Biggest Surprise Players in Ravens’ History


While 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.

Which of these players do you think is the Ravens biggest surprise?
Adalius Thomas (22%)
Marshal Yanda (12%)
Ray Rice (20%)
Jarret Johnson (10%)
Lardarius Webb (36%)
This poll has completed. Thank you for voting.


17 Raves on “Biggest Surprise Players in Ravens’ History

  1. Josh on said:

    I like the above list, but I am wondering if you considered including Flacco. With the debacle that was Kyle Boller, taking a quarterback out of DELAWARE in the first round brought a mountain of skepticism amongst the so-called “experts” in and around Baltimore. I must admit that I had my reservations simply because I do not watch much D-1AA football. Five straight playoff appearances and one Super Bowl title later, I think Ozzie and Co. hit a homerun.

  2. Josh on said:

    What I loved about JJ was that he played defensive tackle in college and yet became a force at a brand new position with us. He was the epitome of the lunch pail guy who did the dirty work. I really hope Upshaw gets his act together to carry on that legacy.

  3. Tyler on said:

    I was very surprised not see Justin Tucker on that list. For an undrafted kid to come in and unseat and established veteran, and then to have the near perfect year he had, I call that a surprise. Overall accurate list though.

  4. Joe on said:

    Cary Williams should get an Honorable Mention too.

    Joe Flacco doesn’t belong on this list because the expectation was there as a 1st round QB. 1st round QBs that don’t deliver steady performance are labeled disappointments and busts. Joe wasn’t a surprise, except for those who lambasted the pick. The even keeled analysis was that Flacco had the highest ceiling of any QB taken in 2008.

    I’d actually be a bit hesistant putting Rice on the list, simply because as a 2nd round pick, he was also expected to contribute a lot. But, he deserves his spot because he’s not just a solid starter, he is in the conversation as a Top 5 RB in this league, due to his role in the receiving game.

    • The Porn Clerk on said:

      Ray Rice shouldn’t be on this list, because if anyone watches any college football they knew exactly what this kid would bring to the table. The only surprise around Rice for me was that he wasn’t handed the #1 spot on day one.

      • Ebuhuel on said:

        Cary Williams shouldn’t be on the list, it took him almost 3 seasons to get on the team. His 4th season he finally showed up and after that season he was gone. There is a reason why he didn’t get paid big time by Ozzie cause Jimmy Smith is just as good maybe better (we have to wait 2 seasons to make final call on that)

      • Chris on said:

        I agree that Ray Rice shouldn’t be on the list. At Rutgers he tallied 19 100-yd games and 6 200-yd games, all in 3 seasons. Anyone that considers Ray Rice a surprise, doesn’t pay attention to college football and puts too much emphasis on over opinionated NFL Draft Analysts.

  5. karl on said:

    One could make the argument that Ray Lewis should be on this list. He was a LB that was said to be too small to play LB in the NFL and he went on to change how that position is played.

    No one had Ray pegged as a future HOF let alone a NFL Icon.

  6. Paul Lukoskie on said:

    TL – even though he was a 1st rounder, Joe Flacco has to be on that list IMO. Everyone knew he had the arm and the upside, but not one of us knew that he would be as consistent and clutch as he has been. Considering the checkered history this franchise has had with the QB position, Flacco has been a really nice surprise.

    The last time a D-1AA QB won a SB and the MVP? Kurt Warner (Northern Iowa) in 1999 with the Rams. Before that? Doug Williams (Grambling State) in 1987. In fact, before Kurt Warner, the only small-school player to win a SB MVP – regardless of position – was Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State) in 1988.

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