Most Valuable Draftees: Baltimore Ravens’ Top 15 Draft Picks Since 2000
Baltimore Ravens Top 15 Draft Picks Since 2000
The Baltimore Ravens raised eyebrows for the speed with which they dismantled their team after winning Super Bowl XLVII a little more than a month ago, but many Ravens fans are taking the sweeping changes in stride. The front office has earned their trust, and respect around the league, with their savvy maneuvers, especially when it comes to the NFL draft.
Ravens’ General Manager Ozzie Newsome and Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta have developed a reputation for making astute judgments about the players available – like a certain Division I-AA quarterback who just became the NFL’s highest-paid player.
In the franchise’s first draft after moving to Baltimore, the team landed Hall of Famer Johnathan Ogden and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, both in the first round, setting the tone for future seasons. Fifteen draftees have been named to the Pro Bowl as Ravens, many of them -- including Ogden and Lewis -- multiple times.
As Super Bowl XLVII Champs, the Ravens get the final pick in the first round, but they were awarded four compensatory picks in this year’s draft. The Ravens and the Atlanta Falcons both led the league with four compensatory picks in 2013, and since the practice started, the Ravens have received more than any other team (37).
It might look like madness, but two Super Bowl rings in twelve seasons - and several close-but-not-quite seasons – proves that there is a method to the moves made by the Ravens’ front office.
Here’s a look at the Baltimore Ravens’ top draft picks since 2000.
2000: Jamal Lewis
Lewis went to the Ravens with the fifth overall pick in the 2000 draft, and right from the start, he proved he was worth the high draft position. As a rookie, he rushed for more than 1,300 yards and helped the Ravens get to their first Super Bowl, where he rushed for more than 100 yards.
It wasn't just rookie luck -- Lewis followed up with another 1,300+ yard season before breaking the 2,000-yard mark in 2003. He was just 39 yards short of the all-time record and set a record, since broken, with 295 rushing yards in a single game.
In five out of his six seasons with the Ravens, Lewis rushed for more than 1,000 yards, and he hit the mark twice more, after signing with the Cleveland Browns. In September 2012, the beginning of the Ravens' second Super Bowl winning season, Lewis was inducted into the team's Ring of Honor.
2000: Adalius Thomas
Thomas turned out to be a steal in the sixth-round for the Ravens. Unlike Lewis, who made an immediate impact, it took Thomas a few seasons to become a contributor, first on special teams and then as a defensive starter. In seven seasons, he logged 371 tackles, 38.5 sacks, and 13 forced fumbles, and he was a two-time Pro Bowler, in 2003 and 2006.
Thomas' best season was his final year with the team, in 2006, when he notched 83 tackles and 11 sacks. After that season, he signed with the Patriots as a free agent and played the final three years of his career with New England.
2001: Todd Heap
Heap -- or "HEEEEEAAAAP," as he was known to Baltimore fans -- was one of the most popular Ravens during his ten years with the team. A first-round draft pick in 2001, Heap eventually succeeded tight end Shannon Sharpe and became a two-time Pro-Bowler in his own right.
Heap had 467 receptions for 5,492 yards and 41 touchdowns before he was released to open up salary cap room following the 2010 season. The Arizona native signed with his hometown Arizona Cardinals, and on the weekend that his new team returned to the city he'd called home for a decade, Heap took out a half-page ad in The Baltimore Sun thanking Ravens' fans for a career's worth of wonderful memories.
2002: Ed Reed
Reed, one of the top safeties to ever play the position and one of the greatest players in Ravens history, won't finish his career in purple and black. After several years of injuries and flirtations with retirement, Reed agreed to a three-year, $15 million deal with the Houston Texans.
Reed, a first-round draft pick for the Ravens, called the move "the hardest thing ever" and referred to his career in Baltimore as "11 storybook years," culminating with a Super Bowl victory in New Orleans, near Reed's childhood hometown.
