Baltimore Ravens 2021 Roster: Keep Miles Boykin or James Proche?

Ravens 2021 Roster

NFL training camp is right around the corner and the Baltimore Ravens have a big season ahead of them. Last season they won their first playoff game since 2014 and are now looking to build towards another Super Bowl. The most renovated group on the Ravens roster this past off-season was their wide receiver corps. Ravens’ general manager Eric DeCosta set out on a mission to acquire more receiving talent for quarterback Lamar Jackson and made additions through both free agency and via the NFL Draft. Baltimore spent two draft picks on receivers Rashod Bateman (27th-overall) and Tylan Wallace (131st-overall) while signing free agent Sammy Watkins to a one-year/$5 million contract. These three along with Marquise Brown and Devin Duvernay should round out the top-five receivers on the Ravens 2021 roster.

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There will then likely be a battle for the sixth receiver spot between Miles Boykin and James Proche. Both players have shown flashes with the Ravens but need to show they can help the receiving group improve in 2021. Their individual skill sets are very different and both have the potential to be impact players moving forwards.

The training camp battle between Boykin and Proche should be the most interesting competition of the preseason for the Ravens. Baltimore had a disappointing season throwing the ball and offensive coordinator Greg Roman needs as much help as he can get from their specialty players in 2021. This is how the two Ravens wide receivers matchup going into next season.

Miles Boykin and James Proche Fighting for Ravens 2021 Roster Spot

The Odd Man Out

While it is no guarantee that Boykin and Proche are the only two battling for the sixth receiver spot, the five other receivers above them on the depth chart are locks to make the roster.

Brown and Watkins should gather the majority of the starts for Baltimore in 2021. Brown has been Jackson’s number-one target since he entered the league in 2019. Since being drafted to the Ravens, the former 25th-overall pick has caught 104 passes — 40 more than the next closest Ravens wide receiver. The only Ravens player to catch more balls over that span is tight end Mark Andrews. Watkins comes over from the Kansas City Chiefs to provide a veteran presence to a very young Ravens receiving corps. He has recorded 500+ receiving yards in three of the past four seasons and is yet to see fewer than 50 targets in a single season.

Bateman and Wallace are rookies but were both selected with the purpose of being used in their rookie years. At Minnesota, Bateman became one of college football’s most sound route runners. He has sneaky deep threat ability as well and a knack for finding soft spots in the intermediate of the field. Wallace may not be the tallest target but he plays bigger than his frame. Per Pro Football Focus, he had the most contested catches in college since 2017. Jackson has lacked a target that is willing to fight for balls and Wallace is a needed presence.

Duvernay will be the wild card of the group. After being a third-round pick of the Ravens in 2020, he etched out a role as a returner but saw just 26 targets on 347 offensive snaps as a rookie. With Willie Snead no longer occupying the slot, Duvernay is due for an expanded role.

Miles Boykin: All Athlete, No Finish

Boykin was drafted by the Ravens in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He was the second receiver selected by DeCosta that year and brought a large frame and tremendous athletic ability to a very shallow wide receiver room.

As a rookie, Boykin showed why he was such a dangerous player at Notre Dame. He made an instant impact on the receiving room by catching a five-yard touchdown in his first NFL game before starting 11 of 16 games on the year. His size and ability as a run-blocker made him an easy fit in the Ravens offense. Baltimore finished the year recording the most rushing yards in a single season in NFL history.

After a successful rookie season, 2020 was supposed to be Boykin’s breakout year. However, he didn’t take the leap the Ravens would have hoped for. Boykin made marginal improvements in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns but also saw his catch percentage and passer rating when targeted drop. There was also a clear lack of chemistry between himself and Jackson. For one reason or another, Boykin and Jackson looked to get their wires crossed on multiple route concepts last season. These often led to uncatchable passes and, on occasion, Boykin not being looked at when he appeared to be open.

James Proche: Underdog Who Underperformed

There were tempered expectations for Proche when he was drafted by the Ravens in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He was not the fastest or most elusive wide receiver coming out of SMU but was renowned for his sure hands in college. During his four-year career with the Mustangs, Proche dropped just nine balls while accumulating 301 total receptions.

Proche was featured almost exclusively on special teams for the Ravens in 2020. He played a total of 83 total snaps with 58 coming on special teams. The most snaps he saw in a single game last season was Week 5 against the Cincinnati Bengals when he played 14 snaps (six on offense, eight on special teams). Despite the small workload, Proche was still able to make the NFL All-Rookie team as the punt returner.

The question for Proche becomes, why wasn’t he used more as a rookie? Baltimore’s wide receiver group had the highest percentage of dropped passes in the NFL but Proche was still seldom used in Greg Roman’s offense. Proche’s hands should have been a selling point for him to see more action. If he were to be used more by the Ravens in 2021, it would essentially be his redshirt-rookie season.

Who Has the Upper Hand?

At this time, Boykin looks like the favorite to land the final receiving spot on the Ravens depth chart. His mix of size and speed cannot be taught and he offers solid run blocking in an offense that will once again heavily feature multiple runners in 2021. Proche is simply facing too much of an uphill battle. The Ravens had a much thinner receiving corps last season and he was still inactive for the team’s final four games. For him to beat out Boykin for the job, Proche would need a huge showing in both training camp and the first few games of the preseason.

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