Past Drafts Part II: The Super Bowl Champs

Next stop in the Past Drafts feature is Baltimore, featuring the reigning Super Bowl champions.

The past two draft classes for the Ravens are an example of how a team can pick up solid contributors that let a team make a playoff push (which was ultimately successful in 2012).

The Ravens are an up-and-coming championship team, who have the parts to make up for the loss of team leaders Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, and with a few pieces could compete for a repeat championship in 2013.

2012:

  • 2nd Round, 3rd pick: Alabama OLB Courtney Upshaw

A powerful bull-rushing end/linebacker out of Alabama, Upshaw was taken in the second round by Baltimore as a replacement for Sergio Kindle (their 2010 second-round pick) following his flop in Baltimore. Upshaw was originally projected as a first-round pick, but fell to the Ravens early in the second following a poor showing at the combine (where Upshaw weighed in considerably heavier than his Alabama playing weight). Originally projected as a rotational pass-rusher behind starters Terrell Suggs and Paul Kruger, Upshaw got the opportunity to start following the announcement in May that Suggs had suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon. However, a poor showing in camp led to Upshaw losing the strong-side job to special teams ace Albert McClellan, and McClellan drew the week one start instead of Upshaw as a result. It was surprising when Upshaw drew the start in week two over McClellan, and then later over Kruger in week three due to injury. Upshaw drew starts inconsistently as a rookie, with nine starts while playing in all 16 games. Overall, Upshaw performed well, to the tune of 60 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble, and is poised for a bigger role in 2013 regardless of whether Baltimore re-signs Kruger.

  • 2nd Round, 28nd pick: Iowa St. OT Kelechi Osemele

Osemele was drafted with the idea that he would challenge for the right tackle job in camp, with Michael Oher projected to start at left tackle (while Bryant McKinnie missed time due to injury). Although he worked at both left guard and right tackle in camp, ultimately Bobbie Williams was signed to play guard and Osemele moved to right tackle for the season and started all 16 games–although the move wasn’t permanent. With the injuries to starters Marshal Yanda and back up Jah Reid, Baltimore was forced to shift the offensive line around, with McKinnie taking over left tackle, Oher moving to right, and Osemele manning guard opposite Williams. Osemele’s flexibility on the line and potential as a starter makes him a very solid pick up for Baltimore.

  • 3rd Round, 21st pick: Temple RB Bernard Pierce

Pierce is an example of how rookies can prove scouts wrong almost immediately on the field. Pegged as a decent between the tackles runner with average speed and poor abilities as a passing down back, Pierce tore up the field behind starter Ray Rice, totaling 532 yards and a touchdown on 108 carries (a 4.9 yard per carry average). Pierce played a large part in the wild card round defeat of the Colts this season, as Rice had been pulled after fumbling issues, to the tune of 103 yards on 13 carries (7.9 YPC). With Rice entrenched as the starter moving forward, Pierce may be somewhat limited in terms of touches, but at some point the Ravens may look at Pierce as a cheaper alternative to Rice.

  • 4th Round, 3rd pick: Delaware OG Gino Gradkowski

Listed as a center/guard tweener heading into the draft, Baltimore drafted Gradkowski with the intention of having him compete for the left guard spot. Although Gradkowski ultimately lost out to Bobbie Williams and Jah Reid in this regard, he found himself as the primary back up to veteran Matt Birk in 2012. Active for the entire season, the younger brother of journeyman quarterback Bruce Gradkowski is looking at a prime chance at starting with the announcement that Birk is retiring this offseason.

  • 4th Round, 35th pick: South Carolina St. FS Christian Thompson

Many saw this pick coming ahead of time, as Ravens great Ed Reed had been mentoring Thompson throughout the draft process. Having run a 4.41 40 yard dash at his pro day, Thompson was one of the fastest safeties in the draft and played both safety spots at South Carolina while also contributing on special teams. Thompson made the roster due to his flexibility and talents on special teams as a gunner, but didn’t see any snaps on defense in 2012. A thigh injury prematurely ended his season in November, but he should be good to go for OTAs and could see an expanded role in 2013 if Reed leaves via free-agency or retires.

  • 5th Round, 34th pick: Cal Poly CB Asa Jackson

Coming out of a small school like Cal Poly St., Jackson had to prove that he could compete at a much higher level in the NFL. His rookie season offered little encouragement, as he was only active for three games (registering one tackle on special teams) and also received a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s PED policy. Jackson is squarely on the roster bubble in 2013, especially if the Ravens bring in additional talent in the secondary via the draft.

