LOMBARDI’S WAY: Did the Ravens let a playmaker slip away?

Lombardi's Way LOMBARDI’S WAY: Did the Ravens let a playmaker slip away?

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From the start of the draft folks repeatedly asked me who I thought the Ravens would take.

Tough question really because as I blogged before, I don’t think the Ravens knew who they would take.

But that was a cop out of an answer so instead of the cop out, my oft repeated reply tonight was staged in three categories:

1.    Who do I think might be available and who from that group might the Ravens take that I would be ok with?

2.    Who do I think might be available and who from that group do I hope they pass on?

3.    And finally, a pair of players that I didn’t think would fall to them but if they did, boy would I love them in purple.

So, those were my categories…

For No. 1 I listed Kareem Jackson, Devin McCourty, Kyle Wilson and Jared Odrick.

For No. 2 my frightful list included Jermaine Gresham, Terrence Cody and DeMaryius Thomas.

And for 3, my guys were Brandon Graham and Dez Bryant.

The players from list No. 1 were all selected relatively close to the Ravens at No. 25 and therefore I see them as fair value picks. Not steals, but solid nonetheless.

Gresham predictably went to the Bengals and I breathed a sigh of relief – but not because he’s a bad pick. I just think that given the draft’s depth at tight end, there’s no reason to burn that pick for a guy with questionable blocking skills on a team built around the run.

Terrence Cody’s man cleavage made me question his desire to excel.

DeMaryius Thomas while a gifted athlete to me represented a player never challenged at the collegiate level and never forced to really execute the complete wide receiver route tree because he was so athletically superior to opposing defensive backs. Plus Georgia Tech’s pre-dominantly run first offense never really challenged him to make pre-snap adjustments and get in psych with his quarterback.  THAT is an every down occurrence in the NFL and at No. 25, I want a player ready to produce in 2010. I’m not seeing Thomas that way.

Now to category three…

Brandom Graham simply just makes plays in the offensive backfield. Whether it be in run support or chasing down the chucker, this guy is a baller. That said, at No. 13 in the draft I’m thinking, “slight reach.”

Dez Bryant is the guy I really wanted for the Ravens. You see I’m not one of those guys who thinks the Ravens defense needs retooling. They were the No. 3 defense overall in 2009 and that happened during a season in which they were adjusting to a new D-Coordinator.

A No. 3 defense is plenty good to win it all and let’s make no mistake about it, Greg Mattison’s troops were NOT the reason the team failed in the playoffs in Indianapolis. That burden rests on the shoulders of Flacco & Co.

In many ways the best defense is a productive and sometimes lethal offense. It can force opposing offenses to be one-dimensional.

So when Dez Bryant had slipped to New England there was a buzz in the air at Manhattan Grill where I took in Round 1 of the 2010 NFL Draft.

Bryant has game. He has speed, size, hands, physicality and change of direction skills. Mix him in with a maturing Flacco, Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and Donte Stallworth and suddenly you have an offense that screams, “danger.”

I’m thinking Lost in Space Robot B-9 right about now…

Danger plus a top end of the spectrum defense spells AFC Championship Game or better in my mind.

I’m not sure what happened when the Ravens were one pick away from Dez.

Did they not want him?

Did the fact that Bryant is represented by the agent (Eugene Parker) who orchestrated an insanely unproductive hold out for Michael Crabtree weigh in?

Or did New England (a frequent trading partner of the Ravens) simply want to keep Bryant out of their own conference, opting to peddle him to Jerry Jones?

Choosing Bryant would have been huge for the Ravens from the outside looking in.

The buzz of anticipation in the air was zapped as we watched in a collective state of uncomfortably numb NFL Network and ESPN cameras showing a celebratory Dez Bryant and family just above the Dallas Cowboy logo.

Yet before the disappointment of the Ravens’ failure to land an obtainable Bryant could actually seep in, we learned that the Ravens acquired the Broncos’ 2nd, 3rd and 4th round choices in exchange for the Ravens No. 1.

In a deep draft, that was an opportune exchange for the Ravens.

Thank you Tim Tebow.

Thank you Josh McDaniels.

Let’s hope by Saturday night we can also say, “Thank you Ozzie Newsome.”

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts "The Fanimal" also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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