Draft day: the good, the bad and the huh?

April 14, 2009|By MIKE PRESTON

Since moving to Baltimore from Cleveland for the 1996 season, the Ravens have been one of the NFL's best performers in the annual draft. They have had their share of great picks, but some busts as well.

The Ravens have participated in 13 drafts and have selected a total of 15 players in the first round. Of those, eight are currently on the roster. Those 15 players have earned 39 Pro Bowl invitations. At the beginning of last season, 60.8 percent of players the Ravens drafted were on NFL rosters, the second-highest rate in the league. The percentage of players on the team's roster who were Ravens draft picks is the third highest.

Today, I look at some of the best, worst, strangest and funniest picks by the Ravens.

Top pick: There is always the debate about who is better, Ray Lewis or Jonathan Ogden. From a purely technical standpoint, left tackle Ogden is the best player in Ravens history. There have been few offensive linemen who could dominate a game like Ogden, who finished with 11 Pro Bowl appearances. He made great pass rushers look ordinary. He was the Ravens' first pick ever in 1996, and he'll be the first player drafted by them inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Biggest impact player: Inside linebacker Ray Lewis was taken in the same draft as Ogden, but 22 slots later. He is already mentioned in the same breath with Dick Butkus and Willie Lanier, but no other inside linebacker has covered more ground sideline-to-sideline. He became the face of this franchise and did more than any other player in 2000 to bring a Super Bowl win to Baltimore. He deserves a statue outside of M&T Bank Stadium along with John Unitas.

Biggest bust: Former Florida wide receiver Travis Taylor gets a lot of votes because he was the No. 10 selection in the 2000 draft, but the winner is California's Kyle Boller, taken in the first round in 2004. Not only did the Ravens take Boller with the No. 19 overall pick, but they also traded away a pick to the New England Patriots to take him. In exchange, Boller gave the Ravens a lot of Keystone Kops moments on the field. We never did see him throw that 40- or 50-yard pass through the goal posts from his knees.

Most unusual pick: One of the funniest moments was watching Ravens running backs coach Matt Simon come to tears laughing after the Ravens took punter Dave Zastudil in the fourth round in 2002. It was almost as comical watching director of scouting Phil Savage try to explain how Zastudil could be a weapon with the reverse spiral on his punts because he was left-footed. He wasn't kidding, folks.

Biggest steals: The Ravens selected a small wide receiver out of Maryland named Jermaine Lewis in the fifth round in 1996, and he became the top returner in Ravens history and a deep threat out of the slot with fellow receivers Michael Jackson and Derrick Alexander. The Ravens also drafted an unknown defensive end named Adalius Thomas in the sixth round of the 2000 draft from Southern Mississippi. He later earned Pro Bowl honors.

The Tin Man Award: This goes to the player without a heart and no toughness. The winner is cornerback DeRon Jenkins, a second-round pick in 1996 out of Tennessee. Jenkins was oh, so soft, and apparently general manager Ozzie Newsome had an eye exam after this pick. Jenkins was so bad in pass defense that he earned the nickname DeRon "Third and Long" Jenkins.

Second-round miseries: Besides Mr. Third and Long, the Ravens have struck out on notable second-round picks such as tight end Harold Bishop in 1996 and wide receiver Patrick Johnson in 1998. Outside linebacker Dan Cody was a bust from 2005, and offensive tackle Adam Terry, another second-round pick in 2005, could become one as well.

Worst drafts: The 1998 draft had players such as cornerback Duane Starks, Johnson, defensive tackle Martin Chase, linebacker Ron Rogers, safety Ryan Sutter and offensive tackle Sammy Williams. The 2004 class featured players such as Boller, defensive tackle Dwan Edwards, wide receivers Devard Darling and Clarence Moore, guard Brian Rimpf and quarterback Josh Harris. My vote goes to 1998 as the worst in team history.

Biggest oddball: Alabama safety Ralph Staten was a seventh-round compensatory pick in 1997. The dude was a nut. Apparently, he couldn't tell time, because he was always late for meetings, and his temper was out of control. Newsome was doing his Alabama alumni buddies a favor by selecting Staten.

Biggest gambles: Running back Jamal Lewis was the Ravens' top pick in 2000. A lot of NFL teams backed off Lewis because he had major knee surgery the year before he came out of Tennessee. The jury is still out on quarterback Joe Flacco, taken in the first round by the Ravens last April. But the team appears to have won despite Flacco's having played at Delaware, not one of the major universities rich in quarterback tradition.

NFL DRAFT

When: April 25 (Rounds 1-2, 4 p.m.), April 26 (Rounds 3-7, 10 a.m.)

TV: ESPN, NFL Network

Ravens picks:

1st round: 26

2nd round: 57

3rd round: 88

4th round: 123

5th round: 162

6th round: 198

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