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Looking at defenders recently drafted by the Ravens

The numbers aren’t pretty. Through six games, the Ravens are allowing nearly 400 total yards per game and rank near the bottom of the league in a handful of major categories. Sure, they have given up 19.7 points per game, 11th in the NFL, which partially explains why the Ravens are 5-1. But things have been so rough for the defense these past two games, that no one has used their ranking in scoring defense as a crutch this week.

On Wednesday, safety Bernard Pollard said the players are to blame for the poor performance, not the coaching. On Thursday, defensive coordinator Dean Pees said he appreciated the support, but also said it’s on the coaches to put the players in a position to succeed. Asked if he has enough talent to worth with, Pees said, “We do.”

But it’s tough to look at the defense and not see that the Ravens are starting four former undrafted free agents and that a trio of recent second-round draft picks is coming off the bench. Jimmy Smith, a 2011 first-round pick, will become a starter Sunday because cornerback Lardarius Webb suffered a season-ending knee injury. They smartly nabbed their other starting cornerback, Cary Williams, off the Tennessee Titans' practice squad.

After having success drafting impact defenders such as Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata, Baltimore’s track record for finding such players in recent drafts doesn’t appear to be as stellar right now. Of the 14 defensive players they drafted from 2007 to 2011, only two are starters and six are no longer with the team, though to be fair, they have focused more on offense, drafting 24 offensive players, including six starters, over that span.

Let’s go draft class by draft class and take a look at defenders.

2007 draft class

Current starters: None.

Still on the team: None.

No longer here: linebacker Antwan Barnes (fourth round) and linebacker Prescott Burgess (sixth round).

Overall impact: Barnes had the most success as a defender, but it wasn't much.  Burgess was a solid special teams player who also spent a lot of time on the transaction wire during his career.

2008 draft class

Current starters: None.

Still on the team: None.

No longer here: linebacker Tavares Gooden (third round), safeties Tom Zbikowski (third round) and Haruki Nakamura (sixth round).

Overall impact: All three were mostly reserves and special teams players while they were here, though Zbikowski started last season before Bernard Pollard replaced him. Each is playing elsewhere.

2009 draft class

Current starters: cornerback Lardarius Webb (third round).

Still on the team: linebacker Paul Kruger (second round).

No longer here: linebacker Jason Phillips (fifth round).

Overall impact: Webb is the best defender the Ravens have drafted since selecting defensive Haloti Ngata in the first round in 2006. Kruger had 5.5 sacks last season, but hasn't stuck as a starter. Phillips rarely played.

2010 draft class

Current starters: None.

Still on the team: linebacker Sergio Kindle (second round), nose tackle Terrence Cody (second round), defensive end Arthur Jones (fifth round).

No longer here: None.

Overall impact: Cody started at nose tackle for the Ravens last season, but he has been replaced by veteran Ma’ake Kemoeatu, whom the Ravens signed as an undrafted free agent a long time ago and brought back this offseason. Jones hasn’t made an impact. Kindle’s career was derailed when he fractured his skull before his first training camp. He has worked hard to remain with the team, but he can’t even get on the field.

2011 draft class

Current starters: cornerback Jimmy Smith (first round), defensive end Pernell McPhee (fifth round).

Still on the team: cornerback Chykie Brown (fifth round).

No longer here: None.

Overall impact: It’s still a little early to get a good read on this class, but McPhee was a pleasant surprise last season. Smith has oodles of talent, but he now faces the challenge of being a full-time player. Brown will see a larger role with Webb out, though he has a lot to learn. He has been really good on special teams in 2012.

Blogger’s note: I didn’t include the 2012 draft class as it’s way too soon to evaluate it, though it is worth noting that second-round pick Courtney Upshaw is starting at outside linebacker and has held his own.

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