Some Baltimore Ravens fans might not have been too thrilled about the way running back Jamal Lewis ended his term with the team, but when you look at the statistics he put up here, you just can't argue with the results. Lewis was only a rookie when Baltimore took him with the fifth overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, the same one where they took WR Travis Taylor with the 10th overall pick, and Taylor "earned" my ranking as the biggest draft bust in team history.
Lewis was a punishing runner in college and continued to earn that reputation in the pros, except he had amazing speed for someone of his size and bulk. He started as a rookie and joined in as the team win Super Bowl 35, scoring a touchdown on a short run to help seal the victory. His honors add up to being not only one of the top draft picks in team history, but one of the top players in team history.
He was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year, selected to the the Pro Bowl and voted All-Pro, all in 2003. During that historical season, Lewis ran for 2,066 yards, only 39 yards short of the all-time record held by Eric Dickerson. He also set the single-game rushing record with 295 yards against the Cleveland Browns. That record was subsequently broken by a single yard when Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson ran for 296 yards in 2007. However, most Ravens fans don't remember that Lewis had a 65 yard touchdown run called back due to a penalty in that same game and would have not only shattered and still hold the single-game rushing record, but would have surpassed Dickerson's single-season record.
Lewis missed his entire sophomore season with the Ravens after injuring himself in pre-season but he returned to post 1,000 yard seasons four out of his last five years with the team. Unfortunately, his yards per carry dropped to under four yards per rush, which many said was due to a frustrating stutter-step at the line of scrimmage that negated much of his powerful burst through the line that saw him run over and through defenses in his earlier years.
Lewis was not re-signed after the 2006 season and joined the Cleveland Browns for his last three years in the NFL. He enjoyed a resurgence in 2007 and while he still put up over 1,000 yards in 2007, his YPC dropped again and he ended his career on the Browns' Injured Reserve List in 2009. Notwithstanding his time with the Ravens AFC North rival, it's virtually impossible to argue with ranking Jamal Lewis as the 4th best draft pick in team history.
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