’t quite had this diverse a WR group since 2012, and it should be a lot of fun to watch how each added WR contributes in their own way.  While it’s easy to predict that Crabtree will lead the Ravens in the key receiving stats across the board, Brown and Snead each bring their own traits to the group that can push for their own stake at touchdowns and receiving yards, respectively.

Let us know what you think!  Vote to predict which receiver will lead the Ravens in Yards, in Catches, and in TDs.

 

 

 

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