Ask a football fan what you expect to get with a 3rd-round draft pick and you might get a few different answers:
* A good player at a position with a deeper pool of (size-and-shape) applicants. Safety, guard, running back, and linebacker are all good candidates because pass rushers, tackles, and quarterbacks are all gone by then.
* A player with injury or off-field concerns who otherwise would have been drafted higher
* A player with an incomplete set of tools who is smart, embodies organizational values, interviews well, etc.
* A player with certain special teams value and possible value on offense or defense
In terms of results, I was surprised with the pattern exhibited by the 15 selections the Ravens have made in the 3rd round.
Of significant importance to these rankings is my belief that what a player accomplishes beyond the end of the period for which he may be tendered without competition should be significantly discounted. For players like Ogden, Reed, and Lewis, a deep discounting of their enormous career value each produced after 5 seasons still is a mess of value, but the Ravens had to compete with other teams and pay a market price for those players.
Here is how I would rank and grade the 3rd round selections:
1. Marshal Yanda 2007 (86): A+. I’d argue he was the Ravens best offensive player during the 2012 regular season and he’s one of the 2 or 3 best guards in all of football. A good chunk of his career value has been provided since he signed his long-term deal, and thus must be discounted to be ascribed as draft value. His first 4 years included a serious injury and a move to RT, but he played well wherever they put him.
2. Lardarius Webb 2009 (88): A. He was the best cornerback in football in 2011 with 8 picks, no TDs allowed, and a passer rating of 42.0 when opposing QBs threw to his assignment (playoffs included). He has not allowed a TD pass in his last 26 games, but he hasn’t shown the durability you’d like from one of your star players.
3. Bernard Pierce 2012 (84): B+. Pierce saw significant action as a rookie and played well. His total of 532 career rushing yards is already higher than the other 2 running backs selected in the 3rd round, Musa Smith and Jay Graham. On another team, we’d see more of him as a receiver. He also has the size to be a good pass blocker. I would expect he’ll extend his lead on the 3rd spot in these rankings, but it’s unlikely he’ll move up.
4. Casey Rabach 2001 (92): B. He’s one of the few non-star starters on this list. He started 23 of 42 games in 3 seasons with the Ravens. After the 2004 season, Washington gave him a big contract. He played 6 seasons there, starting 95 of 96 games.
5. Ed Dickson 2010 (70): B-. Is Ed Dickson really the 5th best player the Ravens ever got in round 3? Take a look at the names below and you’ll begin to understand the crapshoot here. He now has 96 career receptions in 3 seasons and has provided some special teams value, but he’s been a bad blocker and has had difficulty hanging onto the football when he takes a hit. It’s possible Dickson will have an increased role in 2013, so he could still improve his standing.
6. Tom Zbikowski 2008 (86): C. He made a significant special teams contribution in his 4 years with the Ravens to go along with some decent fill-in time as a starter. Had the Ravens stayed with a defense similar to that of the Ryan or Lewis eras, I’m convinced he would have provided more valuable snaps in the dime and quarter.
7. Jah Reid 2011 (85): C-. He still has a chance to move up with 2 cheap years remaining. His 2012 play at guard wasn’t particularly good, but there will be an opportunity at RT in 2014.
8. Musa Smith 2003 (77): C-. Musa played 5 seasons with the Ravens and was solid on special teams. In reviewing his record it surprised me that he had both 132 carries (496 yards) and 54 catches in 49 career games.
9. Tavares Gooden 2008 (71): C-. Gooden started 12 games at ILB (of 25 career games played) in 2009 after the departure of Bart Scott. During his 3 years in Baltimore he always had a reputation for being fragile (not a good thing for a linebacker) and a poor run defender, but he had some coverage skills. He was also a core special teams player. The Ravens attempted to trade him before final cuts in 2011, but there were no takers. San Francisco signed him and he played 31 more games (primarily special teams) over the next 2 years.
