Time to look at the next five years – post championship and beyond.
Best: Todd Heap, TE, Arizona St., First Round – The Ravens were already looking to replace Shannon Sharpe and found a two time Pro Bowler in Heap. Ed Hartwell does receive consideration for stepping in quite well as a middle backer and the fact that he was a fourth rounder means that it was a good value pick by Newsome and company. Seeing first-rounders flourish has now become the norm after winning a championship. The correlation between selecting productive players in the early rounds and sustained success is a strong one.
Worst: Chris Barnes, RB, New Mexico St., Fifth Round – How do you not even make the team when the player you were drafted to back up is injured the entire year? This forced the Ravens to sign Terry Allen, who still had 1,000 yards behind a very solid line after Jamal went down with a season ending injury.
Best: Ed Reed, FS, Miami, First Round – Another Hall of Famer comes out of Round One. It’s amazing to think the Ravens almost didn’t take him and that there was little excitement surrounding his selection. Phil Savage, at the time the team’s director of scouting had this to say about the team’s pick; “He is not 6 feet, not a 4.4, not this, not that, just a football player,”. I think few who saw him during his career would have called him “just a football player”. But it also speaks to the variables that go into evaluating, selecting, and coaching up young players and attempting to project their professional futures. It’s just not that simple sometimes.
Worst: Ron Johnson, WR, Minnesota, Fourth Round – Johnson stuck for barely two seasons and didn’t do much of anything while in Crabtown. He’s another failed attempt to find a pass catcher in Baltimore draft history. This is a theme that we will see repeated over and over for the next several decades.
Best: Terrell Suggs, DE, Arizona State, First Round – Another potential Hall of Famer. Suggs has a strong resume to merit inclusion; a seven-time Pro-Bowl selection, a two time All-Pro, and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2011. This was a good draft for the Ravens as they produced solid starters such as Jarret Johnson, Ovie Mughelli, and Tony Pashos.
WORST: Kyle Boller, QB, California, First Round – Argue away Boller backers but a player chosen in the first round that has a 69.5 career quarterback rating isn’t a good pick and should be considered bustworthy. This is one of those clear examples of reaching to fill a need but I could only imagine if the Ravens had gotten Byron Leftwich after trading up with Minnesota. A mistake by the Vikings on draft day impacted the franchise for years to come. Boller’s limitations held back a dominant defense and wasted the talents of Lewis and Heap due to his erratic tendencies.
Best: Dwan Edwards, DT, Oregon St., Second Round – Edwards wins by default. This was a horrendous class that did little to add any serviceable players to the fold. Edwards didn’t bloom into a starter until his last season with the club. In hindsight, lineman such as Darnell Dockett or Jared Allen would have been better selections.
Worst: Devard Darling, WR, Washington St.,Third Round – Notice a pattern? Four seasons as a Raven, Twenty catches. Not…good.
Best: Jason Brown, G, North Carolina, Fourth Round – Was a starter right away and swung around and filled in on several positions. Brown left for a huge payday in St.Louis in 2009.
Worst: Mark Clayton, WR, Oklahoma, First Round – Let the debate begin. I have to put him here. Travis Taylor caught 14 Touchdowns in his Raven career. Clayton caught 12. There are plenty of others to chose from here though from always injured Dan Cody to third rounder Adam Terry. Another down draft for the Wizard of Oz.