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Roll Of The Dice

April 15, 2008

Ranking Ravens' Best and Worst Draft Picks

By Joe Platania  

Baltimore has been called "Charm City," an "All-America City" and "the City That Reads."

When it comes to sports, there's another moniker that applies: "Prototype City."

This city has seen the first of many athletic molds play here -- the first productive undersized NBA center (Wes Unseld), the first 6-foot-plus shortstop that could field and hit for power (Cal Ripken Jr.) and the first great two-minute quarterback (John Unitas).

However, when the Baltimore Ravens participated in their first NFL Draft in 1996, they came up with a prototype of their own -- and with their opening pick.

For the bulk of left tackle Jonathan Ogden's 12-year career, a brilliant run that could possibly be over, the UCLA product and fourth overall draft pick was the tallest player in the entire league.

Yet, even with dimensions that measure 6-foot-9 and anywhere from 345 to 355 pounds, Ogden does not have the bulky, stocky look of most offensive linemen. His is a more chiseled appearance, with weight distributed from his broad shoulders to his often troublesome toes.

Using his unorthodox appearance to his advantage with superior mobility and raw power, the Washington, D.C.-born Ogden, who played left guard as a rookie, stands alone even in an era of great left tackles such as St. Louis' Orlando Pace and Seattle's Walter Jones.

And if Ogden does decide to hang up his cleats before the 2008 season begins, it could make for a top-of-the-line Pro Football Hall of Fame Class in 2013, when he is likely to be inducted alongside defensive tackle Warren Sapp and quarterback Brett Favre.

But with Canton a long way off, Ogden will instead be included at the top of the list of the best Ravens' draft picks.

With nine selections coming in the April 26-27 NFL Draft -- for now, none of them in the fifth round, but one extra pick in Rounds 4 and 6 -- the Ravens will have a chance to shuffle these selections of the best and worst picks in team history.

However, no one will really know right away what kind of impact the draft class of 2008 will make. In fact, new coach John Harbaugh has to take stock of what he has right now, and he will do so this weekend at the team's first minicamp at the team's Owings Mills complex.

After Ogden, here are the rest of the Ravens' best draft picks: 

Ray Lewis
(Sabina Moran/PressBox)

Year: 1996; Round: 1; Overall Selection: 26

Besides turning into one of the game's greatest middle linebackers, this pick shored up a glaring need the Ravens had after the team moved to Baltimore from Cleveland.

Playing a 3-4 defense at the time, Ravens linebackers were old, slow and disgruntled about the sudden change of address. They needed speed, so they filled the need with this pick, acquired from San Francisco when the 49ers traded up to grab UCLA receiver J.J. Stokes.

In his first game as a rookie, Lewis won AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors with nine tackles and an end zone interception in a win over Oakland.

Nine Pro Bowls, two Defensive Player of the Year honors and a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player nod later, it's obvious how well this pick worked out. 

Year: 2002; Round: 1; Overall Selection: 24

Reed was one of an NFL-record 19 rookies and first-year players that earned roster spots after the 2001 salary cap implosion. A ball-hawking playmaker, Reed has earned four Pro Bowl invitations and snared a team-record 34 career interceptions.

The 2004 Defensive Player of the Year has not been shy about improvising and taking chances on a play, which has sometimes left him hung out to dry. But he has been recognized as a safety with some of the best on-field instincts in the game since his Hurricanes days. 

Year: 1997; Round: 1; Overall Selection: 4

It seems hard to believe now, but the mild-mannered Boulware, now embarking on a political career, had a lot of negative publicity surrounding him while he was transitioning from college to the NFL.

First, he and his Seminoles teammates were often accused of late hits on Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel. Also, Boulware was the first of several Ravens' first-round training camp holdouts, making life that much more difficult for the young franchise.

However, Boulware earned his Ring of Honor spot with a Ravens-record 70 quarterback sacks while he learned to drop back in coverage as well. 

Since he was drafted by the Ravens in 2001, Todd Heap has caught 339 passes for 3,897 yards and 27 touchdowns.
(Sabina Moran/PressBox)

Year: 2001; Round: 1; Overall Selection: 31

At the time, college scouting director Phil Savage marveled how Heap "fell" to the defending Super Bowl champions at the end of the first round. 

Heap has done a lot of falling and leaping since, never shy about going after passes that no one else would even attempt to catch. It stands to reason that he would get injured occasionally, a product of his aggressive nature that few who don't bother to analyze his game truly understand.

As a result, the two-time Pro Bowl pick is the Ravens' all-time leading receiver with 339 catches and 27 touchdowns.  

Year: 2003; Round: 1; Overall Selection: 10

There are two things about Suggs' selection that often get overlooked five years later. 

First, Suggs was a mere 20 years old at the time with raw speed, power and a gregarious attitude. Also, he was taken in the same round as oft-criticized quarterback Kyle Boller, whose fortunes have received much greater scrutiny.

