There is a sweet spot for the Ravens’ front office when selecting between 98 and 137. It’s there, in the 4th round, that the Ravens may have had their greatest relative success.
1. Jarret Johnson 2003 (109): A. Johnson was originally drafted as a DT and played there in 2003. It still shocks me to see his size that season, but he lost a mess of weight and was among the NFL’s best edge setters for 8 of his 9 seasons with the Ravens.
2. Edwin Mulitalo 1999 (129): A-. With the exception of Ben Grubbs, Newsome has never reached above the 56th overall selection for an interior offensive lineman. That’s conventional football wisdom and Yanda, Mulitalo, Rabach, Brown, Gradkowski, etc. are all fruits of selections made in round 3 or later. Mule was a solid run blocker who got props from John Madden when he and Pat Summeral did the Ravens/Cowboys game in 2000. The Ravens won 27-0 and much of the 2nd half was spent tellustrating the outstanding run blocking of Ogden and Mulitalo (who happened to graduate from the same High School as Madden).
3. Dennis Pitta 2010 (114): B+. He appears to be Flacco’s best friend on the team and has developed a solid connection as a receiver. He has good hands, but can’t block. This is the last cheap year he’ll play for the Ravens, so the value of any additional years beyond 2013 will be reduced.
4. Jason Brown 2005 (124): B+. Brown played G and C well for 4 seasons with the Ravens (45 starts, 54 games) before leaving for a monster deal with the Rams. The Ravens signed Birk to replace Brown and Matt was better at less cost.
5. Le’Ron McClain 2007 (137): B. He never had an impressive YPC in his time with the Ravens, but he had an outstanding record of converting 3rd and short for the 2008 team and had his averages reduced by the number of leads he effectively protected during Flacco’s rookie year. He made the Pro Bowl as a fullback in 2008 and 2009, the only appearances as a Raven by any of the 4th round selections. He also caught 70 passes in his 4 seasons. Wisely, Ozzie chose to let him walk after the 2010 season and he has had 93 rushing yards among 204 scrimmage yards since.
6. Edgerton Hartwell 2001 (126): B. The knock on Hartwell as a “system” player is not entirely fair. He was a solid run defender who couldn’t do much in coverage (like most linebackers). His play during Lewis’ absence in 2002 kept the season interesting until the final week. He was also a 2-down contributor to the 2003 defense with 658 snaps (64%) and started all 16 games in 2004 before moving on to Atlanta.
7. Ovie Mughelli 2003 (134): B. Mughelli was a solid lead blocker for Jamal Lewis and special teams player through his first 3 seasons. In 2006, he entered the week 9 game at Tennessee with 16 receiving yards (4 catches) as his total yards from scrimmage in 30 career games. Beginning that week, he would catch 20 passes for 179, rush 12 times for 51 yards, and become an important part of the Ravens offense. Mughelli would become the NFL’s highest-paid fullback the next season when he signed with the Falcons. He played 5 seasons (69 games) there, and despite making the Pro Bowl in 2010, he was never as productive as he was down the stretch in 2006.
8. Brandon Stokley 1999 (106): B. He had 60 catches (15.2 YPC) and 7 regular season TDs to go along with the first TD of SBXXXV. He also ended the Ravens’ 5-game streak without a TD with a catch and run at Cincinnati (2000, week 10). He’s accumulated 384 career catches and is still active. While he never made a Pro Bowl, his 2004 season with Indianapolis (1,077 yards, 10 TDs) was the best of any Raven 4th round selection.
9. Demetrius Williams 2006 (111): B-. He was a big, physical receiver with some speed, but couldn’t stay on the field. Williams and Stokley each played 4 seasons with the team and had very similar career numbers as Ravens (Williams 63 catches, 16.0 YPR, 4 TDs). Williams played just 2 games with Cleveland after leaving the Ravens. I gave Stokley a bump because his loss via FA after the 2002 season may have factored into the comp pick used to draft Sam Koch.
10. Antwan Barnes 2007 (134): C+. Barnes played 481 regular-season snaps in 3 years with the Ravens and had 5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles among 22 tackles. He didn’t have much variety in terms of pass rush moves (primarily speed) and never developed an arsenal like Kruger did during his tenure here. He gave the Ravens a payback with 4 sacks in their week 15 game against the Chargers in 2011.
11. Gino Gradkowski 2012 (98): C. He was a need pick. It appears he will take over as the starting center in 2013. He’s played only 79 snaps to date, so this grade is a function of expectation based in part on the opportunity presented.
12. Dave Zastudil 2002 (112): C-. The 4th round is now thought to be too high to draft a punter, but the Ravens got a dependable and inexpensive player for 4 seasons.
13. Tandon Doss 2011 (123): D. Flacco likes him as a target, but he’s displayed less than ideal hands for a possession receiver. We’ll know much more by the end of 2013.
14. Ron Johnson 2002 (123): D. He played 22 games, including 4 starts in 2002-3. He has a receiving touchdown among 12 career catches, but the play I can recall is him recovering a punt blocked at Cincinnati and returning it for a TD in 2002.
15. Marcus Smith 2008 (106): D. Smith was a fine special teams player who never got started offensively, but was active for 14 games in 2010, long after the pretense he would ever play offense was gone. He got an unexpected chance to play WR as a rookie in the Ravens last 8 games, up to and including the 2008 AFCC at Pittsburgh. In that game he drew a pass interference penalty on Ike Taylor to set up the TD that brought the Ravens within 2 (Q4, 9:32). PFF records him as on the field for 187 offensive snaps that season and as far as I can tell, Flacco targeted him 4 times. He would never record an NFL catch.
16. Tyrus McCloud 1997 (118): D. McCloud was a linebacker active for 23 games (4 starts) in 1997-8. He recovered Derrick Mason’s muffed punt vs. the Oilers in the last game at Memorial Stadium that set up the Ravens’ first TD.
17. Christian Thompson 2012 (130): D-. He is young and plays a position of need, but it’s a major hit to a player’s value to be in The Program. He has a chance to move up if he is given a starting role via injury or plays special teams effectively for the remainder of his rookie deal. However, he’s much less likely to be effective, more likely to be cut, and another offense will likely be the end of his NFL career. I hope I’m wrong about him.
18. David Hale 2008 (133): F. Hale was a G/T swingman who I used to think looked a lot like Gimli the Dwarf from Lord of the Rings. My opinion has since changed. I now think he looks more like Dwalin the Dwarf from The Hobbit. He played just 17 offensive snaps in 18 game activations spanning 2008-9. Those 2 teams had the strongest offensive lines the Ravens have ever fielded.
19. PJ Daniels 2006 (132): F. PJ was a running back who was active for 1 game in 2007.
A few observations about the 4th round
The favorite position of the Ravens’ front office in the 4th round is WR. That’s also the place where they have been largely unsuccessful to date. It’s funny, because they have had a need at WR for much of the franchise’s existence, but have been unable to get it solved.
Conversely, the front office drafted a solid set of linebackers (JJ—originally a DT, Hartwell, Barnes, McCloud)
Of the 19 selections, 8 went on to be starters (Gradkowski should be the 9th) for at least a year and several others played key roles. The Ravens arguably have had greater success in the 4th round than in the 3rd where only 4 of the 15 selections went on to be starters.
Here’s a look at how the Ravens have performed on draft day in a couple other rounds: