The 2017 free agency has not been kind to the Baltimore Ravens. They lost most of the players who tested the free agent market and have yet to make much of a splash. Honestly, after the past few years, it’s not surprising that they are looking to build up young talent and avoid free agents. They are going all-in to rebuild using the draft.
The Ravens are one of the better drafting teams in the NFL. They have drafted 17 players who were Pro-Bowlers while in Purple and Black since becoming a team in 1996, and that’s not counting Super Bowl MVP, Joe Flacco. Only one of their picks is currently in the Hall-of-Fame, but they are not far away from putting in at least three more in a few short years.
There were a few years where the Ravens messed up in the draft, but a majority of their worst picks have come in the second round or later. When thinking of the biggest Ravens’ draft busts, names like Sergio Kindle, Courtney Upshaw, and Arthur Brown come to mind. All three were second round picks.
If the Ravens had to re-do all their first round picks, chances are the team would look very similar to how it does now. Here is the redraft of Baltimore Ravens’ first round picks since 1999.
11 2016 - OT Jack Conklin
Original Pick: OT Ronnie Stanley
Here’s the thing, Ronnie Stanley was really good. Ronnie Stanley was one of the better rookie offensive linemen in the NFL this past season. When he was on the field, the Ravens were a better team. Before the injury bug caught him, many were saying that Stanley would be the future of the franchise. It was also the “right” choice for the Ravens to pick up Stanley, who was a consensus top 10 pick and was graded by many to be the second-best lineman in the draft (only behind Laremy Tunsil, who had his infamous “gas mask” tweet controversy on draft day). However, it turned out that Jack Conklin was the best of the group. Despite being graded as the third best offensive lineman, and being called a reach when he was taken, Conklin is clearly the better lineman from this draft. He was named an All-Pro for the Tennessee Titans, named to the All-Rookie team, and was a big part in making the Titans a surprise playoff contender in 2016. You can’t call the choice to pick Stanley a bad one, but if the franchise had to do it over again, they would have taken Conklin.
10 2015 - S Landon Collins
Original Pick: WR Breshad Perriman
The Ravens really needed a wide receiver in the 2015 offseason. Torrey Smith had just left for the San Francisco 49ers and Steve Smith announced that 2015 would be his final year. The 2015 draft was deep with receiving talent. Four receivers were taken before the Ravens’ pick and they panicked. Feeling like they needed to get a receiver before they were all gone, the Raven reached for UCF speedster Breshad Perriman. Throughout his two NFL season, Perriman has struggled to stay healthy. He missed his entire rookie season and struggled for much of his sophomore year. While he has shown bursts of talent, the Ravens would have been better to pick up Landon Collins to help with their woes in the secondary. Collins had a huge second season with the New York Giants in 2016, cementing himself as one of the best safeties in the NFL. If the Ravens had Collins to pair with Pro-Bowler Eric Weddle, opponents may have been more conservative throwing the ball. The Ravens had one of the top defenses against the run but greatly struggled against the pass in 2016. Collins would have been a much better addition to the pitiful Ravens secondary.
Original Pick: ILB CJ Mosley
This pick couldn’t have been much better for the Ravens. The case can be made that the Ravens needed someone like Haha Clinton-Dix or Jason Verrett to fix the secondary more than they needed Mosley, but the team was only a year removed from drafting Matt Elam and they still had a gaping hole where Ray Lewis used to be. When they picked the inside linebacker CJ Mosley, few questioned it. He was a bruising tackler at Alabama and had a knack for making the big plays. That didn’t stop when he made the transition to the NFL. Do you need proof? Mosley has made the Pro-Bowl in 2 out of his 3 seasons. Despite missing two games and playing hurt through most of 2016, he led the team in interceptions and was their second leading tackler. In the wake of Zach Orr’s surprising retirement Mosley is going to have to take a step up, even though he can’t get much better. The Ravens found their future in this pick, so there is no need to change it.