The safety wasn't at the top of his game during the 2012 season, but he was still one of just two defensive players to play in every game for the Ravens. At his best, Reed was an intuitive player known for being in the right place at the right time -- he has 61 career regular-season interceptions -- as well as for his high-risk, high-reward returns that often ended in him pitching the ball to a teammate in the hope of gaining a few more yards.
Reed hold the NFL record for return yards with 1,541 yards, and he is the only player to score touchdowns off a punt, blocked punt, interception, and fumble recovery.
2003: Terrell Suggs
The Ravens drafted Terrell Suggs out of Arizona State with the 10th overall pick, and in the past ten seasons, he has developed a reputation as a ferocious pass rusher and has become just as well known as "T-Sizzle" from Ball So Hard University.
The linebacker, a five-time Pro-Bowler, has 84.5 sacks -- and counting -- in his career with the Ravens. He missed six games in 2012 recovering from a torn Achilles tendon but rebounded much quicker than doctors initially thought possible, and a mid-season biceps tear didn't keep him out long. The Ravens will need him back on the field full-time, and in top form, to provide veteran leadership and toughness to a defense that lost most of its Super Bowl starters in the offseason.
2003: Jarret Johnson
When outside linebacker Jarret Johnson left the Ravens after the 2011 season for a sweet free agent deal with the San Diego Chargers, Baltimore fans mourned the loss of a "blue collar" player who embodied the stoicism and work ethic the city likes to call its own. Johnson was a fourth-round pick out of Alabama in 2003, and he went on to set a franchise record for consecutive games played (130 total, the last 80 of them starts).
In nine seasons with the Ravens, Johnson earned a reputation as a solid run-stopper, with 382 tackles, 20 sacks, nine forced fumbles, and three interceptions.
2006: Haloti Ngata
Haloti Ngata is the strong, silent type -- but he's also a top NFL defensive tackle and four-time Pro-Bowler for the Ravens. He's big, very big, but also very athletic, even coming in as a fullback when the Ravens have the ball near the goal line.
Ngata battled injuries most of the last season, including a sprained knee sustained in the Super Bowl, but Ravens' coach John Harbaugh says he's among the best interior linemen in the NFL when healthy. In his career in Baltimore, Ngata has 362 tackles, 22 sacks, 20 pass breakups, three interceptions, four forced fumbles, and five fumble recoveries.
2006: Sam Koch
Punter is one of the less glamorous positions in the NFL, but it's important to have a guy who can do it well, and for the past seven seasons, Sam Koch has been that guy for the Baltimore Ravens. He has averaged more than 43 yards per punt in each season since 2006, with a career average of 44.6.
He's had just two of his 558 punts blocked, and the athletic sixth-round pick from Nebraska isn't afraid to fake it when he has the chance: he's scored three touchdowns as a Raven.
Koch's legacy, though, might have been determined by one play when he didn't punt at all, in the Ravens' Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers. Rather than punt from the team's own five-yard line with eleven seconds remaining and the Ravens ahead, 34-29, Koch ran around inside the end zone for seven seconds before being pushed out. Koch and the Ravens took the safety to help preserve their lead -- and the Super Bowl XLVII victory.
2007: Ben Grubbs
Grubbs was the Ravens' top pick in the 2007 draft, and by 2011, he was the top unrestricted free agent. Grubbs played left guard for Baltimore, and he didn't miss a game until the 2011 season, when he was sidelined by a toe injury. He was a two-time Pro-Bowler as a Raven, representing the AFC in 2011 even after missing six regular-season games, but the Ravens couldn't afford to keep him, and he signed a lucrative five-year, $36 million deal with the New Orleans Saints in 2012.
2007: Marshal Yanda
The Ravens drafted two stellar offensive guards in 2007, with Grubbs and Marshal Yanda, both of whom became two-time Pro-Bowlers for Baltimore. Yanda, a former JUCO player who transferred to Iowa, was selected in the third-round of the draft. He has the versatility to play at both tackle and guard, and the Ravens locked him up with a five-year deal in 2011.
