Most Ravens fans will tell you that inside linebacker Ray Lewis was the greatest draft pick in franchise history.
But the fine stat heads over at ESPN have calculated that Lewis was the NFL’s most valuable pick since 1994.
In this week’s ESPN the Magazine, they put together a chart of the best draft picks from each franchise based on Surplus Approximate Value (AV), which essentially measures the difference between what each player produced during his career compared to what he was expected to produce based on where he was drafted.
Lewis, who was drafted 26th overall in 1996, led all players with a Surplus AV of plus-183.3. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who was a sixth-round draft pick, is second at plus-170.1.
Three other players on the snazzy chart had a Surplus AV above plus-140: Terrell Owens (third round in 1996), Derrick Brooks (first round in 1995), and Peyton Manning (first round in 1998).
Lewis won two Super Bowls with the Ravens, a Super Bowl MVP award and two NFL Defensive Player of the Year Awards. He made more than 2,600 career tackles and he is the only player in NFL history with at least 40 career sacks and 30 career interceptions. The future Hall of Famer's numbers speak for themselves.
Still, it surprised me a little that Lewis edged out Brady because the expectations for a sixth-rounder compared to a first-rounder would be significantly lower. That being said, Brady can surpass Lewis in another year or two if he continues to perform at a Pro Bowl level.
According to Pro Football Reference, Lewis is tied with Reggie White for fifth all-time with an Approximate Value of 222. Brady is 24th at 178. With an AV of 254, Brett Favre is the all-time leader.
ESPN the Magazine also had a chart of each team’s worst draft pick since 1994, and linebacker Dan Cody was the Ravens' worst. The 2006 second-rounder had a Surplus AV of minus-23.0.
That being said, Cody, who made just one tackle and played in two games during an injury-riddled Ravens career, was still the “best” worst pick on the chart, which was a who’s who of NFL busts.
Overall, calculating the values of thousands of picks, ESPN says the Ravens ranked fourth in Surplus AV since 1994. Not too shabby.