This year’s rookie draft projects to be one of the deepest in recent memory. A solid mix of top-end talent combined with late-round steals. Because of this depth, it leaves the availability for hidden gems to be found in the 3rd and beyond. My favorite of these late-round rubies? Devin Duvernay of the Baltimore Ravens.
Duvernay, a 22.8-year-old rookie, was selected by Baltimore in the 3rd round with the 28th pick. His selection brought cheers and first pumps from the coaching staff and front office alike. Excited over their 5’11/200 lbs new slot receiver, I believe they already have a plan for his usage… But more on that later.
First, we need to dive into his collegiate production and skill set to understand why the 16th selected WR in this class has top 8 upside.
As a four year Texas product, Duvernay had a slow road to relevance, breaking out his Senior season at age 22. Though his path to production was less rapid than most, he popped off the page his final year with 106/1386/9, a stat line that seated him 2nd all-time in school history for both receptions and receiving yards.
The difference in his Senior season? His move to the slot. For comparison, he played a measly 6% of snaps from the slot in ‘18, whereas in his Senior outing, he amassed a 96% snap share. Of those 96% slot snaps, he snagged 104 balls, the second most from the slot in ‘19, bested only by Justin Jefferson (profootballfocus.com).
Most receptions from the slot in 2019:
Justin Jefferson, LSU – 109
Devin Duvernay, Texas -104 pic.twitter.com/cc8lNybCOU
— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 7, 2020
Those receptions resulted in an impressive 84.1% catch rate. A product of Duvernay’s strong hands, body control, and “my ball mentality” rather than his route running, which leaves something to be desired. However, he lacks in route running prowess he makes up for speed, athleticism, and a strong center of gravity. His mix of size and speed proved to be a nightmare after the catch, as well, earning him First Team All-Big 12 Honors and catching the eye of NFL scouts.
Duvernay was able to compound upon that buzz with his production at the combine. He blazed on the 40-yard dash with 4.39-sec speed, showcasing what made him a matchup terror and YAC stud.
This all leads us back to the 2020 draft, where the Ravens selected him with the 92nd overall pick.
In Baltimore, Duvernay will find himself thrown into a very thin WR corps. The 1 & 2 options being Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown, of course, but outside of them? It’s Willie Snead, Miles Boykin and not much else… Most importantly, Snead will be Duvernay’s direct competition for slot snaps, seeing 65% of the team’s opportunities from that position in 2019. Competition, which, in my opinion, is easily overcome. Seeing Snead’s 126 YAC, 4.62 40 yard dash, and 1.18 yards of target separation per route run leaves me desiring what Duvernay brings to the table. An explosive WR with the strength and grit to play underneath. Duvernay has the speed and agility to bust a big play lose after the catch. If Duvernay can bring what he showcased his senior season at Texas to this Ravens’ offense, then I believe he will have the starting job.
But what does that look like in hard statistics?
I anticipate the Ravens, who had the most attempted rushes and conversely the fewest attempted passes in 2019, to begin balancing their offense as Jackson evolves as a passer. Their game is about exploiting weaknesses in their opposition. They did just that in ‘19 with their ground game both from Ingram and Jackson. Still, as the team grows, so must the offense. As Lamar develops, as Brown regains his health and as Andrews continues to demand coverage, the tertiary options in their attack will begin to weaponize, especially with the X factor play style of Duvernay.
So, for 2020? I believe that he will immediately compete with Willie Snead (1-year contract) for touches from the slot. Temper expectations, though. I anticipate Duvernay to dig out 20-25% of the slot snaps and end the season with a conservative 38 receptions for 410 receiving yards and 2 TDs, not worth a pick in re-draft formats. But 2021 and beyond? The sky’s the limit. Snead’s contract expires at the end of the season. With no discernable competition vying for slot snaps, we could see Duvernay, with his advanced athleticism, hands, and YAC, slide into Snead’s spot.
Due to that upside, I am drafting Duverenay often in drafts but rarely early. Like I said at the offset of this piece, that’s the beauty of this draft class. It’s so deep that you don’t HAVE to take him at his value. I am seeing him regularly drafted between the mid 3rd to early 4th and at that price? I’m taking him every time. Sometimes even as high as 3.01 if I want to secure my share. Very few late round WRs will ever offer you such a clear path to production as Duvernay does. Outside of rookie drafts, I’m targeting him, as well. His startup ADP of 206.87 is criminally low. (playerprofiler.com) He’s also a supremely attractive addition to any trade package. Slide him in as an auxiliary piece, and you won’t regret it.
Duvernay is a young, talented, and athletic WR with a relatively clear path to production on one of the most dynamic and efficient offenses in the league. The Ravens lack of passing volume slightly caps his ceiling, but his floor is bolstered by his athletic profile and fit in the scheme. He’s a buy-in all dynasty formats, and a must draft in all-rookie and startup drafts.
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