Over the last couple of years, Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has been scrutinized by Ravens fans on his recent drafts. The more infamous selections were Matt Elam and Arthur Brown in the first and second rounds of the 2013 NFL draft. Ozzie would later redeem himself in that same draft with Brandon Williams, Ricky Wagner, and Kyle Juczscyk. The 2010 draft was highlighted by Sergio Kindle, Terrance Cody, and Ed Dickson. While the team got C.J. Mosley and Timmy Jernigan with their first two selections in 2014, Newsome whiffed on his third-round selection, Terrance Brooks. Some have even labeled 2015's first-round pick Breshad Perriman as a bust already.
In 2016, Newsome was under pressure to bring about a productive draft and prove he's still got it. So far so good, as Ozzie's selections were highlighted by Ronnie Stanley, the teams 6th overall pick. Guys like Kenneth Dixon, Matt Judon, Tavon Young, and Alex Lewis also did very well in their rookie campaigns.
A year later, ESPN's Mel Kiper decided to re-grade each teams 2016 draft based on their rookie seasons and hindsight. Originally, Kiper gave the Ravens an "A" grade, now he gives Baltimore a "B+" based on where this draft stands in his mind. While the grade is a bit down, it's still among Kiper's top six grades. The teams which graded higher, in no particular order: Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Chargers, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, and Atlanta Falcons.
"There isn't one standout here, but really early on you have a bunch of players who either contributed or are certain to stick, not to mention a new left tackle, so it's hard to knock the grade down too far."
Now, I do have to disagree with the fact there isn't one standout player. Stanley certainly was a standout player and definitely proved that he was worth the 6th overall pick. Many were unsure about the pick and there was an underwhelming feeling about it, but Stanley proved his detractors wrong and the Ravens surely hope that he becomes a left tackle that protects quarterback Joe Flacco's blindside for years to come. Kiper talked about Stanley below:
"If you feel like you have your future at left tackle nailed down in a league where there are so few really good ones, you’re thrilled."
Aside from Stanley, Kiper is right about a certain amount of players who contributed. The amazing thing is that Young, Lewis, Judon, and Dixon were fourth and fifth-round picks. Lewis, along with Stanley, formed a good left side of the offensive line. Young inserted himself high in the cornerback depth chart, and now with Brandon Carr in the fold, Young can go back to being at the #3 slot corner position that fits him well. Judon and Dixon showed they can be future starters at their respective positions. However, Dixon's chances took a massive blow with his four-game suspension to start 2017. They even got contribution from undrafted free agent Michael Pierce. Pierce was one of the reasons why people were comfortable of letting Brandon Williams go in free agency.
Of course, the reason why the draft was a "B+" was because of the team not getting much of anything from their second and third-round picks Kamalei Correa and Bronson Kaufusi. Kaufusi is coming off a broken ankle that cost him his 2016 season and Correa will indeed get a major opportunity at the starting inside linebacker spot after the sudden retirement of Zachary Orr. It is imperative for those two, especially for Correa, to prove their draft positioning's and become impact players in 2017.
Overall, this draft looks very promising, and that's all it is right now, promising. You don't fully judge a draft until about four years later, so it is still to be determined. However, Newsome proved he still can produce a good draft class and get value out of it. With the team falling just short of getting into the playoffs last year, and some still doubting his draft capabilities, Newsome knows he has to get this 2017 draft right in order put the Ravens back in the postseason, and the 2016 draft class will also have to play a vital role in the journey.