Ravens training camp: James Proche’s role in the WR group

Baltimore Ravens, James Proche (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Baltimore Ravens, James Proche (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /

The Baltimore Ravens got a gem in SMU WR James Proche. How does he fit in 2020?

At pretty much every turn of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens were grabbing somebody’s best available player, or one of ‘their guys’ in the draft, or players who were probably still around at least a round or two later than people thought they would be.

The annual tradition of Ozzie Newsome ‘winning’ the NFL Draft has been carried on by new GM Eric DeCosta, who has done a masterful job assembling one of the most talented young rosters across the entire NFL heading into 2020.

That roster includes superstars and underrated stars alike, and players who are going to have to earn their place in the 2020 rookie class. One of those players is sixth-round pick James Proche, who was one of the biggest steals among the entire 250-plus pick class in 2020.

Proche caught over 300 passes with 39 touchdowns in four years at SMU. He was targeted over 450 times and only dropped nine balls.

Playing from the slot, Proche proved he can not only run routes but he can also catch just about everything thrown in his vicinity.

With his production at SMU, why was Proche a sixth-round pick in the draft?

There were probably a few factors, including his size and length (5’11”, 200 pounds, less than 30-inch arms) as well as athleticism (tested no better than the 38th percentile in speed, agility, and explosiveness drills at the Scouting Combine).

Despite his apparent lack of athleticism on display at the Combine compared to other receivers in this class, there’s no denying Proche’s playmaking ability and his ability to consistently win from the slot.

This guy not only makes catches in the short and intermediate passing game, he makes big plays downfield against tight, contested coverage.

According to Pro Football Focus, Proche was the only player in the entire 2020 NFL Draft class with 100-plus targets of 20-plus yards downfield.

So how can the Ravens utilize this guy even as a rookie sixth-round pick? Expectations won’t be as high because of Proche’s draft status, but he certainly has the ability as a receiver and returner to make an impact in his rookie year for Baltimore.

Ravens have a plethora of young WR talent

The Ravens‘ wide receiver depth chart is topped by 2019 first-round pick Marquise “Hollywood” Brown.

Brown led all Ravens wide receivers last year with 46 receptions and seven touchdown catches.

The Ravens also have to have high hopes for 2019 third-round pick Miles Boykin, who is a unicorn of an athlete at the position with size, speed, explosiveness, and a massive catch radius.

The Ravens also return veteran Willie Snead in 2020 but he could be challenged significantly for playing time by 2020 third-round pick Devin Duvernay, another explosive slot player, and Proche alongside him.

The Ravens have such unique offensive personnel and they have the ability to completely dominate on the ground. It won’t be surprising if the young receivers who block the best are the ones who get the first shot at significant reps.

Proche didn’t test overly well at the Scouting Combine, but one area he excelled in was the bench press. At just over 200 pounds, Proche threw up 225 pounds on the bench press 20 times. That put him in the 89th percentile among receivers and while bench press success is not always an indicator of run blocking ability, Proche’s upper body strength will give him a tremendous advantage against defensive backs from the slot as a blocker.

It just so happens that the more you watch of Proche, of course he’s going to be targeted a ton in the passing game, but he’s also a good blocker both in the running game and as a stalk blocker when teammates catch passes.

When you combine the whole package of Proche’s skills together — his big play ability, route running from the slot, explosiveness in the return game, and blocking skills — he could wind up being one of the most under-drafted players in the whole 2020 class.

Next. 2021 two-round mock draft update. dark

The Ravens got value at every turn in the 2020 draft, and Proche might be the biggest steal of them all.