Ravens get solid grades for 2009 draft

April 12, 2010|By Ken Murray | Baltimore Sun

            Few teams got more mileage out of the 2009 draft than the Ravens. Michael Oher started from Day 1 at right tackle. Lardarius Webb made a difference on kick returns and became a starter at cornerback in Week 12.

            And from the undrafted player remnants, the Ravens pulled Dannell Ellerbe, who went from the inactive list in September to starter in December and January.

            Bottom line: The Ravens got three starters from six draft picks and the free-agent market. For a team that went to the AFC championship game the year before, that is stunning. That's also knowing the player pool and knowing what works for your team.

            As the 2010 draft nears, here's a review of what went well and what didn't in last year's draft.

            First round (23rd pick overall): Oher, Mississippi

            In hindsight: Who knew he would be this good? Twenty teams passed on the 6-foot-4, 310-pound tackle, including the Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos twice each. Even teams that needed tackles looked past him, including Green Bay and San Francisco. The Packers opted for defensive tackle B.J. Raji with the ninth pick and the 49ers couldn't resist wide receiver Michael Crabtree with the 10th.

            When Oher got past the Lions at the 20th pick, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome executed a trade to move up three spots to No. 23 to get him. Oher not only started every game, he moved effortlessly to left tackle when Jared Gaither went out with a neck injury – and played better than Gaither. Oher was the kingpin of the offensive line for what he meant and how he played. He was the fourth tackle off the draft board, but no rookie lineman played better.

            Looking ahead: The Pro Bowl. Actually, several Pro Bowls.

            Grade: A

            Second round (57th pick overall): Linebacker/defensive end Paul Kruger, Utah

            In hindsight: The Ravens loved Kruger's motor and his passion, even if he was raw. He played only two seasons at linebacker at Utah after starting his college career as a scout-team quarterback, and then left college early. He got high grades in character and intelligence, and projected at defensive end or either outside linebacker position. The problem was, he had never played special teams, even in high school, where he was a quarterback. That kept him off the field seven of the first eight games.

            It was a long, frustrating year for Kruger, who started only one game (at Green Bay when Terrell Suggs was hurt). He contributed a huge overtime interception at home to help beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, but was inactive for both playoff games. If Kruger doesn't make that interception, the Ravens probably don't make the playoffs.

            Looking ahead: Assuming Kruger packs on some muscle to shed blockers and learns to play special teams, there is no reason he can't become a big factor in the pass rush.

            Grade: C-

            Third round (88th pick overall): Webb, Nicholls State

            In hindsight: Although the Ravens aren't big on drafting players from small schools, they took this small college safety and projected him at cornerback. It was brilliant. Webb exceeded all expectations and was starting at left corner in November against the Steelers. He also gave a jolt to the kick game with a 95-yard touchdown return and a 26.2 average. Ultimately, his season ended with a severe knee injury on punt coverage in Week 15.

            Looking ahead: The injury will slow Webb's progress as a second-year player, but assuming the knee heals properly, he should have a very good career. At 5-10 and 175 pounds, he needed to add strength and weight in the offseason. His technique work could suffer initially because of the injury. If there are no setbacks – and that's a big if – Webb could and should be a starter again this season.

            Grade:  A

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