We will be going through the Draft history of the Baltimore Ravens one round at a time. Today we are looking through the second round and finding players who regularly contributed to Baltimore Raven history. Through the 18 second round selections, 9 have played for and notched themselves to a spot deserving of recognition. For a second rounder, your expectations are high, being selected from 33 to 64 overall means you are within the top 100 college prospects and can play at a high level. The draft is where you reload a team with talent and continue to thrive among the best, as Baltimore has proven. The draft allows the benefit of finding great players, and lower rookie deals.
Courtney Upshaw - Linebacker - Alabama - 2012
A dominant player with a highly touted résumé. Courtney has raised 2 BCS Championships (2010, 2012) while being the MVP of one. In 2011, Courtney wasn't a slouch either with achieving First Team All-American, First Team All-SEC, and Capital One Bowl MVP. Obviously a player meant for big games, on big stages. While his NFL talent was obvious on the college level with the bolsterous team of the Roll Tide, his transition to the NFL has been frustrating. Multiple times I have read about Courtney's weight being a problem, or that his pass rushing skills are just too low. However, Upshaw can set the rushing edge. Run stopping ability has not been a problem when the ball is rushed to either side as Courtney's pursuit angles have even caught Jamaal Charles hustling to the opposite sideline. What the Ravens are hoping is that Upshaw solves his weight issues, and uses his very athletic body and turn the corner and solve the pass rush techniques of DPOY talent Terrell Suggs and All-Pro teammate Elvis Dumervil.
Criticism aside, Courtney has a need on this team in run situations. His power, and tackling ability are some of the best for Baltimore. With a team who's biggest strength has been a punishing defense I appreciate a player who can out-bruise a runningback.
Kelechi Osemele - Tackle/Guard - Iowa State - 2012
The 2012 NFL Draft 2nd Rounders for the Ravens look promising as Osemele filled in for the injured Jah Reid and did very well. As the Ravens entered the 2012 playoffs the line had switched Bryant McKinnie to left tackle, Kelechi to left guard, and Michael Oher to right tackle. It became evident this was a great plan as they protected Joe Cool to putting up the most historic play off run for a Quarterback, and a Super Bowl victory. It's tough to point out exactly how good or bad KO was for the Baltimore Ravens but he significantly impacted as the Ravens hoisted a Super Bowl Championship. KO missed part of 2013-2014 season because of back issues but is looking forward to a very strong year as the season slowly comes upon us.
Torrey Smith - Wide Receiver - Maryland - 2011
With superstar Wide Receivers AJ Green and Julio Jones leading the way for 2011 Draft class, the Ravens scooped up a Maryland college athlete Torrey Smith, who's talent was showing as a speed receiver who they hoped would (and quickly proved he could) catch the deep ball dragons that Joe Flacco makes look so effortless. Torrey Smith worked his way into the number two spot behind Anquan Boldin. In his first two weeks nothing really showed but in week three Torrey Smith blew the top off the St. Louis Rams by hanging 3 TD's in the first quarter of their week 3 outing. Finishing the game with 5 receptions for 152 yards and 3 touchdowns, Torrey was fired up. He ended the rookie season with rookie franchise record for most receiving touchdowns in a single season (7).
The next year Torrey had continued success and played his WR2 role well. Easily the most notable game was caused by unfortunate news. Torrey's brother had passed away in a motorcycle accident on Sunday, September 23rd. When Smith heard the news, he left the hotel to be with his family. Later though, Smith talked with Head Coach John Harbaugh and asked to play in the Ravens prime time game against the New England Patriots. With a heavy heart, Torrey scored two touchdowns on 6 catches for 127 yards and a 31-30 victory over the Patriots.
The biggest game of Torrey Smith's career appeared in the frozen air of Denver Colorado.
The Ravens were giving Ray one last ride and the Broncos were hoping to retire Lewis early and what emerged became one of the greatest NFL battles in history. Torrey Smith was a force as the aging Champ Bailey could no longer keep up with the speed receivers of the world. Torrey burned the Bronco defense with a first quarter 59 yard streak into the endzone. Another pass later on to Torrey was for another Raven touchdown for 32 yards. The two touchdowns seem to be quieted with the eventual Mile High Miracle for Baltimore, but Torrey had outclassed the 7x All-Pro CB multiple times leading to 2 TD's and possibly more had Flacco not overthrown Torrey on two occasions.
The 2013 season was great stat wise for Smith. With Boldin traded, Torrey was now looked at to become the new WR1 on the Ravens team, and worked hard to rake in over 1100 yards on 65 catches. Unfortunately Smith was only in the endzone 4 times, but this is attributed to the emergence of Marlon Brown, and the complete disappearance of the running game and offensive line for Baltimore.
Torrey Smith easily is a contributor to the Ravens on and off the field, his presence, his mindset, and his efforts have been something to be proud of for the purple and black.
