The Ravens are the only team to have made the playoffs in each of the past four seasons. That's a credit to G.M. Ozzie Newsome, who has given coach John Harbaugh enough talent to mold this team into a contender.
As we close in on the 2012 NFL draft, we'll take a look at how the Ravens have fared in recent drafts. It's too soon to give a fair evaluation from the 2010 and 2011 classes, but three years of NFL service time is enough for us to grade their 2007, 2008 and 2009 classes. In today's blog post, we will break down the 2009 class.
Total picks: six (No. 23 overall, 57, 88, 137, 149, 185).
2011 starters: two (right tackle Michael Oher, cornerback Lardarius Webb).
Players still with the team: three (Oher, Webb, outside linebacker Paul Kruger).
Best pick: Webb. A third-rounder out of Div. 1-FCS Nicholls State, Webb has been a fine small-school find for Newsome. He made immediate contributions as a returner in his rookie season and last season, his third in the league, he played at a Pro Bowl level. He was rewarded with a five-year, $50 million extension this month.
Biggest miss: Their entire Day Three haul. Some were already calling second-round pick Paul Kruger a bust after two quiet seasons in the NFL, but he contributed as a pass rusher last season and has the inside track to replace Jarret Johnson in the starting lineup. So this dishonor goes to linebacker Jason Phillips (No. 137), tight end Davon Drew (No. 149) and running back Cedric Peerman (No. 185), though their careers are ongoing elsewhere.
Trades: The Ravens traded a fifth-rounder to New England to move up from No. 26 to No. 23 to take Oher, who was the top offensive tackle left on their board. They traded a fourth-rounder to New England picks No. 137 (Phillips) and No. 141. They traded No. 141 to Denver for the picks they used to take Drew and Phillips.
Players they could have had: Green Bay took outside linebacker Clay Matthews at pick No. 26, which was Baltimore's original draft spot (New England traded the pick to Green Bay). Guard Matt Slauson, cornerback Jason McCourty, and running back Bernard Scott were taken in the sixth round after Peerman was picked.
Final grade: B-minus. Oher has been above average at right tackle, but he was projected as a left tackle when the Ravens drafted him. He may end up back there in the future, but he did not fare well there in 2010. Kruger showed promise last year, but he needs to deliver as a starter to justify his selection. Webb saves this class. He is now getting paid like a Pro Bowler, and if he continues to play like one, Newsome will continue to look smart for finding him.