10. Chris Redman 2000 (75): D+. To summarize his career with the Ravens in glass-is-half-empty terms, he sat behind Tony Banks and Trent Dilfer in 2000, Sat behind Elvis Grbac and the 38-year-old Randall Cunningham in 2001, was hurt behind Jeff Blake in 2002, lost his job to Kyle Boller and then Anthony Wright in 2003, and was released. Redman played well in his first 4 starts in 2002 before getting hurt. He would finish with 7 TD and 3 interceptions to mask a bad YPA (5.7). He returned to relieve the injured Kyle Boller in the 2003 game at St Louis. That night he was sacked 5 times and intercepted twice in 17 drop backs (1.2 YPP) in his last action as a Raven. Redman was out of the NFL for 3 years before returning as a backup with Atlanta in 2007.
11. Devard Darling 2004 (82): D+. Another special teamer who did little as a receiver. He played 30 games with the Ravens and had 20 career catches. His 2007 season included 18 catches for 18.1 YPC. He had some salvage value, but it was a wasted pick.
12. Jay Graham 1997 (64): D. Graham played 22 games in 3 years with the Ravens that included 4 starts. He accumulated 454 yards rushing, but only 3.5 YPC. Based on the total playing time, I can’t imagine he was an important special teams player, but I honestly don’t recall. The selection of Graham was a little worse because it was the earliest #3 the Ravens ever made.
13. Yamon Figurs 2007 (74): F. Yamon caught 2 passes in his time with the Ravens, a 36-yard play in 2007 and a 43-yard TD at Houston (2008). He fumbled 7 times as a return man with 1 TD. Figurs was released after 2 seasons and then saw action with 4 teams (Detroit, Tampa, Cleveland, and Oakland) who were familiar with his 40 time, but did not have time to look at any video.
14. Oniel Cousins 2008 (99): F. He is synonymous with bad tackle play in Baltimore. Here are my notes from the epitome of his efforts against the Steelers 12/29/09:
There isn’t any 1 play that would have turned the game around for Oniel had he been out. It’s not surprising that this was the worst game I’ve ever recorded for an offensive lineman, but the margin shocked me. The previous worst was .57 (Oher on 10/18 vs. the Vikings and Jared Allen). Cousins had 50 blocks, but missed 5, allowed 2.5 QHs, 2 sacks, and committed a personal foul (-9) and a false start (-3). That’s 18.5 points on 60 plays (.31 per play). I am surprised he returned after Tony Moll entered and made no serious mistakes in 7 plays. Woodley beat him at least twice with lightning-quick spin moves to the inside (Q3, 9:36) and (Q4, 2:39) before Lamar closed out the afternoon for the Ravens offensively by beating Oniel to the outside (Q4, 2:34).
Is there a salvageable talent here? Oniel has the size, athleticism, and fire to be a good run blocker. Some of his problems as a pass blocker are probably correctable, but I can’t help but wonder if he’d be more effective as a guard.
In the 116 games played by Ravens tackles since that game, there has not been as poor a performance. Cousins played in 25 games for the Ravens, 4 of them starts. He was released following a disastrous preseason in 2011.
15. David Pittman 2006 (87): F. He had trouble submitting to rookie hazing (I like the story about him being unwilling to serve chicken to the veterans) and was cut after just 2 seasons. His 2007 record doesn’t look that bad with 7 games, 1 start, and 2 INTs. He “won the starting job” midway through Q2 of the 38-7 drubbing at Pittsburgh, following a disastrous outing by Derrick Martin. Unfortunately, Pittman would lose that job 3 plays later when he was hurt. That Ravens team seemed to lose a corner per week during their 9-game losing streak in ’07 and Pittman was supplanted by street pickup Willie Gaston despite a gaping opportunity for a 2nd-year player.
The Ravens 3rd-round selections have a significant boom/bust theme which is best demonstrated by example.
Musa Smith provided 5 years of solid special teams play plus some backup work as a running back. I have him ranked 8th out of the 15 selections the Ravens have ever made in the 3rd round. By definition, he’s the median, but I think it’s also pretty clear that if you drafted Musa in the 3rd round every year, that would not be good (meaning he’s below the mean for a 3rd round pick). Players like Yanda and Webb skew the value of the group as a whole, so a high percentage of total value the Ravens have drafted in that round comes from picking stars.
It’s worth noting that Newsome’s early history includes just 1 selection in round 3 during the team’s first 4 drafts. That selection didn’t work out well (Jay Graham), but the other 3 were traded in part to acquire Deron Jenkins, Jim Harbaugh, and Scott Mitchell.
Those were some bad trades.