9 2013 - S Tyrann Mathieu
Original Pick: S Matt Elam
As said previously, the Ravens are a franchise that doesn’t make mistakes with their picks too often, but in 2013 they made a big mistake by taking Matt Elam. After Ray Lewis retired and Ed Reed left the team, Ozzie Newsome realized that he needed to rebuild the defense. The team had just lost both their starting safeties, and the 2013 draft was deep with talent at that position, or so it seemed. The Raven took the Florida product, and have regretted it ever since. When healthy, Elam was almost totally ineffective. He had an average rookie season and then forgot how to play football. He has 1 interception and 7 passes defended in his three NFL seasons. If the Ravens could do it again, no doubt they’d prefer to have drafted running back Le’Veon Bell, but at the time they still had a dominant Ray Rice. Taking Rice’s status as a top back in the league into account, the Ravens should have picked up Tyrann Mathieu, aka the Honey Badger. Mathieu was a risky pick due to his addiction issues, but he has been an elite safety for the Arizona Cardinals. Many teams missed out on the Pro-Bowler, but the Ravens should be kicking themselves for preferring the ineffective Elam. In the wake of his arrest, Baltimore is thrilled to have Elam firmly in their rearview.
8 2011 - CB Richard Sherman
Original Pick: CB Jimmy Smith
Similar to the 2016 draft, it’s not that the Ravens bungled this pick or passed on someone stupidly, there was just a better option they missed out on. Jimmy Smith has quietly been one of the better cornerbacks in the league and can go toe-to-toe with the best wide receivers and shut them down. His biggest flaw is that he is injury prone, but that is not in his control. Smith is very good, but 5th round cornerback Richard Sherman is great. The Ravens obviously weren’t the only team, who passed on Sherman, but they must feel like the dumbest to have passed over him. Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh’s brother in college coached Sherman, so they should have had some sort of edge when scouting him. There have been a slew of excuses as to why Sherman was passed over and over again, but that’s for a separate article. Whatever the reason was, the Ravens missed drafting a player who would have fit the team’s mentality and led their secondary for the foreseeable future. It’s tough to swallow that such a “smart” team missed a surefire Hall-of-Famer.
7 2009 - LB Clay Matthews
Original Pick: OT Michael Oher
Michael Oher was a household name for most of his tenure in Baltimore. Not because he was good, which can’t be stressed enough, but because of the Oscar-winning movie made about him, The Blind Side. It was a fantastic movie, but Oher’s playing career could not match. Oher has gone on record saying that he thinks the movie has negatively affected his career because he received so much unwanted attention that made people view him as a bust because he couldn’t live up to the expectations set by a movie. The fact is that Oher is right about this. That movie changed the average person’s perception of him as a football player, but that doesn’t excuse him for being a below average offensive lineman through his career. He has two Super Bowl rings (in Baltimore and Carolina), but he had the benefit of playing for great teams at the right time. As a Raven, Oher was not a bust. He wasn’t a franchise left tackle that could play for a decade, but he played respectable football. If the Ravens were to redraft again, they would know to wait on taking a tackle. The best linemen in the draft - names like TJ Lang, Louis Vasquez, and Sebastian Vollmer - were all taken well after Oher. The Ravens would have been thrilled to pick up Clay Matthews in this spot and solidify their defense for the next decade.
6 2008 - QB Joe Flacco
Original Pick: QB Joe Flacco
No one is saying that Joe Flacco is one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL, but before this past season he was a lock for top 10. He won’t blow your mind with his stats, but he is one of the most consistent producers in the NFL and the Super Bowl ring on his finger was well deserved. So who would be a good replacement for the best quarterback in team history? People point to Flacco’s lack of Pro-Bowls, but no quarterback taken after Flacco in 2008 made it to a Pro-Bowl or even started a playoff game. Flacco owns the Raven’s franchise records for passing yards, passing touchdowns, quarterback rating, postseason wins, regular season wins, 300-yard passing games, and is tied for the NFL record for most playoff road wins. The next Pro-Bowl quarterback taken, Matt Stafford, has no playoff wins to his name. So which is better, a Super Bowl or a Pro-Bowl. The answer is clear to us. The Ravens made the right move picking up the Delaware product instead of the much more hyped running back Chris Johnson. Long story short; leave this pick alone!
