Baltimore Ravens

Ravens' 2012 draft class had several misses, but one big hit

Courtney Upshaw's one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons closes the book on the Ravens' eight-man 2012 draft class. It was a group that debuted during the Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII season but steadily thinned out because of off-the-field issues and inconsistent on-field performance.

Sixth-round wide receiver Tommy Streeter went first, getting waived in August 2013 after he spent his rookie year on injured reserve. Two months later, fourth-round safety Christian Thompson was waived after he had just been reinstated by the league following a suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.


Running back Bernard Pierce, a third-round pick, was released in March 2015 just hours after he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. A month after Pierce was let go, the Ravens traded fourth-round center Gino Gradkowski to the Denver Broncos for a draft pick.

When defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson, a seventh-round pick, was cut with an injury settlement last September, the Ravens had only three members of the 2012 class remaining. And the group was whittled down to two when cornerback/kick returner Asa Jackson, a fifth-round selection whose Ravens' career was marred by two suspensions, was let go in November.


This month brought the final two departures as both of the Ravens' 2012 second-round picks found free-agent deals elsewhere: Kelechi Osemele signed with the Oakland Raiders and Upshaw wound up with the Falcons.

Given the Ravens' strong drafting history, it's a little jarring that in less than four years, the whole class is gone.

The Ravens still have one player left from their 2003 class (Terrell Suggs), one from 2006 (Sam Koch), one from 2007 (Marshal Yanda), one from 2008 (Joe Flacco), one from 2009 (Lardarius Webb), one from 2010 (Dennis Pitta) and one from 2011 (Jimmy Smith). Meanwhile, seven of their 10 2013 picks remain on the roster as do eight of their nine selections from 2014.

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Yet Upshaw and Osemele were the only 2012 picks to even see the end of their rookie contract with the team, and now they are both gone. This couldn't have been what general manager Ozzie Newsome and company had in mind for this class, but I doubt they are losing too much sleep over it.

The reality is that the Ravens probably don't win the Super Bowl without the contributions of their rookies in 2012, and that group includes undrafted free agent kicker Justin Tucker.

Upshaw started nine of 16 games in 2012, caused a key fumble in the Super Bowl, and his ability to set the edge was one reason that the Ravens finished the year with a top-10 rushing defense. He was a key contributor on two playoff teams. Osemele started all 16 regular-season games as a rookie right tackle, and then moved to left guard for the playoffs as part of an offensive line shakeup that paid huge dividends. He developed into one of the better young guards in the NFL, evidenced by the check that the Raiders just wrote him.

With his unceremonious ending in Baltimore, it's easy to forget that Pierce became a huge weapon for the Ravens late in his rookie season, while Tyson played key snaps in the Super Bowl after Haloti Ngata went down with a knee injury, and was a serviceable member of the defensive line rotation for two seasons after.

Sure, Thompson was a big miss, and Streeter was a project that never paid off. Gradkowski was overmatched in his one season as the team's starting center and Pierce never fulfilled his promise. Jackson was a frustrating case too because he showed flashes of being a dynamic returner, only to lose his spot because of egregious mistakes.


Even Upshaw never developed into the every-down linebacker that most people thought he would become.

But I'm sure the Ravens aren't taking it as a total loss. One glance at the shiny Lombardi Trophy in the lobby of the Under Armour Performance Center is plenty of proof that the 2012 draft class made important contributions.