Paul Kruger - Linebacker - Utah - 2009
A great player when donning the Baltimore jersey, Paul Kruger has gone through quite the series of events. If you haven't heard what the former Raven Linebacker went through please take a look online. A quick summary is a car accident taking his kidney and spleen. Later in college he was stabbed giving him a collapsed lung with life threatening injuries which required over 50 staples and four hours of surgery to save his life. To still see the football field at all in these conditions is astounding, and putting together an NFL career is something every fan can celebrate. Paul was a great prospect as a defensive end and selected 57th overall to Baltimore. Coming in he didn't see much playing time with only 9 games. He did however intercept a Pittsburgh Steeler pass and helped set up the game winning field goal. Fast forward to 2012, where Kruger finally was given significant playing time in the Hybrid Scheme the Ravens had been running. Paul had 1 or more sacks in 6 consecutive weeks in 2012. When the season had ended, Kruger had season highs in tackles, assisted tackles, sacks, and passes deflected. More was to come. Baltimore was in the playoffs once again, and every player was pushing hard to raising the Lombardi. In the Wild card weekend against the Colts, Paul was dominating as his stat line was 2.5 sacks and his first NFL forced fumble on quarterback Andrew Luck during their 24-9 defensive victory. The divisional match up the next weekend Paul recovered a forced fumble by Terrell Suggs on quarterback Peyton Manning. But finally, the big game had arrived, Super Bowl XLVII and Paul was here to shine. In the first quarter, the 49ers had drove down to the Raven 8 yard line. on 3rd down Paul Kruger came up huge with a sack and forcing San Francisco to only kick a field goal. Third and goal and the 49ers are once again knocking on the door of the Raven end zone. Kruger once again finds Kaepernick for another sack, once again resulting in only 3 points for the NFC champs. He also displayed this orchestrated sack dance.
While we all know Paul is now playing for a different AFC North team, Kruger was a vital player for the Ravens, helping raise our second World Championship.
Ray Rice - Runningback - Rutgers - 2008
One of the most consistent running backs in the NFL. Rice has been quite the addition, given his small stature and strong body. Packing a little over 200 lbs on a 5' 9" frame causes mayhem when attempting to catch such a combination of strength, speed, and agility. In college he helped the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to the first winning season in 25 years. In the three years of college football Ray had played, Rice attained over 5200 yards from scrimmage and 50 total touchdowns. The man was even getting nods towards the Heisman trophy, and finished 7th in voting.
Drafted in 2008, Ray made his appearance Week 1 of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals. With 22 carries he rushed for 64 yards. Nothing amazing happened, actually he had fumbled. Later on in the season Rice played in another divisional game and displayed his second round pick reasoning with 156 yard on 21 carries.
Jumping ahead Ray was now the starting running back in 2009 after beating Willis McGahee in training camp. Rice had obviously improved on his rookie year with now being a starting back with 1339 yards and 7 rushing touchdowns, and also receiving his first of three Pro Bowl honors and his first All-Pro selection.
Skipping to 2011, a blowout year for Ray as he ran for over 1300 yards and over 700 receiving yards, amassing a total of 2068 total yards from scrimmage and 15 total TD's. His showing for the season was rewarded with another Pro Bowl vote and All-Pro selection.
Another year, Another 1000 yard season for rice as he led the way with another consistent showing of 1,143 yards and 9 scores on the ground. The biggest display for Mr. Rice was against the San Diego Chargers. The Ravens were down 13-10 with only 1:58 to play. On 4th and 29 they opted to instead go for it. With all deep receivers covered Joe dumped a one yard pass to Ray, who then broke 3 tackles and ran across the field to a first down with the help of a freight train Anquan Boldin block.
The post-season showing for Rice while not little, was definitely not the limelight. It was tough though as Joe Flacco turned into Joe Cool and wrecked the post-season and any opposition. Ray averaged a little over 3.5 YPA and which amounted to little over 300 yards in the 4 post-season games.
I don't like talking about our 2013 season, but it is nice to know when the Ravens are a mess we end up .500 and not with a losing record. Rice couldn't get the run game started no matter what. The play calls were teeth grinding. I know it wasnt just myself knowing first down was run up the middle for rice for -2 yards. 2nd down another run for no gain. 3rd down deep ball. It was frustrating and with a weak O-line the Ravens put up "embarrassing" numbers. To help make matters worse, Ray had sustained what seemed to be his first ever injury. In the fourth quarter Ray went down without contact against Cleveland. I faintly remember an announcer who spoke with Ray saying, "He thought he had broken his hip" and he has never dealt with an injury before. The new experience was shocking. Regardless, Ray attempted to play through the injury and a very abysmal line attempting to open holes for the tailback.
I feel confident in saying when Rice is playing this season he should be back to form. Rice is a very consistent player, and with the O-line upgrades should produce better than his 3.1 YPC season showing.
Dwan Edwards - Defensive Tackle - Oregon St. - 2004
A big bodied player by the name of Dwan Edwards was drafted with the 51st pick in 2004. A talented player who won All-PAC 10 twice. His college career equaling more than 10 sacks, and over 150 tackles. Very disruptive for a DT and worth a 2nd round pick. Something worth mentioning is a DT doesn't have pretty stats. You won't see many if any interceptions because these are usually/hopefully the biggest man on the defense and clogging up the middle and taking away space.
