Two years ago, the April edition of PressBox featured “The 15 Ravens Draft Do-Overs.” It was a fun look back at some of the worst picks in team history with reflections on who the Ravens could have had instead.
Now, I want to revisit the idea from the opposite perspective. Considering the Ravens have had MANY good picks throughout the years, let’s touch on their successes.
Just how good have the Ravens’ first 25 draft classes been? Players who fell just short of making this list include Jermaine Lewis, Adalius Thomas, Jarret Johnson, Lardarius Webb, Dennis Pitta, Jimmy Smith, Torrey Smith, Brandon Williams, C.J. Mosley, Nick Boyle, Matthew Judon, Orlando Brown Jr., Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown, just to name a few!
So here we go. Here are the best picks in Ravens history (IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER, FRIENDS) and what we’re fortunate the pick WASN’T. We’ll call them “The 15 Ravens Draft Bullseyes.”
1996: Round 1, Pick 4
Pick: OT Jonathan Ogden
Could Have Been: RB Lawrence Phillips (No. 6 overall)
It really is remarkable that the first significant personnel decision the Baltimore Ravens ever made still stands up 25 years later as the most significant as well. By the way, the pick between Ogden and Phillips was defensive end Cedric Jones, who finished his career with just 15 total sacks.
1996: Round 1, Pick 26
Pick: LB Ray Lewis
Could Have Been: LB Reggie Brown (No. 17)
This one is an infamous story. It was dumb luck that brought the Ravens their greatest player in franchise history. The team notoriously had Brown (whose career was sadly cut short due to injury) ahead of Lewis on its board, but the Lions traded up to get him. Moreover, had the Ravens taken Phillips at No. 4, they might have been in the tackle market at No. 26. And three of the next four picks were tackles! The carnage: John Michels was out of the league after two years, Jamain Stephens after five and Andre Johnson (not that one) after three … career games.
Oh, and most Ravens fans wanted Leeland McElroy at No. 26. The running back scored four total touchdowns in his two-year career.
1997: Round 1, Pick 4
Pick: LB Peter Boulware
Could Have Been: CB Bryant Westbrook (No. 5)
Again, that’s BRYANT Westbrook (not running back BRIAN Westbrook) who was taken one pick later and to be fair, did have one pretty good season in his six-year career.
1999: Round 1, Pick 10
Pick: CB Chris McAlister
Could Have Been: WR David Boston (No. 8) or QB Cade McNown (No. 12)
As will become a theme as this list goes on, the Ravens have spent a good bit of their history in need of a quarterback and receivers. They could have addressed either in ‘99 but instead found a three-time Pro Bowler who might well be in the Ring of Honor if not for some awkwardness off the field.
2000: Round 1, Pick 5
Pick: RB Jamal Lewis
Could Have Been: RB Ron Dayne (No. 11)
If we assume the Ravens were definitely going offense with an established defense in place (remember, they took wide receiver Travis Taylor at No. 10 as well), they wouldn’t have done too poorly with the next running back off the board (Thomas Jones at No. 7), either. But Ravens fans were more than a little enamored with Dayne, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and college football’s all-time leading rusher.
2001: Round 1, Pick 31
Pick: TE Todd Heap
Could Have Been: WR Quincy Morgan (No. 33)
What’s interesting is that Heap was sandwiched between two historically great picks (Reggie Wayne and Drew Brees), and the next tight end off the board was very good, too — four-time Pro Bowler Alge Crumpler. But the Ravens needed weapons. Morgan had one solid season in 2002 but was out of the league by 2006. And if Freddie Mitchell (No. 25) had fallen he could have been the pick, too.
2002: Round 1, Pick 24
Pick: S Ed Reed
Could Have Been: DB Phillip Buchanon (No. 17)
Reed was actually the second member of his own collegiate secondary to be taken in 2002. While the first had a solid decade-long career (albeit without any significant accomplishment), you could argue that the Ravens PROBABLY got the right one.
2003: Round 1, Pick 10
Pick: LB Terrell Suggs
Could Have Been: QB Byron Leftwich (No. 7)
While it did take the Ravens a few years to find a signal-caller, this draft-day blunder — the Ravens tried to trade up, the Vikings didn’t announce the deal in time and the Jaguars raced up and took Leftwich — goes down as one of the most fortuitous errors in Ravens history.
2006: Round 1, Pick 12
Pick: DT Haloti Ngata
Could Have Been: QB Matt Leinart (No. 10) or DT Brodrick Bunkley (No. 14)
Still needing a quarterback, you’d have to imagine the Ravens would have been interested in the former Heisman winner had he slipped a little further. Phew. And thankfully they didn’t take the next defensive tackle who came off the board, as Bunkley did very little in his nine-year career.
2006: Round 6, Pick 203
Pick: P Sam Koch
Could Have Been: G Tyler Reed (No. 200), C Marvin Philip (No. 201), TE T.J. Williams (No. 202)
The former Nebraska punter has played more games than any other player in Ravens history during his still outstanding, future Ring of Honor career. The three players selected immediately before him in 2006 COMBINED to play a grand total of ZERO games. That seems noteworthy.
2007: Round 3, Pick 86
Pick: OL Marshal Yanda
Could Have Been: G Andy Alleman (No. 88)
The next offensive lineman selected after the potential future Hall of Famer was Alleman, a former Akron Zip. And while he might not have been an eight-time Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl champion, his LinkedIn page suggests he’s found a nice career as an account executive for Slack and a man could certainly do worse.
2008: Round 1, Pick 18 and Round 2, Pick 55
Picks: QB Joe Flacco and RB Ray Rice
Could Have Been: QB Brian Brohm (No. 56)
I group Flacco and Rice together to point out that the Ravens were clearly in the market for a quarterback with Steve McNair having retired. The next quarterback selected in that draft started two more career games than you would have bet he did. (And two more in the CFL!)
2016: Round 1, Pick 6
Pick: T Ronnie Stanley
Could Have Been: QB Jared Goff (No. 1) or QB Carson Wentz (No. 2)
After Flacco suffered a significant injury, there were a few Ravens fans who would have been ready to see the Ravens select his replacement had one slipped a little in that draft. The teams that took those quarterbacks liked them so much that they were each traded away this offseason.
2017: Round 1, Pick 16
Pick: CB Marlon Humphrey
Could Have Been: WR John Ross (No. 9)
Like many other years, we all thought the Ravens were in the receiver market in 2017. But the top guys (Corey Davis at No. 5 and Mike Williams at No. 7) came off the board early and while they haven’t been superstars, they’ve been drastically better than Ross, the third receiver taken. Thankfully, the Ravens didn’t reach for him. The next receiver in that class wasn’t picked until No. 37 and was, yikes, Zay Jones.
2018: Round 1, Pick 32
Pick: QB Lamar Jackson
Could Have Been: QB Sam Darnold (No. 3) and QB Josh Rosen (No. 10)
While the other two quarterbacks taken in that first round (Baker Mayfield at No. 1, Josh Allen at No. 7) have worked out fairly and incredibly well, respectively, the adverb we’d use for these guys would be something more like “horrendously.”
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox
Originally published April 14, 2021