Ravens' grade after the draft? Incomplete

We're several years away from discovering if this year's group will contribute

April 30, 2012|Mike Preston

The Ravens get an incomplete grade for the 2012 NFL Draft.

Every team should get an incomplete each year because no one can predict how drafts will turn out, but most teams come away with one or two players who will have an impact immediately.

The Ravens came away with just one in Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, taken in the second round. That's it.

Two others, Iowa State offensive tackle Kelechi Osemele and Temple running back Bernard Pierce, could play roles this season, but the rest appear to be projects.

Usually, there are other indicators like film, scouting reports and pedigree to determine if the draft pick will pan out.

But not with this year's bunch. Some of Osemele's scouting reports had as many negative comments as positives. Pedigree? The Ravens drafted players from Delaware, Cal-Poly and South Carolina State, not exactly in the same class with Alabama, Texas and Ohio State.

Tommy Streeter, a sixth-round pick, is from the University of Miami and defensive tackle DeAngelo Tyson was taken seventh round pick out of Georgia. Those schools have recognition, so when you're selected in the final two rounds, they have a name for you.

You're a project.

Through the years, the Ravens have done a great job of drafting — they are one of the best in the NFL. They chose this year's group, and they might one day become extremely talented.

But you can use that same polished record against them.

Upshaw is a slam dunk.

The Ravens seldom fail in evaluating linebackers. Not only do they select the great ones in the first round like Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs, but they discover gems like Bart Scott, Adalius Thomas and Jameel McClain either in the later rounds or through rookie free agency.

Because of his physical skills, drive, pedigree and playing with some of the league's best defensive players, Upshaw seems destined to have an outstanding career.

Osemele makes me nervous. He's big, versatile, and can be overpowering at times, but some of the pro scouts have called him soft and say he needs to improve his work ethic.

The Ravens and general manager Ozzie Newsome have not done well drafting offensive linemen since John Harbaugh became head coach in 2008.

They drafted tackle Oniel Cousins in the third round in 2008 and tackle Michael Oher in the first round in 2009, and Oher still hasn't played up to the first round draft status. In 2010, the Ravens picked often injured tackle Ramon Harewood in the sixth round, and last year took Central Florida tackle Jah Reid in the third. Reid has now been moved to left guard, partly because of need, and partly because he lacks the athleticism to play tackle.

So, if you want to jump up and down about Osemele, go ahead. I'll wait. I'll wait as long as we did last summer when the Ravens watched both Cousins and Reid fail in the preseason at tackle, and then they had to hurry out and sign tackle Bryant McKinnie and guard/center Andre Gurode.

The Ravens will give both Reid and Osemele ample time in training camp to become the starting left guard, but they might be better off exploring free agency again.

Who knows? Maybe one day Osemele will work out, but that's down the road. The same can be said about Pierce, taken in the third round. He's got good speed, burst and can bounce outside, but he's still a year or two away, especially with Ray Rice as the starter.

That's okay.

You stockpile draft picks to replace those who might not be around in a couple of years either because of big contract demands or health reasons.

With Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard both in the final years of their contracts, the Ravens needed a big, hard hitting safety like Christian Thompson, taken in the fourth round out of South Carolina State.

Because of the talent they have at cornerback, the Ravens have time to develop another young cornerback like fifth round pick Asa Thompson from Cal Poly. He has good size, and could play on special teams or in nickel coverage. He'll likely be given a shot at returning kicks.

Neither Streeter or Tyson seem ready to contribute this season, but at 6-5 and able to run a 4.34 forty dash time, Streeter is worth the risk as a sixth round pick.

"Yeah, probably we did," said Harbaugh when asked if wanted to bring in some big, physical bodies. "We always feel that way. That's kind of been the philosophy from the beginning. We had an opportunity to build on that with these players, and they are also very talented athletically. All these guys can run from their positions really well. They are all really good athletes."

But few will have an immediate impact, and they don't need to. Unlike Cleveland or Pittsburgh, the Ravens didn't have a lot of openings for starters.

Except for Torrey Smith taken in the second round last season, the Ravens haven't had a lot of success selecting receivers with a list that includes Demetrius Williams, Yamon Figurs, Justin Harper and David Reed.

None have panned out.

The last time the Ravens didn't make a first-round pick was in 2010 when they selected Sergio Kindle and Terrence Cody with their two second-round picks. The time before that was in 2004 with a draft composed of Dwan Edwards, Devard Darling, Roderick Green, Josh Harris, Clarence Moore, Derek Abney and BrianRimpf.

They weren't exactly household names, and neither were the players the Ravens selected during the weekend. That's why we'll put this new draft class on hold for now. It's too incomplete to give a passing or failing grade.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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