In what I hope will become a Friday staple at Baltimore Sports Blitz, I'll give you a top-five list for a Baltimore sports-related category to discuss. I'm feeling drafty this week, so let's tackle the best draft picks in Ravens history.
Scanning through The Baltimore Sun's Ravens draft pick database this morning, I realized this one was going to be a lot tougher than I initially thought. The Ravens have had a bunch of great players over the years, Pro Bowl players such as Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Jamal Lewis, Ed Reed, Chris McAlister, Peter Boulware and Haloti Ngata. What do they have in common besides the frequent trips to Hawaii? They're all first-rounders.
That made it a little tougher to whittle down this list. How much credit should we give GM Ozzie Newsome for drafting some of these players? I still think he deserves his props. Sure, he had some misses -- hello, Kyle Boller -- but he has made his sterling reputation by getting it right more often than not in the first round. That's why three first-rounders made my list. I could have made it five, but what fun would that have been?
So I threw in a couple of second-day picks to spice things up. After all, finding a very productive player in the late stages of the draft is no easy feat, and when the player was selected needs to be considered. Don't worry, though; Wally Richardson, Travis Taylor and Dwayne Missouri did not make the cut.
Check out the list, let me know what I got right and what I got wrong, and please leave your list in the comments section below.
5. Jarret Johnson (fourth round, 109th overall, 2003): Originally a defensive end out of Alabama, Johnson has been one of the NFL's most underrated defenders over the past few years. Lining up at the outside linebacker spot opposite Terrell Suggs (another one of those Pro Bowl first-rounders), Johnson has played in 113 straight regular-season games -- the longest active streak among Ravens players -- and has started every game the past four seasons. He has made 326 tackles, racked up 17.5 sacks and forced eight fumbles in his eight-year career. Not too shabby for a fourth-round pick.
4. Adalius Thomas (sixth round, 186th overall, 2000): Thomas might have been the most versatile player in Ravens history. The Southern Miss product saw snaps as a defensive lineman, a linebacker and a cornerback in his seven-year stint with the Ravens. Pretty impressive for a guy who is six-foot-two and weighs around 270 pounds. Thomas went to two Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro in 2006. That standout season convinced Patriots coach Bill Belichick to uncharacteristically spend big money on the free-agent linebacker, but Thomas never had the success in New England that he had here in Baltimore.
3. Ed Reed (first round, 24th overall, 2002): One of the best safeties in NFL history fell into the Ravens' lap back in 2002. They really lucked out on that one, but sometimes that's how it goes in the draft. Reed has been selected to seven Pro Bowls and he has been a first-team All-Pro on five occasions. He led the NFL in interceptions three times. And he was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004. Now if the former Miami Hurricane could just add a Super Bowl ring to his Hall-of-Fame resume...
2. Jonathan Ogden (first round, fourth overall, 1996): Ogden was the prototypical blind-side protector, changing the game with his one-of-a-kind combination of size, strength, footwork and athleticism. His only flaw might have been his love for Janet Jackson. Ogden was one of seven offensive tackles selected in the first round of the 1996 draft, and Newsome picked the right one when he took the UCLA alum with the first pick in Ravens history. Eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2013, he should be a first-ballot inductee.
1. Ray Lewis (first round, 26th overall, 1996): Not much of an explanation is needed for this all-time great and Baltimore icon. Lewis is the face of the franchise after delivering the Lombardi Trophy to Baltimore.