Carroll County Times

Commentary: Chance for draft turnaround for Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens won their first Super Bowl thanks to some phenomenal drafts that produced Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Peter Boulware, Chris McAllister and Jamal Lewis, who played in a combined 32 Pro Bowls.

They put together their best sustained run of success, capped by another Super Bowl title, behind draftees Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Ray Rice and Joe Flacco.

But they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and went a meager 8-8 last year after winning it all the year before largely because of their past five drafts, which, combined, have yet to produce a single Pro Bowl player.

That's not to say they haven't picked some good players, Torrey Smith, Lardarius Webb and Dennis Pitta among them. And it's too early to know if the likes of Jimmy Smith, Courtney Upshaw and Matt Elam will develop into Pro Bowlers.

But, overall, the Ravens' past five classes were either not ready, not talented enough or not healthy enough to keep the team from taking a major step back last season after the Ravens turned over their roster following Super Bowl XLVII.

Luckily for the Ravens, they have a great opportunity to add some impact players during this week's draft and several factors point to them having a great haul that should get them back to selecting future Pro Bowlers.

First, the Ravens are picking higher than usual. Their highest pick in the past five drafts has been at No. 23 and three times they have picked at No. 32 or lower. That's what happens when your win total gets to double-digits each year.

But they are slated to pick 17th overall on Thursday. Assuming they don't trade down as they have done in two of the past four years, they will be picking among the top 17 for only the third time in 14 drafts. The other two netted Suggs and Ngata.

Second, they have a good number of picks (despite trading three away in a desperate attempt to shore up a horrid offensive line last year) because they were given four compensatory selections for losing free agents after the 2012 season.

So in addition to holding the 17th and 48th overall picks, they also have two selections in the third round and two fourth-rounders. These are spots in the draft where they should be able to grab productive players. Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda was a third-round pick. Pitta was a fourth rounder.

Finally, this appears to be a strong, deep draft. Some of the pundits are calling it the best draft in 10 years. Some are being even more generous in their assessments. Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' assistant general manager, told reporters this week there are about 180 draftable players as opposed to the 140 or so he sees most years.

It all adds up to a comeback draft for a team still smarting from making Sergio Kindle their top pick in 2010 and still wondering about far too many players they've taken since.