The backbone of the Baltimore Ravens success comes from the great front office, namely, Ozzie Newsome. A little over two decades in, the Ravens have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy twice, and key players selected in the draft process are the reason why. Looking back, it’s time to examine Ozzie Newsome and Company’s safety scouting and selection.
1997 Kim Herring (Rd. 2, Pick 28 | Overall 58)
The first safety selection in Baltimore Ravens history, Kim Herring, out of Penn State. Herring never was the best, or the flashiest, but he was the backstop of the juggarnaut Ravens 2000 defense. Herring did intercept a pass in Super Bowl XXXV, and it’s quite the impressive from the photo.
Never did Herring receive a Pro Bowl nod, or any personal award, but a Super Bowl ring I’m sure feels better than any other accolade. After the Super Bowl XXXV victory Herring signed as a free agent with the St. Louis Rams in 2001. He played in back-to-back Super Bowls, but this one a loss against the New England Patriots.
Herring succumbed to the injury bug in 2003, and after a two-year stint with the Cincinnati Bengals, while only playing one year, the safety was a salary cap cut, and retired.
1998 Ryan Sutter (Rd. 5 Pick 10 | Overall 133)
No, not the hockey player, but yes, ‘The Bachelorette’ “winner”. Ryan Sutter was drafted by Baltimore and didn’t make it out of camp. He signed with the Carolina Panthers, played on the practice squad, then due to injury he bounced around the league until a final injury in 2005. Sutter did however become a firefighter and a winner of ‘The Bachelorette’.
1999 Anthony Poindexter (Rd. 7 Pick 10 | Overall 216)
A talented college safety receiving comparisons to Ronnie Lott for the hard-hitting style. Draft expectations for Poindexter sat in the first round, but he stayed for his senior year in college. After seven games, Poindexter accrued 73 tackles, two sacks and three interceptions. The safety built on his impressive season, but in 1998 he twisted his leg on a tackle, tearing his ACL and two other ligaments. Sports medicine’s advancement in the past 10-15 years makes this look run-of-the-mill, but Poindexter’s draft stock crumbled to the final round, where Baltimore took a flier on him. He was placed on injured reserve for the ‘99 season; but did play on special teams in 2000. The summer after the Ravens first Super Bowl win, Anthony was released and never played pro football again. His career with football is far from over though, he’s been a coach since 2003. Currently, Anthony is Purdue’s co-defensive coordinator and safety coach.
2002 Ed Reed (Rd. 1 Pick 24 | Overall 24)
Nothing I type will reflect the greatness of this draft choice. Franchise’s hope to one day make an Ed Reed pick. Taken for granted as Ravens fans, we must argue if this is the franchise’s first, second or third best draft pick in history.
2002 Chad Williams (Rd. 6 Pick 37 | Overall 209)
Tough to crack the roster when the rookie safety next to you is Reed, but Williams played with the Ravens for three seasons. A sixth round pick, Williams lasted six seasons in the NFL, playing in 79 games. With only six starts, Chad still put up a career statline of 164 tackles, 9 interceptions, 3 touchdowns, 7 sacks and 25 pass deflections. As I mentioned, for a sixth round selection, he played better than expectations.
2003 Gerome Sapp (Rd. 6 Pick 9 | Overall 182)
Another late round safety who didn’t produce long-term for Baltimore. Gerome was cut after one season with Baltimore, and after two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts he re-signed with Baltimore for two seasons. Nothing significant for stats here.
2006 Dawan Landry (Rd. 5 Pick 13 | Overall 146)
Dawan Landry’s career was very up-and-down, but with the Baltimore Ravens, Landry provided another top-talent safety, pairing with Ed Reed. His rookie season, 2006, Landry helped provide another punishing piece to quite possibly the best Ravens defense in history; his rookie statline reads 69 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 interceptions and one touchdown. The next season Landry continued his success, but in 2008, Landry’s career almost ended; upon tackling former Raven Jamal Lewis, Landry sustained a spinal concussion injury. He was later judged to be okay, but the season was over for the safety. In 2009 he regained the starting spot and placed second on the team in tackles, behind only Ray Lewis. After his 2010 campaign with the Ravens, Dawan signed a five-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He only played two years with the Jaguars releasing him in March of 2013. He signed with the Jets, but his pro-career was clearly ending.
2008 Tom Zbikowski (Rd. 3 Pick 24 | Overall 86)
Baltimore knew Ed Reed wouldn’t last forever, and finally searched for a new safety to usher in the new decade. Unfortunately, Tom Zbikowski was not the guy. Zbikowski played only three seasons with the Ravens, and nothing spectacular to show for it. After a few more seasons in the NFL, Tom retired from professional football. His explanation, “Football got old to me…I enjoyed my first two years in the NFL because it was a challenge. I was playing with the best. But after awhile you don’t care whether you win or lose because you’re still getting a paycheck. I enjoyed high school and college much more." Now, ‘Z’ is a firefighter (second Ravens safety to become a firefighter) with the Chicago Fire Department.
2008 Haruki Nakamura (Rd. 6 Pick 40 | Overall 206)
Another safety in ‘08 who couldn’t quite put it all together. Nakamura hung with the team for four seasons, but due to a broken right ankle in ‘09, he didn’t play too much besides special teams. In 2010, his pre-season game looked like his ‘breakout’ season, with a sack and interception against the New York Giants. He played in all sixteen games that season, and recorded 16 tackles. He never truly become an NFL caliber safety, but good special teams play and adequate backup safety skills kept him on the Ravens roster.
2012 Christian Thompson (Rd. 4 Pick 35 | Overall 130)
Christian Thompson played less than two seasons in the NFL, but landed with the team the year Baltimore hoisted their second Super Bowl championship. He played in seven games total.
2013 Matt Elam (Rd. 1 Pick 32 | Overall 32)
After yesterday’s news, this may not only be only the worst safety pick, but one of the worst busts in Ravens history. It’s too bad, Elam was a good college safety with potential.
2014 Terrence Brooks (Rd. 3 Pick 15 | Overall 79)
Quickly after the Elam pick, Baltimore looked to fix their mistake by taking Brooks in the draft immediately following Elam’s. This proved no better, as the team cut Terrence in 2015. The cut didn’t make sense for many Ravens fans and media sources, but the former Raven found a new nest with the Philadelphia Eagles. His play with the Eagles proved worth a roster spot for many.
With 12 safeties drafted in 20 years, the Ravens have missed more than they’ve landed; but when you select the greatest safety in football history, it tends to balance the scales. The Ravens have found success selecting the last line of defense, hopefully they can find more.