Re-Grading Baltimore Ravens' Past 5 Drafts

Shehan Peiris@@shehan_peiris_Correspondent IIIApril 22, 2014

Re-Grading Baltimore Ravens' Past 5 Drafts

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    Patrick Semansky

    Baltimore Ravens fans enter draft mode with a peace of mind that isn’t found in the fanbases of some other teams around the league (e.g. the Cleveland Browns). The reason for that tranquility is the brilliance of general manager Ozzie Newsome—a man widely regarded as one of the best GMs in the NFL. But how well has he actually fared in recent drafts? That’s what we’re here to discuss.

    We’re going to take a trip down memory lane and revisit the last five draft classes that Newsome has brought to Baltimore—and then we’re going to grade them.

    Each class is graded in its entirety, but each prospect is evaluated relative to the expectations that come with their draft slot.

    For example, a class isn’t going to earn a low grade because none of the Day 3 picks were anything more than roster depth. On the other hand, a first-round pick who underperforms is enough to cause a significant drop in the grade.

    One last thing to consider is that undrafted free agents do not factor into these evaluations because the purpose of this analysis is to assess Newsome’s performance on draft day(s) alone.

2009 Draft Class

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    RoundPickPlayer, Position, College
    123Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi
    225Paul Kruger, OLB, Utah
    324Lardarius Webb, CB, Nicholls State
    51Jason Phillips, LB, TCU
    513Davon Drew, TE, East Carolina
    612Cedric Peerman, RB, Virginia

    As you’ll see over the next few slides, this is clearly the worst draft class of the past five years. Michael Oher was a lightning rod for criticism—and deservedly so—last season, but he is not as bad as he looked on the field in 2013.

    He was a reliable starter and never missed a game for Baltimore. Furthermore, don’t underestimate the difficulty of continuously flip-flopping between the left and right tackle positions.

    Despite that fact, he certainly didn’t materialize into what the Ravens were hoping for as a first-round tackle—as evidenced by the fact that he is no longer on the roster.

    In the second round, it took a while for Paul Kruger to develop, but he eventually became a very effective pass-rusher and made a number of huge plays during Baltimore’s Super Bowl run. Moreover, he also earned the Ravens a third-round compensatory pick after signing a lucrative deal with the Cleveland Browns last summer.

    Lardarius Webb is the unquestioned gem of this class, as the small-school prospect has matured into one of the better cornerbacks in the league (when injuries haven’t held him back).

    The lack of elite production from Oher hurts this class, but it is the misses in the later rounds that make it the worst draft of the past five years.

    Neither Davon Drew nor Cedric Peerman made the Ravens' 53-man roster, and Jason Phillips was a special teamer for one season and played a total of one snap on defense during his time in Baltimore.

    Webb is the only player to play at a really high level for his entire Ravens tenure, while Oher and Kruger were both underwhelming considering their draft slots. As a result, the class earns a below-average grade.

    2009 Draft-Class Grade: D-

2010 Draft Class

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images
    RoundPickPlayer, Position, College
    211Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas
    225Terrence Cody, NT, Alabama
    36Ed Dickson, TE, Oregon
    416Dennis Pitta, TE, BYU
    525David Reed, WR, Utah
    526Arthur Jones, DE, Syracuse
    625Ramon Harewood, OT, Morehouse

    Like 2009, this is another year where the early-round picks don’t do the draft class any favors when it comes to grades. The story of Sergio Kindle is an unfortunate one, with the Texas linebacker fracturing his skull before he even stepped onto the field for the Ravens.

    Kindle made a comeback in 2011, but he was a special teamer and was eventually waived in 2012. Because his sad career is the result of a freakish accident, he won’t factor negatively into the overall grade.

    Unfortunately, the next two picks won’t help the overall grade. Terrence Cody was a full-time starter at nose tackle for one season, but then he lost that job to Ma’ake Kemoeatu and hasn’t looked like the dominant force he was projected to be coming out of Alabama.

    He signed a veteran’s minimum contract this offseason and is purely depth along the defensive line at this point—not what you want from a second-round pick entering his fifth professional season.

    Likewise, Ed Dickson initially looked like he would develop into a big-time player at the tight end position after he took over the starting job in 2011 and fared very well (to the tune of 54 receptions for 528 yards and five touchdowns).

    Since that point, however, Dickson has inexplicably lost confidence and suffered from a severe case of the drops—resulting in the Ravens parting ways with him this offseason.

    One possible reason that Dickson lost his confidence is because Dennis Pitta emerged as a legitimate star in 2012. As Joe Flacco’s favorite target, Pitta has become a huge part of the offense and was rewarded with a long-term deal.

    Like Pitta, Arthur Jones greatly exceeded his draft slot and became the most consistent defensive lineman last season. The Ravens undoubtedly wanted to keep him, but it speaks to how well he played that he priced himself out of Baltimore’s range.

    The remaining two draft picks (David Reed and Ramon Harewood) both showed potential and contributed in limited capacities before the Ravens moved on from them.

    Despite the lack of production from the first three picks, every player from this class (aside from Kindle of course) contributed to the team in some way, and that’s a pretty good haul. The brilliant play of Pitta and Jones compensates for the disappointing play of Dickson and Cody, so this class gets a respectable grade.

