As usual national media outlets are praising the Baltimore Ravens for getting the steal of the draft in second round pick Courtney Upshaw. Upshaw was projected a top 15 pick after being a main cog in the machine that was the best defense in college football last season at Alabama.
The situation was eerily similar to that of Sergio Kindle three years ago as the talented pass rusher out of Texas slid all the way to the Ravens lap in the second round. Except this time Upshaw did not carry any of the off the field concerns that Kindle did back then. Concerns that turned out to be just.
It is mostly unclear as to why no other team took Upshaw through out the first round and even the first two picks of the second. Some scouts have said that he is not the "elite" pass rushing presence that teams look for in their first round outside linebacker prospects but Upshaw was the best pass rusher on the best defense in college football. He had 9.5 sacks last season for 62 yards. That is 0.73 sacks a game, so almost a sack a game for a player that was double teamed more often than not.
Despite the so called knock on his pass rushing skills there is no denying that he is a play maker. He is very tough in the run game and sets the edge extremely well. He will do well in the NFL and would be well worth a first round pick in any draft.
So you can understand why he is considered one of the steals of the 2012 draft. However, the Ravens are known for draft day steals and there are several other players in this years draft class that could very well outplay their late round selection if given the chance. Perhaps Upshaw will not even be the biggest steal on his own team.
With the teams other second round pick, 60th over all, the Ravens selected guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele out of Iowa State. He is considered to be a project by some but I personally love the pick. Standing at 6'6" and weighing in at 333 lbs. Osemele is a mountain of a man. With a frame like his, he is more than physically capable of playing left tackle in the NFL. I truly believe that he could be dominant as a guard for the next year or two and eventually transition to the Ravens' left tackle of the future.
If this were indeed to happen, getting a starting left tackle at 60th over all would most certainly be a huge draft day steal. the Ravens obviously were very high on Osemele because there were still many talented players at positions of great need for them on the board at that point. Baltimore took Osemele right off the bat though. I bet they were all sitting there in disbelief that he was still on the board at that point. Osemele was projected as a mid to late first round pick. Although raw, all the tools are there to one day be dominant.
The Ravens then traded a fifth round pick to move up in the third round for Temple running back Bernard Pierce. I'm not sure if he would qualify as a steal, only because the team used two picks on him. The Ravens traded a third and fourth round pick for Pro Bowl receiver Anquan Boldin a few years ago and I know they hated parting with those draft picks then. They must have either had a dyer need to get a running back they like in camp this season, or saw something in Pierce that lead them to believe he will one day be a Pro Bowl caliber player. Either way, that was an odd trade for a team so frugal with their picks. I think there is more to this picture than meets the eye.
Of course none of this is meant as a knock on Pierce. He was a touchdown machine at Temple and reminds me of Arian Foster when he runs. I actually think he will do well in Baltimore but as far as a draft day steal goes, he has a bit more to live up to than the rest of the pack.
the Ravens then drafted little known guard Gino Gradkowski out of Delaware. In case things don't work out as planned with Kelechi Osemele (or if the Ravens would rather use him elsewhere on the offensive line)
Gradkowski (brother of quarterback Bruce) is a work-in-progress guard who nonetheless might see time in the starting rotation.He's got a nasty streak, with great size and ability to play center, left guard and right guard. Clearly the Ravens like him more than Peter Konz. He's athletic and has an excellent work ethic, but should perform best in run blocking instead of pass protection.
Ravens head of player personnel Eric DeCosta said this would be a depth draft this year, and that's just what Gradkowski is, but in the AFC North, you can't have too many offensive linemen. If he can turn into the next Matt Birk he could also be quite the steal.
The Ravens next three draft picks all have the potential to breakout as huge steals. Safety Christian Thompson has already put in good time with Ed Reed and seems clearly intent on picking the brain the future Hall Of Fame safety for all he'll give. Thompson is a heavy hitter that can contribute on special teams right away. He ran the fastest time of all safeties at the combine and will be fighting for a back up safety job right off the bat this season. It is yet to be seen if he will take on the persona of the ball hawking Ed reed or the hard hitting Bernard Pollard. what a great situation for this guy though. Coming in to learn from two of the best in the business that play the game almost completely opposite to each other.
Corner back Asa Jackson, the Ravens fifth round pick, has caused quite a buzz around town lately as well. Jackson was a combine standout who was the best defensive player at the small school of Cal Poly in college. In watching his game tape he reminds me so much of Lardarius Webb it's crazy. He flies around the field on every play. Jackson logged eight interceptions in his college career. Two each year. Talk about consistency. Jackson is a pure tackler that plays the ball well in the air. Although he was initially drafted for his special teams presence as a return man and gunner, I think he could challenge for the dime defensive back this season and perhaps nickle for the next. he is a bit undersized to play outside the hashes but that didn't stop him college. Jackson did not allow a touchdown in man coverage in his college career.
Finally we get to Tommy Streeter. If you look up the word potential in the dictionary there is a big picture of Streeter looking right at you. Right between Clarence Moore and Calvin Johnson, because Streeter could go either way. Okay, maybe Calvin Johnson is a bit much but Marques Colston anyway.
My point is Tommy Steeter has all the potential in the world. The guy is 6'5, 220 lbs. and runs a 4.4-40. Yeah, you can't teach that. In his first two years at Miami he was basically irrelevant but as a junior, under a new coaching staff, Streeter blew up for 811 yards and 8 touchdowns. He credits the new coaches with having the faith in him to finally get him involved in the offense.
The biggest knocks on Streeter were that he only produced at a high level for one year at Miami and he had a poor showing at the combine. To me the combine means next to nothing so that does not way heavily in my mind. The change in offensive philosophy that brought on his production in college is a clear sign that this kid has more to offer than most originally thought however. Miami was not known for their prolific passing attack anyway. Tommy was, by far, the best weapon they had. He was originally projected as a third round pick but dropped all the way to the sixth where the Ravens nabbed him. All of these teams passed on him for a reason and so did the Ravens for some time but I think he, out of all the Ravens draft picks, may have the highest ceiling compared to where he was selected in the draft.
If Streeter is put in another situation where he is comfortable and feels that the team believes in him he could go far. If they bury him on the depth chart and destroy his confidence, he could go from practice squad to Home Depot in just a few years. Let's hope the coaches find ways to get him involved early because, let's face it, he has a very particular set of skills and these skills could make him very hard to deal with around the NFL.