Last night I went back over the last five drafts for the Baltimore Ravens to try and see if it could help me predict what they might do this year. Not so much. As much as we as fans like to say that Ozzie Newsome likes to take the best player available no matter what, it really shows in the drafts that the Ravens tend to draft for need just as much as any other team. I think they might just have a better scouting department.
This should be evident in the fact that the team has used 50% of it's first round draft picks on the offensive line in the past five years. This is the only position to get more than one first round pick by the Ravens since 2007. Ben Grubbs and Michael Oher.
Not that the Ravens wont take the best player available if they see someone sliding down to their pick but just like any other team, the Ravens have holes to fill and this year more than others they will have to rely on the draft to do it.
While studying the Baltimore's picks over the years I found that It didn't really help me in predicting who they will pick but there are some interesting things about the Ravens last five drafts all the same.
Since 2007 the Ravens have had 38 total picks, not counting any they used for trades. Of those 38 picks 24 have become solid, every day NFL players. Of those 24 players, 14 have become either above average or Pro bowl caliber talents. There have been seven complete busts and I'd say the jury is still out on the other seven picks.
Four of the seven that the jury is still out on were picked in 2011 so the numbers will probably look a lot different after this year. Five of the seven complete busts were picked in John Harbaugh's first year, 2008. These players were Justin Harper, Oniel Cousins, Marcus Smith, David Hale and Allen Patrick. Tavares Gooden was also drafted that year but I guess I can't say he was a complete bust. He played well on special teams and is still an NFL player. Right now he is the leading back up for Patrick Willis in San Francisco.
Over the past five drafts Offensive line and wide receiver have been the tams main focus. Not so coincidentally these have also been the areas of need for them. they have drafted seven offensive linemen, six wide receivers, five defensive linemen, five secondary players ( I lumped safeties and corners together ), five running backs, four linebackers, three quarterbacks and three tight ends.
The Ravens have not used a first round pick on a wide receiver over this entire time span. I think the last receiver they picked in the first round has to have been Mark Clayton. Baltimore has selected a wide out in the draft every year except for 2009. They have also not chosen any defensive linemen, linebackers, running backs or tight ends in the first round during this time.
Drafting defensive linemen seems to be pretty easy for the Ravens as they only seem to draft them in rounds two or five and all of them have done well enough at the NFL level to become every day players.
Until last year the Ravens had two Pro Bowl guards in Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda. Both of these players were drafted in 2007, Grubbs in the first and Yanda in the third. Great year for guards I guess.
One of the most interesting things I noticed is that they have drafted only one inside linebacker over the past five years in the person of Jason Phillips in the fifth round of the 2009 draft. Of course the Ravens have historically done well in finding ILB as undrafted free agents as well so that maybe why they have stayed to other areas in the draft. Ozzie has no problem with moving outside linebackers to the inside too. Usually outside backers have more speed and pass rushing ability so that may actually be the better thing to do in most cases.
This year, as in most, fans and analysts think the Ravens will draft an inside backer to be groomed by Ray Lewis in what looks to be his final year. Do not be surprised if the team chooses to stay away again. I think a big time inside player would have to slip to them in order for them to take a flier on him. what may be more likely to happen is they draft a dominant outside linebacker and move him or someone else to the middle behind Lewis.
So, if you take into account the teams needs and what there trend has been over the past five drafts there are three things that we can be sure will happen come draft day.
1.) The Ravens will draft an offensive lineman. Or more... They do so every year.
2.) The Ravens will draft a wide receiver. They have drafted at least one every year except 2009 when they probably should have instead of selecting Jason Phillips.
3.) The Ravens will draft a safety. If there is one position this draft is short on it is safety. The top tier talent may only be a handful of players, hopefully the team will get one. I think that, if they miss out on one of the elite prospects, they will wait to use a very late pick on someone not as polished but has a high ceiling if they get it together. If not, they will need to sign a free agent. Which they can't afford to do at this time but they will need at least one more on the roster.
I also think they will take a mid round running back to compete with Anthony Allen and Damien Berry. I would love to see them sign a proven NFL talent but they simply do not have the money right now. If they can get some deals made with their current players or maybe restructure someone they may be able to pull something off before he season but who knows who will be left at that point? There best option may be the draft but it is a scary scenario not having anyone with any NFL experience behind Ray Rice on the roster. Especially if he makes the Madden cover!