The top five Ravens draft classes
Tonight is the first round of the NFL draft. Or as the Ravens team of scouts and coaches call it, Christmas, because they always get what they want. Upwards of 12 new players the coaches get to open up and play with. In the spirit of the draft, let’s take a look at the excellent history of Ravens draft day success, where they have selected 16 future Pro Bowlers, and numerous future Hall of Famers.
*I personally feel you cannot grade a draft until at least three years after the fact, so while the 2012 class looks great, it’s not on the list.
5. 2009 – Michael Oher (1), Paul Kruger (2), Lardarius Webb (3)
Two of these three players have already earned a huge payday, with Oher to get his sometime in the next year. Oher is often the focus of criticism since he was supposed to play LT. However he has been solid on the right side and could have his best season to date if playing RT every game. Paul Kruger is looked at as one of the best young pass rushers in the game, as evident by his big free agent contract from the Browns. He notched 11.5 sacks in his first year as a regular starter in 2012. He added 4.5 sacks in the playoffs. Lardarius Webb suffered a season ending injury in 2012, but is turning out to be a great corner. One of those picks that makes Ozzie Newsome look like a genius when everyone else said, “Nicholls State?” Upon being drafted.
4. 2007 – Ben Grubbs (1), Marshall Yanda (3), Le’Ron McClain (4)
Grubbs and Yanda both represented the Ravens in the Pro Bowl of 2011. Both earned big contracts following 2011, but Grubbs was a salary cap casualty, signed by New Orleans. The Auburn graduate started 70 out of 74 games for the Ravens. Yanda, an Iowa Hawkeye, is hands down the best offensive lineman on the team. He’s now a two-time NFL All-Pro, and Super Bowl champion. Le’Ron McClain was a multi-Pro-Bowl fullback, and two time league All-Pro. He even was the Ravens leading rusher in 2008 with 902 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. He was relegated to strictly fullback duties in the following two seasons, paving the way for Willis McGahee and Ray Rice. He was pretty vocal about his loss of touches, and felt he could be an every down RB in the NFL. This friction likely led to his release in the wake of signing Vonta Leach.
3. 1997 – Peter Boulware (1), Jamie Sharper (2), Kim Herring (2), Jeff Mitchell (5)
Three guys who helped make up arguably the best defense in NFL history were taken with the Ravens first three picks. Peter Boulware retired as the Ravens all-time leader in sacks (70). He was the NFL’s defensive Rookie of the Year after posting 12 sacks and 66 tackles. He played in 111 straight games to start his career and was voted to four Pro Bowls. Playing opposite Boulware made life easier for Jamie Sharper. Like Boulware, Sharper vas as reliable as you can get, playing in 136 straight games before injuries sidlines him in his final season in Seattle. Kim Herring made an INT in Super Bowl XXXV and Jeff Mitchell rounds out four players from this draft class who we’re in the starting lineup of that 2000 Championship squad.
2. 2008 – Joe Flacco (1), Ray Rice (2)
The Ravens had ten picks in the 2008 draft, and it’s looking like they swung and missed with eight of them. Tom Zbikowski (3) and Haruki Nakamura (6) are notable as they filled in just fine in the secondary when asked to. Two for ten isn’t great anywhere, unless those two are your franchise QB and one of the games top running backs. Most teams would give up eight draft picks to acquire Joe Flacco and Ray Rice right about now. So many teams get burned by big school quarterbacks (Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy). But the Ravens traded up to get Joe Flacco from little ol’ Delaware. Traded up to get Flacco as if to say, “we want that guy!” The rest is history as Joe became Super Bowl MVP, and the highest paid player in the game. That Super Bowl run may not have been possible if not for a couple of heart stopping victories, and one of those being a top play of the year. Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle. 4th and 29, game on the line. Ray Rice takes a swing pass against a prevent defense, makes about nine Chargers defenders miss, and an Anquan Boldin block springs him for the first down and the Ravens go on to win. Rice is one of the most elusive runners in the game.
1. 1996 – Jonathan Ogden (1), Ray Lewis (1), Jermaine Lewis (5)
The best left tackle and the best middle linebacker in NFL history, with the first two picks in the franchise’s history. Not too bad, eh? Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis set the bar for the other LTs (Oher) and MLBs (To be determined) to be judged against. That’s really not fair to those who have to step into their shoes because, you can’t duplicate what those two men did. Ray Lewis was the heart and soul of this Ravens team and is undoubtedly on Baltimore’s Mount Rushmore of athletes. Jermaine Lewis, Maryland grad, was a decent WR but better kick returner. His return abilities were put on display in Super Bowl XXXV when he returned a kickoff for a TD in that game, just weeks after his infant son passed away. This might not only be the best draft class by the Ravens, but one of the best classes in the NFL.
Will we add the class of 2013 to this list one day down the road?
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]