Could the Ravens help Joe Flacco get back to 'elite'?
The “Is Joe Flacco elite?” question appears to have been answered, as Flacco has delivered passing grades below 71.0 in three out of four seasons since Baltimore’s 2012 Super Bowl run. However, a big part of his mediocre-at-best play is the fact his skill players have struggled to create plays on their own.
Mike Wallace was brought in last year to give the Ravens a deep threat, and he delivered with five catches over 50 yards on the season. However, he wasn’t effective enough on catches that didn’t occur downfield, as he averaged just 1.74 yards per route run (35th among all receivers), and forced just eight missed tackles (25th at his position).
Second-year player Breshad Perriman failed to be much of a complement, as he dropped five of 38 catchable balls and forced just two missed tackles after the catch. Chris Moore is the only other returning receiver this year with a catch for the Ravens in 2016, and he only forced one missed tackle and the longest of his seven grabs went for 13 yards.
The Ravens certainly will be expecting Perriman to take a big step forward this year, as this will be his second full season of NFL play due to injury keeping him out of action for the entirety of his 2015 rookie season. If he does demonstrate progress, he has the ability to form a solid duo outside with Wallace. However, the Ravens still lack a dependable option from the slot; and option capable of moving the sticks and picking up yards with his speed and elusiveness after the catch.
While Baltimore’s lack of action in free agency at the wide receiver position could be due to their desire to develop youth on the roster like Perriman, Moore, Michael Camanaro, and Keenan Reynolds, they could also be planning to target a new receiver in the draft. One such option played his college ball at Louisiana Tech, and in 2016 produced one of the most eye-popping stats of the college season.
At 5-foot-11 and 199 pounds, Carlos Henderson ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the combine, but failed to stand out from the pack in any of the other athletic drills performed while in Indianapolis last month. However, his college film and production suggests he’s anything but an average athlete, as he racked up an impressive 1,530 yards and 82 catches in 2016. More impressive than that, however, is the fact he finished second among all FBS receivers with at least 75 grabs in average yards after the catch at 9.6, a figure due to his outstanding elusiveness in the open field.
Henderson forced an incredible 48 missed tackles after the catch last season. Not only did he lead all of FBS in the category, he nearly lapped the entire field. Kansas’ LaQuvionte Gonzalez finished second with 26, and was the only player not to have his total at least doubled by Henderson.
While he certainly isn’t a finished product, and is at this stage not a proficient route-runner, the Ravens simply lack a weapon with his capabilities. He will likely still be on the board with Baltimore picks in the third round, and experienced offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg should be able to manufacture touches for him throughout the season as he develops his overall skill set.
The selection of Henderson of certainly doesn’t mean Flacco will be able to instantly recreate the magic of 2012, but a talent of this sort can only serve to take pressure off the veteran signal-caller and improve his game-to-game consistency.