  • 6th Round, 28th pick: Miami WR Tommy Streeter

A very tall receiver (6’5″), Streeter was considered a highly developmental receiver coming into the draft because of his poor route-running skills and poor burst off the snap, but his speed (4.40 at the combine, sub-4.40 at his pro day) cannot be denied. Although he had no impact in 2012, landing on injured reserve with an ankle sprain in August, he is considered a potential red-zone threat in the future due to his size and speed. However, Streeter is extremely unpolished following only one season of starting experience at Miami and essentially a red-shirt rookie season in the NFL.

  • 7th Round, 29th pick: Georgia DL Deangelo Tyson

Tyson was originally a five-star recruit coming out of high school, but a poor college career at Georgia led to Baltimore landing him late in the draft. Tyson has nose tackle size at 6’2″ and 310 lbs, as well as decent athletic abilities for his size. Playing both nose tackle and end in Baltimore’s 3-4 scheme, Tyson totaled 11 tackles in parts of 10 games. It’s unclear whether Tyson is a lock for the roster in 2013, but the better bet would be on a competition for a spot.

2011:

  • 27th overall: Colorado DB Jimmy Smith

Touted as a talented corner with some off-the-field problems, Smith fell from a possible top-ten pick to the Ravens at 27th overall as a result of concerns about keeping on the field. Ravens management talked up Smith as comparable to Darrelle Revis or Champ Bailey in ability to shadow top receivers. Smith’s rookie season would end up being a rocky ride, with a high-ankle sprain keeping him off the field early on and as a result of missing extended time as a rookie he was eased into the defense. With a few starts under his belt and some time as nickel and dime back, Smith would finish the season with a concussion in week 17. In 12 games (three starts), Smith tallied 20 tackles, eight deflections and two picks–so his rookie season wasn’t exactly a wash, even if he didn’t live up to the hype. For 2012, Smith had a full offseason to prepare (the lockout in 2011 caused problems for rookies) and was further hyped by the organization as having shut-down potential. The 2012 season started on a positive note for Smith (although negatively for the team) as starting corner Lardarius Webb suffered a torn ACL, opening a starting spot for Smith. Yet, this opportunity was squandered by further injuries (groin injury and sports hernia) that limited Smith on the field and would eventually force him to miss five games towards the end of the season. His return in week 15 from the hernia was another low for Smith, as he was burned by Eric Decker for eight catches, 133 yards and a score. The Ravens organization still believes that Smith has top corner abilities, but after two seasons Smith is running out of time to prove himself.

  • 2nd Round, 26th pick: Maryland WR Torrey Smith

The second Smith taken in the draft by the Ravens, Torrey Smith was billed as a speedster and a physical receiver coming out of Maryland (with a 4.43 40 yard dash time and decent 6’0″ size, you may see why). Smith made an immediate impact as a rookie and has developed a rapport with recently extended quarterback Joe Flacco as a deep threat (even if Flacco misses deep a bit too much). With a rookie season line of 50 receptions, 841 yards and seven touchdowns, followed by a sophomore campaign of 49 receptions 855 yards and eight touchdowns, Smith has cemented himself as a favorite target of Flacco–especially if Anquan Boldin possibly hitting the market this offseason.

  • 3rd Round, 21st pick: Central Florida OT Jah Reid

Reid is an example of how college tackles are sometimes drafted, only to be moved inside shortly after. With the intention of making the 6’7″ Reid their right tackle of the future, the Ravens took the Central Florida graduate in the third-round–only to determine before camp even ended that he would never play tackle at the professional level. Reid is another example of how 6’7″ size without the quickness to engage ends or outside ‘backers can result in a tackle that easily gets over-matched by opponents that get leverage. As part of the transition to guard, Reid had a largely uneventful rookie season–active for all 16 games, he played a total of seven snaps. Heading into the 2012 season, the Ravens let left guard Ben Grubbs (a five-year starter) walk in free-agency–Reid finally got his chance to start. Reid had the job all-but locked up, only to suffer an injury in preseason that kept him out until November. Reid totaled seven starts in nine active weeks prior to landing on injured reserve in January. There may not be a starting spot for Reid in Baltimore next season, as he graded out poorly in his time as a starter in 2012.

