While NFL.com is flirting around with the most Overrated and Underrated for each team and the ridiculous notion that Ray Lewis is among the former, I’ve opted for a slightly different approach – Biggest Surprises and Worst Disappointments in Ravens History. Let’s talk about the Surprises.
5. Lardarius Webb ~ After the Ravens bombed with cornerback David Pittman a third round selection (87th overall) out of a small school (Northwestern State ~ Louisiana) in 2006, many thought they might repeat the same mistake when they selected cornerback Lardarius Webb from Nicholls State with the 88th overall pick just 3 years later. But Webb has quickly become one of the finest corners in the game and is an excellent tackler when supporting the run. His explosiveness in short spaces also makes him a dangerous pass rusher from the nickel position. Durability is the only thing keeping him from Pro Bowl status.
4. Jarret Johnson ~ JJ was taken in the fourth round (109th overall) out of Alabama and although he was never a star, he was a steady force for the Ravens for 9 seasons, sitting out just 1 game during that stretch. A leader and a lunch pail kind of guy, JJ was consistently listed as one of the NFL’s most underrated players. He never shied from the dirty work and always showed up.
3. Ray Rice ~ A leader both on and off the field and one of the club’s most enthusiastic forces in the Baltimore community, Ray Rice, with over 8,200 yards of offense and 39 TD’s in his five seasons has already over-delivered. The 2008 second round pick out of Rutgers is a 3-time Pro Bowler and a 2-time All Pro. And perhaps the best has yet to come.
2. Marshal Yanda ~ Let’s face it, selecting a guard out of the University of Iowa hardly has sex appeal but when the Ravens turned in their card with Yanda’s name on it for the 2007’s 86th pick they knew they were getting a tough, steady, smart player. They didn’t know they were getting one of the league’s best offensive guards who is a 2-time Pro Bowl and All Pro selection. And now, he’s even stepped up as a quiet leader.
1. Adalius Thomas ~ “AD” was undersized to play defensive end, thought to be too stiff to play linebacker and was considered to be a “tweener” in the NFL without a genuine position. However his athleticism was sold short and the Ravens found his skill set to be too much to pass on with the 186th pick in the 2000 draft. By the time the 2003 season rolled around AD was the biggest and best gunner in the AFC and those efforts landed him in Hawaii at the Pro Bowl. In 2004 Baltimore born Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan figured out how to get the most from AD on defense and from that season on, he never looked back, again earning Pro Bowl honors as a linebacker in 2006.