OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Deep threat. Playmaker. No. 1 wide receiver.
These were all the heightened expectations in 2015, when the Baltimore Ravens used the No. 26 overall pick on Breshad Perriman. But 24 games into his NFL career, Perriman is on his way to a different title if he doesn’t quickly begin to produce: the Ravens’ biggest first-round bust ever.
Perriman’s struggles to catch the ball, run consistent routes and battle for contested receptions has put him behind such first-round disappointments as Matt Elam, Travis Taylor and Kyle Boller. Consider this: In the past two NFL seasons, Perriman is the only wide receiver who has eight or more drops and fewer than 50 catches.
“Of course, there is a little bit of pressure. But you can’t really buy into the pressure,” Perriman said during the bye week. “I kind of put a little pressure on myself as well. At the same time, I have to look past that. It’s really all about me going out there, relaxing and believing in my abilities.”
With his 6-foot-2 frame and track speed, Perriman was considered the perfect pairing with strong-armed quarterback Joe Flacco. A couple of years later, Perriman is on his way to being the least productive of the 21 first-round selections by the Ravens.
Elam, the safety selected in the 2013 first round, had previously been regarded as the franchise’s worst first-rounder. But Elam made 88 tackles and started 26 games, which is significantly better than Perriman’s 40 career catches and three starts.
Taylor, the No. 10 overall pick in 2000, has long been regarded as the worst receiver ever drafted by the Ravens. That is, until Perriman put up his rough numbers. Through their first 24 games, Taylor produced 825 yards receiving, which far exceeds Perriman’s 553 yards.
Boller, the second of two first-rounders in 2003, is often called a major failure because of the position he played and how his uneven performances repeatedly wasted strong defensive performances. Still, Boller delivered four fourth-quarter comebacks and threw 48 touchdown passes. In contrast, Perriman hasn’t scored a touchdown in 16 straight games and has been limited to one or no catches in 11 of his games (45 percent of the time).
Through 24 games, Breshad Perriman has produced the worst numbers of any Ravens wide receiver drafted in the first round:
“We believe and we know he can go out there and make those plays,” Ravens wide receivers coach Bobby Engram said. “We just have to keep him up, and he has to make a few of those plays to get rolling.”
The increasing problem with Perriman is he’s more than a highly touted receiver who isn’t making catches. He’s become a liability.
Perriman’s inability to pull in passes has led to two interceptions this season. He let the ball bounce of his hands and right to a Bears defender four weeks ago. Then, last Sunday, his inability to fight for the pass at its highest point led to another pick.
For his career, passes thrown to Perriman have resulted in twice the amount of interceptions (six) as touchdowns (three).
Have the Ravens reached the point where they need to reduce his snaps or bench him entirely?
“We’ll see what the Ravens do moving forward with him,” former Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta told WBAL Radio. “He certainly needs to improve his production if he’s going to stay out there.”
Perriman’s career has been continually derailed by injuries. He missed the entire 2015 season with a partially torn PCL in his right knee, and he was sidelined for all of training camp last year with a partially torn ACL in his left knee.
This year, Perriman was sidelined for all of the preseason with a hamstring injury before missing one game with a concussion.
Perriman, who has been the team’s No. 3 receiver when healthy, has never eclipsed 64 yards receiving in a game.
“Consistency is the key,” Engram said. “Now, what does he have to do to be more consistent? Keep working, keep practicing. I thought last week he had his best week of practice. He made a few catches in the game, but there are a few that you would like to have. If he continues that work ethic in practice, it will carry over to the game, and he has to believe that.”
Perriman’s unfortunate story is a popular one for the six wide receivers taken in the first round of the 2015 draft. Only two of them (Oakland’s Amari Cooper and Philadelphia’s Nelson Agholor) have reached over 1,000 career receiving yards. Of the receivers drafted in 2015, Perriman ranks 12th with 553 yards receiving.
Early in his career, there were concerns about Perriman’s confidence because he couldn’t stay healthy. Now, there are the same concerns about him because of the lack of productivity.
“I don’t know how you could play in this league, or get to the point that he’s gotten as a pro, or any player at this level, and not be confident,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I think all of the players are very confident. Doing it in the NFL and making those plays, it’s probably something that once you do it, you probably feel a little bit better about your ability to do it time and time again. So hey, go make a catch; you’re a wide receiver. It’s not just him — it’s any other player. Go make a catch; run a good route.”