The odds of all ten of these players, much less a few undrafted free agents making the roster of the Baltimore Ravens seems a tall task. However, as solid a core of experienced players there are on this team, it has gotten younger, faster and perhaps even better than the one that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl XLVII Champs less than three months ago.
So how did the Ravens do on the three-day draft? They went into the draft with twelve picks, traded two of them to move up in the second round. They arguably got two guys with first round talent in safety Matt Elam and linebacker Arthur Brown. Then they added a mammoth run-stuffing defensive tackle in Brandon Williams,who was listed as one of my "Sleepers" in a story posted early Thursday.
There were players picked in rounds four through seven that might have made most fans scratch their heads and say, "Who?" Then again, GM Ozzie Newsome, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta, head coach John Harbaugh and their staffs know a lot more than we do and proved it over the weekend.
The one common denominator that the entire draft class seems to have is their non-stop motors, impressive speed and strength and the desire to succeed. The Ravens have always drafted under the philosophy of best player available and will openly say that the guys they picked were #1 on their board when their turn to pick came.
However, it certainly appeared that they selected the best player available, but in the position that they knew they needed to fill. Elam filled the need for a safety, especially due to the losses of both starters, Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard. Brown filled another crucial need at inside linebacker, also due to the losses of both starters, Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe.
The Ravens have always been among the top defensive units in the league for what seems forever, but dropped to the middle of the pack in 2012. They re-grouped for the playoffs as they got healthy and rested players back on the field together for the first time all season, but there was no way that the team would not focus on returning the unit to elite status in 2013.
That's why their first four picks and eight of their ten were defensive players. Sure, fans were screaming for a wide receiver to cover the loss of Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers. However, Ozzie knows best and between the undrafted free agents, current veteran free agents on the market and the ones that will join them on June 1st, something tells me he has this all planned out and covered.
So what grade do you give the Ravens on this weekend's NFL Draft? I love the decision to address the two most glaring needs at safety and inside backer. There obviously wasn't an offensive lineman nor wide receiver that met the team's needs to warrant a pick in the rest of the rounds but speed, strength and depth was absolutely addressed. My grade is a solid B+. What's yours?