PLEASE NOTE: The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
ESPN’s John Clayton says he might have to give Joe Flacco “a sabbatical” from his list of elite quarterbacks after his stats dipped last season.
Not only does Clayton thinks Flacco will rebound, but he can see the fifth-year veteran making the Pro Bowl if the Ravens are able to add another receiving threat.
“I can see him having a Pro Bowl season next year,” Clayton told BaltimoreRavens.com at the NFL Scouting Combine Saturday. “The way the offense is constructed; there could be a desire to make him a 4,000-yard passer. He’s got the ability, clearly, to be a 4,000-yard passer.”
Clayton has been one of Flacco’s most consistent supporters over the years, and he believes some of the knocks against Flacco have been a result of play at wide receiver.
John Clayton On Joe Flacco
“I’ve been saying that he’s an elite quarterback, despite not having an elite year,” Clayton said. “A lot of the criticism that Joe takes is when he is standing back there holding the ball too long, but what happens when he’s holding the ball too long is that you look out there and it’s man-to-man coverage and there’s not anybody getting separation.”
To change that, Clayton said the Ravens need to bring another speedy receiver to their offense.
“The combination of one more threat – it could be [wide receiver] Lee Evans – but also that young guy they draft or whatever they sign in free agency, they just need one more threat on the outside,” Clayton said.
Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome said earlier this month that the team will look to upgrade at wide receiver this offseason, and Head Coach John Harbaugh said at the combine that drafting a wide receiver is a “big possibility.”
The Ravens have veteran Anquan Boldin and second-year receiver Torrey Smith as their top two receiving targets, and Clayton believes they need another dynamic player to fill that No. 3 receiver slot.
Evans was supposed to be that guy last year, but an ankle injury derailed his season early and he was never able to get completely involved in the offense. He is signed through next season, so the Ravens could choose to bring him back for another year.
They could also look for an option in free agency or the draft. In Clayton’s mind, the draft is the preferred place to find another target for Flacco.
“I think it might be better to go young because you kind of have to play this year’s draft,” Clayton said. “This is a very deep wide receiver draft.”
Several mock drafts have the Ravens taking a wide receiver in the first two rounds, as some of the popular options are Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd, South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery, Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu and Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill.
Players like Floyd and Hill have a mixture of size and speed that could be exactly what the Ravens need.
“There are a lot of tall, big wide receivers that could help out,” Clayton said.
Bringing that kind of player to Baltimore could lead to a boon in Flacco’s statistics.
Flacco has won more games in his first four years than any other quarterback in NFL history, but he’s never put up gaudy numbers. In an era where the NFL has seen the rise of the 5,000-yard passer, Flacco has always been more in the middle of the pack.
Clayton thinks the upcoming season could be the year that changes.
“They just need one more threat on the outside because it’s going to open it up in the middle for the very good tight ends that they have,” Clayton said. “I can see a lot of good things on offense.”