5 2007 - TE Greg Olsen
Original Pick: OG Ben Grubbs
If your team missed drafting a good player in 2007, chances are that it was one of the bigger mistakes in recent memory. 17 of the 32 first round picks went on to be Pro-Bowlers, and that doesn’t count guys like Leon Hall, Tedd Ginn, Robert Meachem, and Levi Brown who put together long and illustrious careers despite not (yet) being on a Pro-Bowl roster. The second round also boasted an impressive 7 Pro-Bowlers including current Raven Eric Weddle. Offensive guard Ben Grubbs made it to the Pro-Bowl in 2011, his final season with the Ravens, and started 70 games in Baltimore. They could have done better. Grubbs was an excellent player for the team that drafted him, but he played on a team that has had an embarrassment of riches at the guard position. They would have been better off grabbing one of the playmakers that highlighted the 2007 draft. Two picks after the Ravens selected Grubbs, tight end Greg Olsen was taken by the Bears. Though he never thrived in Chicago, Olsen has proven to be one of the NFL’s best tight ends in Carolina. The Ravens play a tight end heavy offensive system and having someone better than Dennis Pitta would really help the squad. If they had locked up Greg Olsen in 2007, it would have been better in the long run for Baltimore.
4 2006 - DT Haloti Ngata
Original Pick: DT Haloti Ngata
Again, The Ravens don’t flub picks very often. Most of the picks that have been changed on this list have more to do with the fact that some players are slightly better than the one taken. This is one of the times where the Ravens picked the best player in the draft. How can they have done better than picking defensive tackle Haloti Ngata? During his eight seasons in Baltimore, Ngata went to 5 Pro-Bowls, was named to 2 All-Pro teams, 3 second All-Pro teams, and was decorated with so many other accolades that would fill up the rest of this paragraph’s word count. Ngata was widely recognized as the best defensive lineman in the NFL for a number of years, partly because of his ability to play every position on the line. He helped make the Ravens’ defense the dominating force that led the team to 5 straight playoffs between 2008 and 2012. You can’t have drafted better than this.
3 2005 - WR Roddy White
Original Pick: WR Mark Clayton
For the last time, the Ravens don’t flub picks very often - often being the key word. In 2005 they flubbed it, hard. Picking at the 22 spot in 2005 was an issue as many of the top prospects had been claimed already. The Ravens, who were in need of a premier wide receiver, saw their top three choices come off the board by pick number 20. At 21, the spot before the Ravens, the Jacksonville Jaguars chose wide receiver, Matt Jones. This forced the Ravens hand as they believed all the decent pass catchers would be gone if they waited until the second round (sound familiar?). They reached and picked Oklahoma product Mark Clayton, which they would eventually regret. Clayton wasn’t the worst wide receiver in the draft, but he was not the go-to guy that he was drafted to be. Outside of a decent sophomore season, Clayton never was a reliable weapon. He never crossed 1000 yards in a season and only caught 12 total touchdowns in his 5 years as a Raven. If Baltimore wanted a wide receiver so badly, they should have picked up Roddy White who was grabbed 5 picks later. White owns the Falcons records for most career receiving yards and touchdowns, Clayton is a stain on the history of his franchise. It would be a no brainer to pick White in hindsight.
2 2003 - LB Terrell Suggs & QB Tony Romo
Original Pick: LB Terrell Suggs & QB Kyle Boller
2003 had both the best and worst draft picks for the Ravens. They started off right by drafting Terrell Suggs with the 10th pick. Suggs would go on to win a defensive player of the year award in 2011 and played a vital role in the Ravens Super Bowl run in 2012. He continues to anchor the Ravens’ defense to this day. However, 9 picks later Baltimore blew it by trading up to draft quarterback Kyle Boller, arguably the worst pick in franchise history. Between injuries, being outplayed by backups, and his tendency to turn over the ball, Boller never amounted to much in Baltimore. After 5 forgettable seasons Boller faded away from fans memories as nothing more than a bust. It’s true that Baltimore desperately needed a quarterback when they drafted Boller, but they weren’t about to find one in the 2003 draft. The only quarterbacks that had a better NFL career who were taken after Boller were Rex Grossman and Seneca Wallace. They could have taken Tony Romo who went undrafted that year. It would have been the “stupidest” move in NFL history if they were to take a chance on Romo in the first round as no one saw him as a viable NFL quarterback until 2006. That being said, if any NFL team had a time machine, there is a good chance they would go back to snag Romo.
