'We Got Tougher'

Team Selected Players From School Of Hard Knocks

How The Ravens' Picks Stack Up

Nfl Draft 2009

April 28, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

The Ravens didn't trade for Anquan Boldin and didn't select one of the 34 drafted wide receivers this weekend.

In fact, they were one of only four AFC teams not to take a wide-out.

But this draft wasn't about building a passing attack around quarterback Joe Flacco. It was about loading up on players who have the mind-set to overtake the Pittsburgh Steelers in the gritty AFC North.

"This was a draft about toughness," said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of player personnel. "Most of these guys have had some sort of adversity that they've overcome in some way. We have a tough team. We're in a tough division. We've got tough coaches who demand a lot from our players. We got tougher at every position across the board, and that's going to help us in the fall."

In recent drafts, the Ravens selected players who had athleticism, but not an attitude. Prospects such as Adam Terry, Chris Chester, David Pittman and Yamon Figurs have struggled to make it onto the field.

The latest Ravens draft class has an edge about it, which comes from the road that led the players to the NFL.

* Offensive tackle Michael Oher, first round: : As a teenager, he lived on the streets in one of the poorest parts of Memphis, Tenn., trying to avoid foster care.

* Defensive end-linebacker Paul Kruger, second round: : He lost one kidney in a car accident in 1999 and needed 50 staples to close incisions after a stabbing in January 2008.

* Defensive back Lardarius Webb, third round: : In a pre-draft interview, Webb said his mother was on drugs while he was growing up and his father is an alcoholic. His brother is in jail, Webb says.

* Inside linebacker Jason Phillips, fifth round: : The son of a high school coach whose highlights often feature him bleeding. He was described as a "glass-eating" overachiever by Pro Football Weekly.

* Running back Cedric Peerman, sixth round: : An ordained deacon, Peerman grew up working on his family's tobacco farm.

"I think we'll look back two years from now and say, 'You know what? That draft really helped our football team,' " general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "And we were a strong football team coming into this draft."

The biggest criticism has been the Ravens' decision not to draft a wide receiver, especially in the first two rounds.

If the Ravens hadn't moved up in the first round to take Oher, they would have been able to take wide receivers such as Hakeem Nicks (29th to the New York Giants), Kenny Britt (30th to the Tennessee Titans) and Brian Robiskie (36th to the Cleveland Browns).

In the second round, the Ravens selected Kruger, whose motor has been compared to that of Jared Allen, one of the NFL's top pass rushers. By the time the Ravens drafted again, five of the six picks that preceded them in the third round had been used on wide receivers (Derrick Williams, Brandon Tate, Mike Wallace, Ramses Barden and Patrick Turner).

"When I looked at our football team, I felt securing a tackle for the future was No. 1," Newsome said. "Any time I would talk with the personnel staff, the coaches or the owner, I would talk about getting this tackle thing straightened out because of our quarterback. He is the franchise, and you have to take care of that."

projected starting lineup

Offense

WR: Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton

LT: Jared Gaither

LG: Ben Grubbs

C: Matt Birk

RG: Marshal Yanda

RT: Michael Oher

TE: Todd Heap

QB: Joe Flacco

FB: Le'Ron McClain

RB: Willis McGahee

Defense

RT: Trevor Pryce

NT: Kelly Gregg

LT: Haloti Ngata

LOLB: Jarret Johnson

LILB: Ray Lewis

RILB: Tavares Gooden

ROLB: Terrell Suggs

LCB: Fabian Washington

SS: Dawan Landry

FS: Ed Reed

RCB: Domonique Foxworth

Special teams

K: Steve Hauschka

P: Sam Koch

PR-KR: Chris Carr

grading the ravens by jamison hensley

After assessing the draft, this is how the Ravens' roster grades out against the rest of the league:

Quarterback: : Joe Flacco laid the foundation for a promising career. He became the first rookie quarterback to win two NFL playoff games. But Flacco has to improve throwing over the middle (47.7 percent completion rate in that area) and get off to faster starts (quarterback rating of 70.8 in first quarter). Troy Smith is an adequate backup. Grade: B:

Running back: : The wild card of this group is Willis McGahee, who had a career-low 671 rushing yards last season. With the right mind-set, he could still be an impact player. The combination of Le'Ron McClain and Ray Rice could develop into a dangerous one-two punch. Grade: B:

Wide receiver: : The only dependable target is Derrick Mason, who is 35. Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams haven't lived up to expectations. It's unknown whether Marcus Smith, a fourth-round pick from a year ago, is ready to contribute to the passing game. Is Anquan Boldin still available? Grade: C-:

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