The NFL is one of the weirdest leagues in the world. Teams that were world beaters just the year before find themselves at the bottom of the barrel and vice versa. Between parity, injuries, free agency and the draft; so much happens every offseason that changes the makeup of all 32 teams. That's why around this time, we find ourselves paying attention to only 12 of them in the playoffs as the other 20 had their seasons end after week 17. Sadly, the Baltimore Ravens are one of those teams.
ESPN took a look at all of the 20 teams that are looking forward to the draft instead of their next game in the postseason. Grading them on how likely they are to be back in the thick of it in January rather than sitting at home working on their rosters and upcoming salary cap. With all the injuries the team has had in 2015 and just how dominant they have been over the last couple of years, the Baltimore Ravens find themselves pretty high up on this list.
In fact, they are ranked second, right behind the Dallas Cowboys.
The Ravens lost nine games by one score, tied with San Diego for most in the league. Playing so many teams close was admirable for a Baltimore team short-handed for much of the season without its starting quarterback, top running back, No. 1 wide receiver and best pass-rusher. Getting Joe Flacco and other injured players back will help Baltimore bounce back in 2016.
The sixth overall choice in the draft is the highest selection Baltimore has held since 2000, when the team grabbed running back Jamal Lewis fifth overall. Haloti Ngata (2006), Terrell Suggs (2003), Chris McAlister (1999), Peter Boulware (1997) and Jonathan Ogden (1996) were other notable top-15 picks for the Ravens since Ozzie Newsome became general manager.
Other well-run organizations accustomed to picking later in the order have also parlayed the occasional early draft choice into franchise-altering players. New England did it with Richard Seymour in 2001. Pittsburgh did it with Troy Polamalu in 2003.
ESPN is on point here too. With a majority of their games lost by only one score, the Baltimore Ravens were clearly still competitive all season long. With no depth and in a lot of cases, no starters either, the team was able to keep up with some of the best teams in the league for a majority of the year.
Now with an offseason to get healthy, add some new players through free agency and the draft, Baltimore still looks like the team we said would have a deep playoff run in June.