Teaming Hollywood with Lamar Jackson, Ravens sizzling with speed

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — During one of the meetings leading up to the draft, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh made a strong case for wide receiver Marquise Brown.

Listen, if you love the long drive and you love the grind-it-out and take-it-down, get first downs and get it into the red zone and keep your fingers crossed and hope you score touchdowns, then you don’t want this guy. If you don’t like scoring from 70 yards out, then you don’t want this guy.

The Ravens delivered their answer in Thursday night’s first round, taking Brown with the No. 25 overall pick and making him the first wide receiver selected in this year’s draft.

Baltimore’s plodding offense — the one that led the NFL in 10-or-more-play drives — is suddenly looking like one that can put on its track shoes.

Lamar Jackson, the NFL’s fastest quarterback, is now being paired with Brown, who could be the speediest player in the league. If not for offseason foot surgery, Brown had planned to take aim at John Ross’ combine record of 4.22 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

“(Brown) and Lamar are going to be electric players on the field at the same time,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said.

Last year, teams could stack the box because Jackson was the Ravens’ most consistent playmaker. Now, defenses will have to account for Brown, whether he’s taking a short screen pass, running a reverse or sprinting deep downfield with frightening top-end speed.

The Ravens last season ranked last in the NFL with 13 plays over 30 yards. Brown, meanwhile, scored eight touchdowns of 25 yards or longer last year at Oklahoma.

Baltimore’s offense is looking like one that will be able to strike more quickly with the playmaker nicknamed Hollywood (he grew up in that town in Florida).

“We think he complements our offense very well and our vision of what we want our offense to be,” DeCosta said.

At the combine, DeCosta expressed a desire to add a young receiver who could develop a relationship with Jackson. Instead, he drafted one who already has a history with the new franchise quarterback.

Brown played against Jackson in Pop Warner growing up. How were those games? “It was him running around,” Brown said.

Brown watched Jackson throughout high school, and Jackson reached out to Brown during the draft process.

“He’s a big mentor and a person I look up to,” Brown said. “I always dreamed of playing with Lamar. We got our chance. Everybody has their opinion on him. I know what he can do and I’m looking forward to working with him.”

In an Instagram post, Jackson can be seen yelling in excitement after Brown was announced as the Ravens’ first-round pick.

“We just got our boy Hollywood,” Jackson said. “We’re going Hollywood.”

Jackson then sent a tweet to Brown that included two bullseye emojis and this message: “Let’s do it.”

This was a bold first draft pick by DeCosta, who took over for Ozzie Newsome this offseason. DeCosta could have played it safe by taking an offensive lineman like Florida tackle Jawaan Taylor, who was considered a top-10 pick but fell out of the first round.

DeCosta chose to select a wide receiver despite the franchise’s poor history — all three previous receivers taken in the first round (Travis Taylor, Mark Clayton and Breshad Perriman) rank among the team’s biggest busts — and despite Brown’s foot surgery. He suffered a Lisfranc injury on Dec. 1 in the Big 12 championship game and played through it in the Orange Bowl.

The Ravens felt comfortable with Brown’s medical situation after a couple of rechecks and seeing videos sent by his agent that showed him rehabbing. Brown has resumed running and is expected to be ready for training camp in late July.

“We’ve had players with this injury and it’s a predictable injury,” DeCosta said. “We feel really good about his prognosis long-term. I think he’s at the point where his rehab is going to be ramped up quite a bit and he’ll be here with some of the best trainers and strength coaches around.”

Brown thought the Ravens were going to pick him with the No. 22 overall pick and got nervous when they traded three spots back. He felt at home during his pre-draft visit in Baltimore, which is important considering his tough journey to the NFL.

It was only three years ago that Brown worked at Six Flags Magic Mountain, where he earned about $700 a month operating the Full Throttle and X2 roller coasters — and $400 of that went to rent. He quickly became one of the top prospects in college football, producing 2,413 receiving yards over the past two seasons (which led the Big 12).

When his name was called Thursday night, Brown shed some tears.

“So, that moment just was surreal,” Brown said. “People were always telling me what I can’t do. So, for me to get drafted in the first round, it just means a lot to me.”

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