If it takes three or four years to judge an NFL draft — like the experts say — then grades are due on the Ravens' draft classes of 2006, '07 and '08. In theory, the heart of the current team should be made of players taken in those years.
Those were the drafts that produced, at the top, elite defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, stalwart left guard Ben Grubbs and ascending quarterback Joe Flacco. They are also the drafts that should have pushed the Ravens ever closer to that elusive Super Bowl.
Have they? John Harbaugh has taken the Ravens to the playoffs all three seasons as coach, only to be denied twice by the Pittsburgh Steelers and once by the Indianapolis Colts. Obviously, it's a work in progress.
What you find in those three draft classes is an emphasis on offense. Of the 28 picks (counting the 2007 supplemental pick), the Ravens have taken six offensive linemen, four wide receivers, four running backs/fullbacks, two quarterbacks and one tight end — for a total of 17 offensive players.
General manager Ozzie Newsome has taken 10 defensive players — and one punter — over the same period, including five defensive backs.
Out of that collection of picks, 10 players started on a regular basis in 2010, six more contributed in a variety of ways and three have gone to the Pro Bowl — Ngata, running back Ray Rice and fullback Le'Ron McClain.
Ten of the 28 are no longer on the team or are out of the NFL altogether.
It's a good draft accounting for a team that has stayed on the Super Bowl periphery for the most part. What the Ravens ultimately get out of the 2009-10 classes will determine where this team goes in the next few years.
So far, they've got future Pro Bowl tackle Michael Oher, promising cornerback Lardarius Webb and precocious tight end Ed Dickson out of the last two drafts. The jury is silent on players such as defensive end Paul Kruger and nose tackle Terrence Cody, though, and non-committal about linebacker Sergio Kindle. You have to count wide receiver Anquan Boldin here, too, because he cost them three picks in the trade that brought him from Arizona.
Best pick: Ngata, who became a dominating Pro Bowl player.
Biggest miss: CB David Pittman (3rd), who got a lot of chances and failed all of them.
Trades: Moved up one spot with Cleveland to get Ngata at 12 in the first round; traded down in the second to get Chester and Pittman at 56 and 87. The Giants took WR Sinorice Moss with the Ravens' 44th pick.
Players they could've had: Elite kick returner Devin Hester went one pick after Chester to Chicago, and pass rusher Elvis Dumervil went to Denver 15 picks after the Ravens took WR Demetrius Williams in the fourth round.
Final grade: Aside from Haloti, the top of the draft isn't impressive. Second day picks Landry and Koch were good catches, though. B
Picks: 7 (plus 1 in the supplemental draft)
Starters in 2010: Grubbs (1st), RT Marshal Yanda (3rd), Le'Ron McClain (4th).
Best pick: Grubbs, the 29th pick in a draft that started with JaMarcus Russell. Grubbs hasn't missed a game in four years and is a two-time Pro Bowl alternate.
Biggest miss: WR Yamon Figurs flashed as a returner but his speed never translated into offense.
Trades: The Ravens traded up to get Figurs and Yanda in the third-round.
Players they could've had: It was a lean year for wide-outs after Calvin Johnson was taken at No. 2. Eight went in the third round and none got close to a Pro Bowl. The big miss was LT Joe Staley, taken by San Francisco with the 28th pick in the first round, one before Grubbs.
Final grade: The Ravens found a tackle in the supplemental draft when they spent a 2008 fifth-rounder on Jared Gaither. C
Starters in 2010: Flacco (1st), Rice (2nd).
Best pick: Rice, especially where they got him. The Ravens traded the 38th pick to Seattle for the 55th (Rice) and the 86th (Tom Zbikowski). Seattle took TE John Carlson. Rice has been dynamic and durable, and went to the Pro Bowl in the 2009 season.
Biggest miss: OT Oniel Cousins (3rd) hasn't shown he can play in the NFL, but he was the 99th overall pick and a compensatory pick at that. LB Tavares Gooden (3rd) hasn't shown he can stay on the field.
Trades: The Ravens were all over the board trying to get Flacco. They started with the eighth pick, traded down for Jacksonville's 26th (and other picks), then acquired Houston's 18th to get their quarterback. The team also dealt a fourth-round pick to Oakland for cornerback Fabian Washington.
Players they could've had: Smallish wide-out DeSean Jackson went to Philadelphia with the 49th pick, six picks before Rice. RB Peyton Hillis went 12 picks after the Ravens took WR Justin Harper in the seventh round and 13 before they got RB Allen Patrick.
Final grade: This was easily the best of the three drafts we're looking at. Besides Flacco and Rice, Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura (6th) have contributed on defense, and Gooden, when healthy, has played well on special teams. A