2007: Le'Ron McClain
Le'Ron McClain is a fullback, but when he was in Baltimore, he wanted to be the featured running back. In 2008, his second year with the team, he was. He carried the ball 232 times, rushing for 902 yards and ten touchdowns and earning a trip to the Pro Bowl. His role in the Ravens' offense decreased dramatically after the emergence of running back Ray Rice, and McClain opted to try his luck elsewhere. In his Baltimore career, McClain had 1,185 rushing yards, plus 96 receptions for 453 yards.
Since leaving the Ravens, McClain has played for the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers roster, but he hasn't yet been able to recreate the success of the 2008 season.
2008: Ray Rice
Rice was drafted by the Ravens in the second-round, but he quickly became their first-string running back and one of quarterback Joe Flacco's most reliable teammates.
The young player has rushed for 5,520 career yards, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. He has also been Flacco's go-to -- sometimes too often -- with 311 catches for 2,713 yards. Rice is a small but durable and quick back who fits through holes in opposing defenses. He burned New England for an 83-yard touchdown on the first offensive play in the 2010 AFC Wildcard Game, and he managed to convert a short pass from Flacco on 4th-and-29 with an unforgettable run against San Diego on Thanksgiving weekend 2012.
After five seasons, Rice is a three-time Pro Bowler (two-time starter), and his four-straight 1,000-yard seasons have set a new Ravens record.
2008: Joe Flacco
The Atlanta Falcons' first pick in the 2008 draft, quarterback Matt Ryan at third overall, was no surprise, but the Ravens' first pick, quarterback Joe Flacco at No.18, caught many fans off-guard. A 1-AA quarterback with the team's first-round pick? Who is this guy anyway?
Flacco has faced those questions and criticisms his entire career, from his first start in his rookie season opener to Super Bowl XLVII five years later. The Super Bowl MVP hasn't missed a career start, has made the playoffs in every season in the league, and has the NFL's most lucrative contract: a six-year, $120 million deal inked after he brought the Lombardi Trophy back to Baltimore.
Flacco has a career completion percentage of 60.5%, with 102 career passing touchdowns and 56 interceptions in the regular season. He's shined in the postseason though, particularly during the team's Super Bowl run, when he threw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions en route to New Orleans.
2010: Dennis Pitta
Flacco likely would not have had the success, or the massive contract, without key teammates like Rice and tight end Dennis Pitta. Pitta, from BYU, has developed into one of Flacco's favorite targets. Fourth-quarter, third-and-long with nowhere to throw? Pitta's probably standing near a sideline, waiting to make a clutch catch.
He played sparingly his first season in Baltimore with veteran Todd Heap still on the roster, but in the last two seasons, he has 101 receptions for 1,074 yards and ten touchdowns. His true value is in his chemistry with Flacco, becoming nearly as much of a safety net for his QB as Ray Rice.
2011: Torrey Smith
Wide receiver Torrey Smith is still early in a promising career, but he's already a Baltimore Ravens fan favorite. The dark horse draft pick out of Maryland, Smith had a huge debut in his first NFL start, with three touchdowns on his first three career catches against the St. Louis Rams. He finished his rookie season with 841 receiving yards and seven touchdown catches.
He followed up with another strong season as the team's No. 2 receiver, with 855 yards and eight touchdown catches in 2012. Smith had a big game against New England in an emotional regular season match-up, with two touchdown receptions the night after losing his younger brother in a tragic motorcycle accident, and another tough performance in the playoffs against Denver, with two touchdown catches in the overtime win.
With the postseason departure of veteran receiver Anquan Boldin, Smith will have to take an even larger role in the offense moving forward, and with Flacco locked up long-term, Smith has the potential to become one of the team's great receivers.