Ravens' recent drafts: rough

Impact players few in past 3 years' picks

December 02, 2005|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

If the Ravens' dismal season ended today, they would draft somewhere between No. 5 and No. 8 in the first round.

Oddly enough, one reason the Ravens have such a coveted position is their recent string of disappointing drafts.

The Ravens have come away with three starters and one Pro Bowl player in the past three drafts, slightly tarnishing their golden touch. No team can match the Ravens' success in their first seven drafts, which produced 22 starters and nine Pro Bowl players.

Their recent crop of prospects has not immediately lived up to that standard, leaving the Ravens to hold their breath on the development of such players as quarterback Kyle Boller, defensive lineman Dwan Edwards, receiver Devard Darling and offensive tackle Adam Terry.

General manager Ozzie Newsome, who has overseen every Ravens draft, cautioned against jumping to conclusions on their latest draft classes.

"It has proven out that it takes a full three to four years before you can evaluate drafts," Newsome said. "Sitting here, I know 80 percent of the players we drafted the past three years [20 of 25 players] are still playing in the league. I try to put the best 53 guys on the roster."

Outside of defensive end Terrell Suggs, the only drafted player since 2003 to go to a Pro Bowl, the Ravens have failed to land impact talent in the first three rounds despite using additional picks to move up to grab specific players.

The Ravens traded a first- and a second-round pick to leap ahead in the 2003 draft to select Boller, whose career passer rating is a miserable 66.9. They traded a third- and a fifth-round choice to jump up in the 2004 draft to take Darling, who has two career catches for 5 yards.

There also has been little return on their investment in running back Musa Smith, a third-round selection who has 21 carries in three injury-marred seasons, and Edwards, a second-round pick who has been inactive (15) in more games than he has played (12).

"We evaluate on a consistent basis the talent that we bring in," coach Brian Billick said. "I'm not interested in rating our drafts. We have a very good draft history."

The 2005 draft looks like the most promising of the past three.

Receiver Mark Clayton could develop into a legitimate playmaker. Linebacker Dan Cody, who has missed the season with a knee injury, could emerge as a feared pass rusher.

The biggest question mark with this class has been Terry, who is third on the depth chart at right tackle behind Orlando Brown and Tony Pashos. The Ravens gave up two third-round picks and a sixth-rounder to take Terry late in the second round.

Newsome indicated that the Ravens project Terry as a right tackle because they plan to keep Jonathan Ogden at left tackle.

"Offensive line is probably the hardest place to break into," Billick said. "We expect Adam to step up and be a viable part of the competition next year."

Terry said he understands why he hasn't played right away.

"It's what I do that puts me out on the field," Terry said. "Thus far, I've worked real hard but I'm not there yet. If I was there, you'd see me there a little more often."

The same line of thinking goes for Darling, whose only offensive snaps of the season came against the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 16.

"I always want to get on the field, but the situation is I just have to wait for my opportunity," he said. "Eventually, I'll get my shot."

The biggest letdown seems to be receiver Clarence Moore.

A sixth-round selection in 2004, he was one of the draft's best sleeper picks, with 24 catches last season, including four for touchdowns. This season, Moore dropped too many passes and fell to the bottom of the depth chart.

"He needs to develop upper-body strength and strength in his hands," Billick said. "He has the physical tools to be a solid player, I would even say an impact player. It's clearly worth continuing to develop. We haven't given up on Clarence or Devard in any way, shape or form. Next training camp will be pivotal for both of them."

Another part of the Ravens' successful pipeline from college has been later-round picks. Key contributors such as left guard Edwin Mulitalo (fourth round), linebacker Adalius Thomas (sixth) and running back Chester Taylor (sixth) came after the first three rounds.

The few gems since the 2003 draft seem to be fullback Justin Green, guard Brian Rimpf and offensive tackle Pashos.

Perhaps the worst misstep by the Ravens on the draft's second day was trading a fourth-round pick in 2004 to acquire receiver Kevin Johnson. The Jacksonville Jaguars used that selection on receiver Ernest Wilford, who has five touchdown catches this season, and Johnson left after one season.

"I think our draft history is as good or better than any other team," Billick said. "I'm more than pleased with the way our drafts have gone and the way the players have developed."

NOTES -- Linebacker Ray Lewis (hamstring), cornerback Chris McAlister (thigh), Taylor (foot) and Brown (back) did not practice. Lewis remains listed as questionable. "He's having some people check it today," Billick said, "and we'll see as we go forward." ... Safety Ed Reed (ankle), who has missed six games, practiced for the second straight day, increasing his chances of playing. "Ed moved through it particularly well," Billick said. "He was sore but manageable." jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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