Original Pick: S Ed Reed
Ed Reed is on the Mount Rushmore of Baltimore Ravens. It’s pretty much a given that the man is going to be a first ballot Hall-of-Famer after a career that boasted 9 Pro-Bowls, the 2004 Defensive player of the Year award, and a Super Bowl win. He also holds the NFL records for most interception return yards, and the most playoff interceptions. Reed was the first person in NFL history to return an interception, punt, blocked punt, and fumble for a touchdown. The Ravens could not have handled the 2002 draft any better than they did and every other GM is still kicking themselves for letting this guy fall to the 24th overall draft spot. Reed is not only a legend for Ravens fans, but for anyone who is a fan of the sport.
1 2001 - QB Drew Brees
Original Pick: TE Todd Heap
Todd Heap played for the Ravens for nine seasons. He put up 5,492 yards and 41 touchdowns. He was named to 2 Pro-Bowls and was inducted into the Baltimore Ravens’ ring of honor. He was the best tight end that the Ravens have ever had. How then can one justify Baltimore passing on Heap for anyone? Well the guy taken right after Heap was some short quarterback named Drew Brees. Before the 2001 draft the Ravens had just beat the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, but that wasn’t enough for quarterback Trent Dilfer to secure a job with the team. Baltimore preferred to start journeyman QB Elvis Grbac instead. Despite winning the job, Grbac wasn’t any good. The team was hoping that they could develop young Chris Redman into an NFL-caliber passer, but they never could. The team started on a quick decline as the quarterback position was a mess and Jamal Lewis ran into a wall after his 2000-yard season in 2003. They could have fixed their offense in 2001 by picking Brees. If the Ravens passed on Heap and took a shot at the Purdue product, then their many years with problems at the quarterback position wouldn’t have happened.
Much like in 2003, in the 2000 NFL draft the Ravens were able to snag a player who would go on to be one of the franchise's all-time greats, but also took one of the bigger busts in team history. What Jamal Lewis did in 2003 was remarkable. He ran for 2,066 yards, the third highest single-season rushing total of all time. Things started off right for Lewis, he helped lead his team to a Super Bowl win in his rookie season. He would go on to be inducted to the Ravens Ring of Honor and be named to the NFL's 2000s All-Decade team. However, the player that the Ravens traded up for in the 2000 draft is a name that most fans would choose to forget (if they haven't already). The number 10 overall pick Travis Taylor showed some promise in the NFL, but the promise was never fulfilled. He had a lackluster career and never lived up to what a first round receiver is expected to be. The Ravens would have been better off picking up Defensive End John Abraham who went on to rack up 133.5 sacks, was named to five Pro-Bowls over his career, and will likely have a spot in the NFL Hall-of-Fame soon. He would have strengthened an already legendary defense and anchored the position for years.
This was not an easy decision to make. Cornerback Chris McAlister was a three-time Pro-Bowler who played a big role in the Ravens' Super Bowl XXXV win. Well known for his durability, McAlister rarely played less than 14 games in a season through 10 seasons in Baltimore. The team could not have asked more out of McAlister, but they could have drafted better. The biggest flaw with the Ravens was their lack of offense. It's been the Achilles heel of the franchise for years, and they could have fixed some of those issues by drafting the Pro-Bowl wide receiver Donald Driver in 1999. Driver was the glue of the Green Bay Packers offense for more than 10 years. He was a big time performer in the playoffs and was a huge asset when transferring the quarterback position from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers. The Ravens didn't miss in this draft, but it could have been better.
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