The top three biggest draft successes in Baltimore Ravens history is not going to surprise anyone, although there might still be debate on my second and third rankings. With that in mind, let's start the debate right now, as I have current free safety Ed Reed rated as the 3rd best draft pick in team history. Ed Reed was a steal in the 2002 NFL Draft, being the 24thpick in the first round, after such other NFL stars such as QB David Carr (1st overall), QB Joey Harrington (3rd overall), S Roy Williams (8th overall) and even WR Donte Stallworth (13th overall).
In fairness, that was the same draft where actual NFL stars were picked before Reed: DE Julius Peppers (Carolina Panther-2nd overall), LT Bryant McKinnie (7th overall-Minnesota Vikings) and DE Dwight Freeney (Indianapolis Colts-11thoverall). However, how do you think the Oakland Raiders feel, who picked right before the Ravens, and chose linebacker Napoleon Harris instead?
Reed has played nine years with the Ravens and despite being injured and missing parts of the past two seasons, he is still considered along with the Pittsburgh Steelers' Troy Polamalu, the two best safeties in the NFL. A classic example of Reed's amazing abilities occurred in 2010, when he began the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List, yet still led the entire league with eight interceptions in only ten regular season games, including two in his first game back.
The Ravens always seem to find gems in the NFL Draft when they pick in the latter third of the first round. From pick #20 and later, the team has found not only Reed, but also Ray Lewis, Todd Heap and most recently, Michael Oher. Reed, out of the Ravens draft pipeline, the University of Miami, started as a rookie and has never looked back, earning his first of seven Pro Bowl honors the following season (2003) and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004.
While Reed's reputation was made as a ball-hawking free safety, he has made some record-breaking Special Teams plays, including blocking punts and returning missed field goals for length-of-the-field touchdowns. Reed is the type of player that makes things happen every time he steps on the field and is one of the few players in the league that every opposing QB looks for prior to calling for the snap of the ball.
Without a doubt, Reed is a first ballot Hall of Fame selection, as he will rank as one of the top safeties to ever play the game. At only 32 years old, he should have a few more years in the NFL, but his physical play, injuries and recent surgeries have taken a toll on his body. Along with LB Ray Lewis, Reed has kept the Ravens defense among the best units in the league every year and hopefully will continue to thrill Ravens fans for a while longer.
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