An Unlikely Pairing
Ravens Assistant GM Eric DeCosta has said on a number of occasions that NFL front offices try to make the draft a science with all of their analytics and measurables, but in the end, the draft might be closer to art.
From experience, front offices that have worked together for some time, can draw from the past to combine the data with their own intuitive feel about a player. Therein lies the art.
But besides the data and the gut feel that war rooms have developed over the years, there’s another factor at play.
“[Luck] is sometimes the most frustrating thing”, DeCosta explained.
“You know, why do some guys go out there and get hurt in their first practice and maybe miss the season? And another guy that was hurt a lot in college plays five years and never gets hurt? And a guy that’s never been hurt goes out and tears his ACL?”
Luck, as it relates to injuries, haunts and daunts. In hindsight, depending upon one’s fortune, it can make what appears to be a safe pick seem like a nightmare and a risky pick, a sure-fire bet.
While at the University of Pittsburgh, Curtis Martin was compared to another Pitt alum who went on to have a Hall of Fame career with the Dallas Cowboys – namely Tony Dorsett. But injuries plagued Martin’s collegiate career. He missed 15 of a possible 45 games at Pitt due to shoulder and ankle injuries. And despite talent that tantalized observers and the Texas Longhorns on opening day of the 1994 season when he rushed for 251 yards, Martin slid to the third round of the 1995 NFL Draft. But as a pro, Martin played in 168 of a possible 176 regular season games and like Dorsett, ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Good fortune, good health and some luck shined on the New England Patriots and later the New York Jets as it relates to Curtis Martin.
Perriman was raw coming out of Central Florida but he possessed a rare combination of size and speed that was too hard for the Ravens too pass on during the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. As a UCF Knight, Perriman missed only 1 out of a total of 40 games during his 3-year collegiate career. As a Raven, he missed his entire 16-game rookie season and has started just one game in the NFL.
Injuries and some bad luck hang like a cloud over Perriman’s young career, so far.
And then there’s John Ross.
There’s no denying Ross’ physical skills. He brings a rare combination of straight-line speed, explosiveness and change of direction skill. He could be the Ravens answer to Antonio Brown – a player with home run potential every time he touches the football.
The knock on Ross is that he can’t stay healthy.
As a freshman, he played in all 13 of the Washington Huskies’ games and missed one of 14 games as a sophomore, a season during which he had some meniscus issues (right knee) that were mended with postseason surgery. However, during spring practices in 2015, he suffered a torn ACL (left knee) that sidelined him for the season.
In 2016 as a red-shirted junior, Ross was electric posting 81 catches for 1,150 yards and 17 TDs. He added another score on a run and another by way of kick return. Ross played in all 14 of the Huskies games this past season. His production and blistering efforts at the NFL Combines, suggests that Ross is fully recovered from his knee injuries. But now he’s dealing with a torn labrum for which he had surgery reportedly on March 14. He should be ready for training camp but will be limited during OTAs and minicamp.
As a Raven, Ross will influence the way teams defend Marty Mornhinweg’s unit. Along with Mike Wallace, Chris Moore and Perriman, the Ravens offense could unleash a rare arsenal of speed that will spread opposing defenses. Some have argued that Mike Williams and/or Corey Davis are better fits for the Ravens because their catch radius is bigger and they provide better targets for Joe Flacco who isn’t exactly the league’s most accurate passer.
And while that may be true, it’s important to note that Ross is taller than Steve Smith, Sr. and Derrick Mason who in 5 1/2 seasons combined, caught 409 balls from Flacco. And neither (at least as Ravens) could place vertical stress on a defense like Ross.
The measurables are all there for this Husky. And it doesn’t take a Rembrandt to paint a picture of his NFL potential. What we don’t know is if luck will be on his side like it was for Curtis Martin, like it hasn’t been so far for Breshad Perriman.
Could Perriman’s misfortunes scare the Ravens away from Ross?
Might a coaching staff, that could feel the need to win now, avert the potential risk of Ross and play it safer?
Or are the Ravens feeling lucky?
The guess here is that given too many lackluster draft classes since Joe Flacco came along, the Ravens will have no choice but to play it safe and call another name besides Ross’, assuming he’s there.
And they’ll probably one day regret it…