    2010 Draft-Class Grade: B-

2011 Draft Class

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    USA TODAY Sports
    RoundPickPlayer, Position, College
    127Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
    226Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
    321Jah Reid, OT, UCF
    426Tandon Doss, WR, Indiana
    533Chykie Brown, CB, Texas
    534Pernell McPhee, OLB, Mississippi State
    615Tyrod Taylor, QB, Virginia Tech
    722Anthony Allen, RB, Georgia Tech

    Welcome to 2011, the best draft class of the last five years—mostly because of the men at the top. Jimmy Smith looked like a potential bust over his first two seasons, but he made two critical plays to win the Super Bowl and then broke out in a big way last season.

    Torrey Smith, on the other hand, exploded onto the scene in his first professional game and has been making huge plays for the Ravens ever since.

    Each Smith has shown the potential to be one of the best players in the league at their respective positions, and they still have plenty of room to grow.

    Tandon Doss is easily the biggest disappointment of this group because he could never put it all together on the field, but even he contributed last season as a punt returner and a receiver in certain situations.

    Everyone else has been solid in depth roles and been important members of the Ravens roster. Jah Reid provides versatility as a guard/tackle and has started games for the team. Chykie Brown has fared well in limited snaps and has the chance to win the No. 3 CB job. Pernell McPhee has been a good pass-rusher on passing downs, while Tyrod Taylor has held down the backup quarterback job.

    Even Anthony Allen was a very important piece as an excellent lead blocker on kick returns during the Super Bowl run.

    The overall production in this class is really good, and the development of the Smiths pushes the class grade higher.

    2011 Draft-Class Grade: A

2012 Draft Class

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    Patrick Semansky
    RoundPickPlayer, Position, College
    23Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
    228Kelechi Osemele, OT/OG, Iowa State
    321Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple
    43Gino Gradkowski, C, Delaware
    435Christian Thompson, S, South Carolina State
    534Asa Jackson, CB, Cal Poly
    628Tommy Streeter, Miami (FL)
    729DeAngelo Tyson, DE, Georgia

    The 2012 draft class has a number of talented players, but a couple of things prevent it from competing with its predecessor in 2011. Firstly, the fact that two players (Christian Thompson and Tommy Streeter) are no longer on the roster has to hurt the grade since each player is only entering their third professional season.

    Secondly, while the top three picks have all played tremendous football at times, they each have questions to answer after subpar 2013 seasons.

    Courtney Upshaw wasn’t as dominant against the run as he was in his rookie year. Kelechi Osemele is recovering from back surgery and was playing very poorly at left guard before his season ended (although that may be due to the injury itself). Bernard Pierce didn’t look as explosive last year and faces injury woes of his own.

    All three could bounce back nicely in 2014 which could earn the 2012 draft class a higher grade, but for now the questions are a concern.

    Furthermore, Gino Gradkowski had an atrocious debut as the starting center, and Asa Jackson was suspended for eight games in 2013.

    Conversely, DeAngelo Tyson has been tremendous value in the seventh round, but he doesn’t outweigh all the question marks in this class.

    2012 Draft-Class Grade: C+

2013 Draft Class

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    Patrick Semansky
    RoundPickPlayer, Position, College
    132Matt Elam, S, Florida
    224Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State
    332Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern State
    432John Simon, OLB, Ohio State
    433Kyle Juszczyk, FB, Harvard
    535Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin
    632Kapron Lewis-Moore, DE, Notre Dame
    635Ryan Jensen, C, Colorado State-Pueblo
    732Aaron Mellette, WR, Elon
    741Marc Anthony, CB, California

    Let me preface this slide by saying that it’s too early to truly evaluate the 2013 draft class. The biggest improvement a player experiences is (generally) between his first and second years, so we have yet to truly see how each player fits into the Ravens roster.

    But based on the small sample size and reasonable projections for this season, we can come up with a makeshift grade.

    Matt Elam was the only rookie to see a large amount of playing time, and he fared very well. Clearly, deep-ball coverage was an issue, but he showed the ability to play good man coverage in the slot, and he was a menace when he lined up in the box. The transition to strong safety should do him wonders, and he has all the makings of a top-15 safety, thanks to his versatility.

    Arthur Brown did not receive many snaps, but he did display his excellent athleticism and coverage skills in passing situations. He is expected to win the starting job alongside Daryl Smith this season, and if he can improve his bulk and play against the run, he will be a very good inside linebacker.

    Brandon Williams was the second-most impressive rookie and had no problems transitioning from a small school to the big leagues. His strength and quickness were on display, and he’s going to be a big part of the D-line rotation this year.

    John Simon is pretty much limited to special teams, but he played well in that role. Likewise, Kyle Juszczyk was impressive on special teams but should be an important part of the offense as a lead blocker and receiver out of the backfield.

    Ricky Wagner is the last player we can evaluate because the other players were injured (or cut in the case of Marc Anthony) for the 2013 season. Considering his status as a fifth-round pick, Wagner was impressive as the sixth lineman in jumbo formations and will be competing for a starting role at right tackle this season.

    The instant results from the class weren’t great with Elam being the only major contributor, but each player will have bigger roles this season, and we’ve seen enough from most to conclude that it was a solid draft class. The verdict is definitely still out, however.

    2013 Draft-Class Grade: B-