  • 4th Round, 26th pick: Indiana WR Tandon Doss

The second receiver Baltimore drafted in 2011 is much less of a success story than Torrey Smith. Thus far, Doss has only single-digit receptions to his name and a single touchdown–likely due to a mostly lost rookie season after having hernia surgery as a senior at Indiana. Doss played some special teams in 2011, but was only active for six games. Much more was expected of Doss in 2012, but after some offseason hype from coaches Doss contributed very little in parts of 14 games. With Boldin possibly on his way out of Baltimore, Doss could be in for some more snaps on offense in 2013.

  • 5th Round, 33rd pick: Texas DB Chykie Brown

A quick and physical corner, Brown was credited with 4.37 and 4.40 times at his pro day in 2011, and only fell in the draft because of a low pick number (two) across 29 starts at Texas. Credited as a speedy corner who could immediately contribute on special teams, Brown recorded four tackles and a deflection in parts of seven games as a rookie. 2012 was a much more productive season for Brown, as he was active for all 16 games and drew a start due to Baltimore’s injury-riddled secondary as the season progressed. With 25 tackles and five deflections, Brown made some contribution for the Ravens–however he didn’t silence the critics who claim he doesn’t have the ability to come up with picks.

  • 5th Round, 34th pick: Mississippi St. DE Pernell McPhee

Originally lauded as a fit at either 4-3 end or 3-4 linebacker in either scheme at 6’3″ and 274 lbs, Baltimore surprised many when they announced that McPhee was to put on weight and play 3-4 end in their defensive scheme. The move paid off for McPhee, who served as a rotational end in his rookie campaign. Totaling 23 tackles and six sacks, McPhee’s season was a success–only to find out after the season ended that he needed arthroscopic knee surgery. Heading into 2012, it seemed that the surgeries had sapped McPhee of the explosiveness he exhibited as a rookie–with the resulting announcement from McPhee that he planned to bulk up in an attempt to save some value in being a 3-4 run-stuffing end. With injuries marring his season, McPhee ultimately played in 12 games (with six starts) and totaled only 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks–a disappointment after such a promising rookie season. This offseason, McPhee will look to shed the extra weight and regain the explosiveness that he was known for as a rookie.

  • 6th Round, 15th pick: Virginia Tech QB Tyrod Taylor

Although there was some question as to whether Taylor would play quarterback in the NFL, the Ravens made it clear they drafted him with the intention of making a professional quarterback out of him when they announced Taylor as the primary backup to Joe Flacco prior to the preseason. Taylor started off with a bumpy first preseason game in 2011, but the next several weeks saw strong performances for Taylor, quieting any calls for a veteran signing to back up Flacco. Taylor didn’t make any headlines until the next summer, when it was announced that Baltimore had brought in ex-Colts quarterback Curtis Painter to compete for the number two duties–with Taylor ultimately affirming the coaching staff’s belief in him as he beat out Painter. The only action Taylor saw in 2012 was in week 17′s mop up duty, where he went 15 for 25 with 149 yards and an interception while rushing for 65 yards and a score. Taylor is an athlete who has developed as a passer over the past two seasons to the point that there has been some interest in trading for him this offseason, but it’s likely he’ll stick as the Ravens’ backup quarterback in 2013.

  • 7th Round, 22nd pick: Georgia Tech RB Anthony Allen

Likely drafted as an after-thought in 2011, since Baltimore already had starter Ray Rice, veteran Willis McGahee and backup Jalen Parmele on the roster, Allen did little as a rookie outside of special teams. Even following the releases of both McGahee and Parmele, his skill set as a short yardage back with very limited receiving skills did little for him, as it seemed he couldn’t steal carries from either of the more talented Rice or veteran pick up Ricky Williams. It was thought that Allen could be in for back up duties in 2012 following Williams’ departure, but Allen fell behind on the depth chart when he proved to be a liability in blitz pick up and his receiving skills hadn’t improved. Allen was waived in August following the ascension of Bernard Pierce and Bobby Rainey on the depth chart. With under 20 carries in his first two seasons and the emergence of Pierce as the clear cut back up to Ray Rice, Allen may not have a spot on the roster in 2013.

There you have it. Baltimore is in much better shape with how their picks panned out in the past two drafts than several teams already covered in the Past Drafts segment (for a refresher, see Part I), as you can see each player they have drafted has remained with the team.

The next team up is the Cincinnati Bengals.

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