 Suggs already has 45 career sacks, third on the all-time list and is considered such a key cog in maintaining the Ravens' defensive reputation that the oft-despised franchise tag was used on him this year. 

Year: 2000; Round: 1; Overall Selection: 5

This pick represents what general manager Ozzie Newsome regards as his greatest draft coup. He got the Atlanta Falcons' first-round pick in a 1999 trade, and when the Falcons went 5-11 that year, the pick was higher than many expected.

The bruising Lewis paid immediate dividends. The Ravens went from 16th in the league in rushing in 1999 to fifth the following year, raising their ground average by nearly 30 yards per game in the process and giving the Super Bowl XXXV champions their identity as a ball-control, possession-oriented team.

Lewis gained 7,801 yards in seven seasons in Baltimore before leaving for the Cleveland Browns as an unrestricted free agent. 

Year: 1999; Round: 1; Overall Selection: 10

Even with a rookie quarterback under center, the Ravens won the 2003 AFC North title, partly because of a midseason run of play turned in by McAlister, a three-time Pro Bowl pick, that was without peer.

Shutting down top-flight receivers such as Chad Johnson, Torry Holt, Derrick Mason and Terrell Owens, McAlister helped the Ravens recover from their 2002 near-miss and cemented his reputation as a cover corner. Like Reed, McAlister sometimes takes too many chances and gets burned, but he has matured on and off the field as his career has progressed.

The 6-foot-1, 206-pound McAlister was reportedly coveted by Minnesota in the 1999 draft, but when Baltimore grabbed him, the Vikings went with Central Florida quarterback Daunte Culpepper instead. 

Year: 1999; Round: 4; Overall Selection: 129

Players such as Wally Williams, Ben Cavil, Leo Goeas and even Ogden spun through the revolving door at left guard, one that stopped when Mulitalo was selected.

One of the most fan-friendly players in Ravens history, Mulitalo wasn't that nice when it came to taking on tacklers and rushers, teaming with Ogden to make for a formidable left side that was the envy of the entire league.

It seems surprising that Mulitalo was never selected to a Pro Bowl in his eight years in Baltimore, a tenure that ended when he left for the Detroit Lions as an unrestricted free agent. 

Year: 2005; Round: 4; Overall Selection: 125

A quiet leader with a mean streak, Brown is currently looked to as far as the Ravens' line of the future is concerned.

Brown's greatest value is in his versatility, as he can play anywhere along the interior. Even at 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds, he fits the Ravens' current need for a more athletic, mobile offensive line that can run and pass block with equal aplomb. 


Jermaine Lewis, WR/RS, Maryland (1996, fifth round, 153rd overall); Duane Starks, CB, Miami (1998, first round, 10th overall); Adalius Thomas, LB, Southern Mississippi (2000, sixth round, 186th overall); Brandon Stokley, WR, SW Louisiana (1999, fourth round, 105th overall); Ben Grubbs, G, Auburn (2007, first round, 29th overall); Haloti Ngata, DT, Oregon (2006, first round, 12th overall). 

RAVENS' BOTTOM 10 (in no particular order)
Dan Cody, LB, Oklahoma (2005, second round, 53rd overall) -- He's still working hard to overcome knee and foot problems, but it's a cruel, bottom-line business, and there's nothing there so far.

Cam Quayle, TE, Weber State (1998, seventh round, 248th overall) -- He was the last pick in the draft, "Mr. Irrelevant." This was the first tight end the Ravens ever selected and far from the best.

Chris Barnes, RB, New Mexico State (2001, fifth round, 161st overall) -- Barnes had this really annoying habit of putting the ball on the ground. Coaches usually don't like that.

Ron Rogers, LB, Georgia Tech (1998, sixth round, 154th overall) -- Rogers played next to the dominating Keith Brooking in college. None of it rubbed off.

Richard Mercier, OL, Miami (2000, fifth round, 148th overall) -- Even coming from Miami, Mercier liked skiing more than football, and was better at it.

Ron Johnson, WR, Minnesota (2002, fourth round, 123rd overall) -- The term "speed burner" is usually applied to wideouts. Not this one.

Ralph Staten, S, Alabama (1997, seventh round, 236th overall) -- Off-field problems shortened what could have been a long stay in Baltimore.

Ryan Sutter, S, Colorado (1998, fifth round, 133rd overall) -- Nice guy, which is how he landed Trista Rehn on “The Bachelorette.” Or was it “The Bachelor?"

Antwoine Sanders, S, Utah (2003, seventh round, 253rd overall) -- Never lived up to his billing and was cut in training camp.

Derek Abney, WR/RS, Kentucky (2004, seventh round, 244th overall) -- A broken collarbone doused his chance to be the return man, a position in flux at the time.

Issue 3.16: April 17, 2008