Dwan's first three years were not exciting as Dwan only started 1 game of the 24 he strapped on his chinstrap. He did accumulate 24 tackles and a forced fumble.
The 2007 season proved differently as he as a left defensive end for the Ravens. Now starting in 13 of 16 games Dwan and delivered a stat line of 30 tackles, one sack, one interception, and two passes deflected. Dwan was well on his way, until a preseason injury at the start of the 2008 season. The injury sustained was severe, resulting in spinal fusion two his C3 and C4 vertebrae. One of his discs was also replaced with a cadaver. Unfortunately, with such a small showing Dwan signed only a one year prove it deal. Dwan did stay and played and put on a fair showing, with 9 starts of the 16 games played Edwards put a new season high 35 tackles, one sack, with two fumble recoveries with one resulting in a scoop and score. After the 2009 season number 93 left to play for the Buffalo Bills. Dwan wasn't an dominating player by any means, if remembered at all, but is a name worth mentioning as he participated in 56 games, and started in half of those. With 89 tackles, I feel he did what a DT is supposed to do, be an interior player who clogs the middle and allow the stacked linebacker core of Baltimore to lay the wood.
Anthony Weaver - Defensive End - Notre Dame - 2002
Another big man drafted in the second, Anthony Weaver came in and was able to immediately make in impact. Weaver in his rookie season was labeled the starter for game one and kept it all season long, and for the next 3 seasons as well. Week 3 Anthony recorded his first NFL sack, and ended the year with 3.5 with 3 forced fumbles, 4 passes deflected and twenty-five tackles. The next year Anthony started all 15 games he had played in put up another good looking stat line with 5 sacks, 6 passes deflected 2 forced fumbles with 2 fumble recoveries. Anthony's next two years continued in this fashion and finished up with the final total of 114 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 14 swatted passes, 1 interception, 5 forced fumbles, and 4 recoveries. I know this is just a lot of stat talk but I just can't find a lot on him. Just like the talk with Dwan, he played a more than serviceable role in a stout defense.
Gary Baxter - Defensive Back - Baylor - 2001
Drafted with the 62nd overall, Gary Baxter looked to help solidify an already powerhouse defense with the historical Raven defense. A rookie who wasn't very much utilized besides reservations was able to finally break out with his second year. Starting the last 14 of 16 games, Baxter put up a very respectable stat sheet accumulating 69 tackes with 17 pass deflections and 1 interception. The next two years Baxter found his role with the starting right side cornerback and playing very well with 4 interceptions, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 25 passes deflected and 141 tackes. Gary was playing like a machine. with the run stopping middle of Baltimore Gary was looked to be a talented defensive back and stood tall. The most important play for Gary though happened against the Pittsburgh Steelers. A hit on Tommy Maddox had caused an injury and forced the now starting QB Ben Roethlisberger into the game. Luckily the fresh face at the time did not come back to win, but has changed history for the Ravens - Steelers rivalry. After the 2004 season Baxter signed a 30 million dollar deal with Cleveland, which was very injury riddled. The most astounding during a the 06 season when Gary tore both patella tendons in his knees. Gary became the first to recover from such a devastating injury, but the comeback was shortlived with being placed on injured reserve a three months later.
Jamie Sharper - Linebacker - Virginia - 1997
Sometimes forgotten with the heroic or infamous (depending on your point of view) 2000 Baltimore linebackers, Jamie Sharper was a vital player. A highly touted linebacker from Virginia selected 34th overall. Jamie came to the NFL and made waves as he started in the second game and never gave it back while in Baltimore. Jamie could do it all, and proved it on the field. His statline showing over 50 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble, a recovered fumble, and three sacks. Almost every stat column was filled in his outstanding rookie debut. Jamie was looked at with small talks of Defensive Rookie of the Year, but his teammate drafted one round ahead, Peter Boulware snagged the title. The 98' and 99' seasons were similar with 45 and 69 tackles respectively, and equaling 5 sacks.
The 2000 season Jamie helped turn the corner into the eventual world champion Ravens as he shut down opposing offenses with 59 tackles and a 45 yard interception. The biggest stat line is forcing 5 fumbles and recovering two. No other player through all the Draft Tales has 3. Sharper's biggest role was in the AFC Championship playing the Oakland Raiders.
During the third quarter and Oakland with three yards until the endzone, Jamie sacked quarterback Rich Gannon and the only three points the Raiders would score. Fourth quarter and once again close to the endzone, twelve yards from the endzone on third down, Jamie Sharper intercepts a Raider pass on the 2 yard line and helps secure a trip to the Super Bowl.
The very next game Jamie helped his noteworthy defense with one interception and 3 tackles.
A Raven linebacker with the skillset and determination to push Charm City towards their first World Championship, Jamie needs some recognition from the fans, but it is very tough with the many names and faces of our linebacker corps.