If you have ever paid attention to the NFL’s Draft you’ve probably heard the oft-used axiom, “The draft is an inexact science.”
Most in and around the game would concur yet teams still invest countless man hours and huge sums of money each year to: scout; refine the scouting process; shoot film; study film; interview, workout and give physicals to collegiate players; run background checks; populate and re-seed draft boards; and so on and so forth.
It is a rather exhausting process and desirable results are hardly guaranteed.
The draft has interestingly enough developed into its own cottage industry. Thanks in large part to NFL Draft pioneer Mel Kiper, Jr., draftniks across the nation have developed websites to post a seemingly endless supply of mock drafts and player ratings only to be followed by immediate draft grades despite the fact that not a single player drafted has yet to play in a meaningful NFL game.
In many ways this cottage industry is comical but hey, if people are buying who are we to judge the industry’s marketing efforts? Clearly it’s a competitive business. And so too is the NFL Draft, hence the ample investments.
Teams are always looking for an edge in order to create some separation. Competition exists on the field, in scouting departments and in front offices. Each club seeks to gain an edge in uncovering value in players in order to develop quality of depth within salary cap constraints.
The Ravens have received their fair share of accolades over the years for their collective acumen on draft day. Ozzie Newsome as long been lauded as one of if not the best general manager in the league when it comes to possessing a keen eye for collegiate talent.
But is it deserved?
Clearly the Ravens have done well in Round 1 for the most part since their inception. Of the seven players chosen in the top 10 by Baltimore, five have earned Pro Bowl status. Two of those players – Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs – also earned Rookie of the Year honors.
During the 15 drafts that they’ve participated in organizationally, the Ravens have selected 16 players in the first round (traded away 2004 first-rounder) and these picks have racked up a total of 46 Pro Bowl appearances.
Overall the Ravens have had 14 homegrown players make Pro Bowl appearances. Thirteen were drafted while another (Bart Scott) was an undrafted free agent.
On the surface, this looks impressive.
But what if I told you that of the 46 Pro Bowl appearances, 3 players (Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Ed Reed) accounted for 30 of them? Does that make their draft day prowess more or less impressive? Or might this suggest that the Ravens have been successful choosing Hall of Fame caliber players but they haven’t been very consistent otherwise?
By their own admission, the Ravens preferred LB Napoleon Harris (25th pick) in 2002 over Ed Reed.
Was that the byproduct of an inexact science or luck?
To their credit the Ravens stuck to their draft board in 2002 and next in line after Harris was Reed. But if both players had fallen to them, Harris would have been a Raven and not the game’s best ball hawk.
After the first round where Newsome’s touch seems best, the Ravens have seemingly struggled organizationally in rounds 2 through 4 yet they’ve uncovered a few gems later in the draft and by way of undrafted free agents.
Does this inconsistency support the lofty reputation the Ravens have enjoyed on draft day?
It’s easy to sit here years after a draft and criticize the Ravens for passing on talent that in several instances was vastly superior to the player they selected. Some would argue that perhaps the player chosen was expected to fit a system or a positional need yet Newsome, if you take his word at face value, has and always will pick the best player on their draft board.
This then brings in to question the quality of the draft board. If the Ravens back in 1998 picked the best player on their board in Round 1 (Duane Starks), what does it say then about the positioning on their board when Tra Thomas, Keith Brooking, Takeo Spikes, Randy Moss and Alan Faneca were all available in Round 1? Those players combined for a total of 26 Pro Bowl appearances.
Starks never made it to Honolulu.
Today in retrospect that pick has to be considered a draft day black eye for Newsome.
In their defense, the Ravens aren’t alone in missed draft day opportunities. The list is long and well dispersed and some of the misses you might find shocking! Many teams passed on Moss back in ’98 for far less accomplished players just as they did with Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers in 2005.
So in order to fairly evaluate the Ravens draft day prowess, we need a means of comparison and for purposes of our analysis, we will measure the Ravens on draft day against the teams that they have aspired to be like: The Pittsburgh Steelers; New England Patriots; and Indianapolis Colts.
We will evaluate each pick and measure them with a point system that we’ve developed which takes into consideration the following:
· A player’s tenure with the team
· The number of games the player has started
· Where in the draft the player was selected
· How many Pro Bowl appearances each player has had
We will also consider the number of Pro Bowl players passed on by the Ravens’ war room team in exchange for less accomplished players and penalize those picks accordingly.
Upon conclusion of our series, we will attempt to effectively unlock the mystique of Ozzie Newsome.
Is his alleged draft day genius reality or a myth?
In the end, we’ll let YOU be the judge…