Note: For analysis of the Ravens’ secondary CLICK HERE, and for linebackers CLICK HERE.
At his press conference following the Super Bowl, Ozzie Newsome was clear in pointing fingers at the middle of the Ravens’ defense, notably DT, as a spot where the Ravens must improve in 2013.
Before we talk about the object of his affection, I want to suggest a way to consider draft busts that is a little different than what you’ve seen. We can agree that draft busts come in many shades of gray and that’s what makes a lot of draft discussions interesting, but the additional dimensions of time and roster space are typically overlooked.
When I’m defining draft busts below I want to exclude all players who held a regular offensive or defensive role for more than two full years and played well. Obviously, Ray Lewis and Jon Ogden aren’t on the margin of this category, but players like Duane Starks, Dawan Landry, Chad Williams, Edgerton Hartwell, and Chester Taylor were also successful draft picks because the Ravens harvested lots of cap-friendly value from their rookie contracts.
I’m going to suggest 10 categories for draft busts and submit that virtually every payer that didn’t play a significant role for the drafting team can fit into one of them:
1. Cut in first training camp or off-field issues.
A good example from Ravens’ history is RB Chris Barnes, a 5th-round selection who couldn’t make the 2001 Ravens despite the injury to Jamal Lewis.
2. Chronically injured.
Sergio Kindle and Dan Cody are the poster children here. Kindle was released during his 3rd season after providing no return on investment. Cody played well in 14 career snaps, but that couldn’t make up for the wasted roster spot stemming from 3 years of injuries. I guess it’s obvious this sort of draft bust is more costly than cutting bait from a pick in that player’s first camp.
The player is often stashed on the practice squad or IR for 2 years then has difficulty playing well enough to get a meaningful role. This is most common for “size-and-shape” offensive linemen or wide receivers. Ramon Harewood and Justin Harper are good examples.
4. Hold on too long.
This is a broad category where a player survives an extra year on the roster for no apparent reason other than his drafted status (a sunk cost). The best example in recent years is Davon Drew.
5. Stuck behind veterans.
This player typically gets some fringe playing time, perhaps due to injury, but isn’t able to crack the starting lineup. The excuse of being behind veterans is especially poor, because all teams must consistently look to get younger to comply with the cap. Play well enough and those veterans will be “Turked” or you’ll be traded for value. Chris Chester and Haruki Nakamura are good examples here. Neither a bad player by any means, but the team could have hoped for more with either selection. Chester could also go in the next category.
6. Close, but not quite.
This player gets some playing time, but doesn’t play well enough to help this team. In some cases it might be a matter of positional depth. In others, the player isn’t quite good enough to be a regular. These players are often traded in the last year of their rookie deal, but sometimes they play it out but are allowed to walk. Examples in this group are Tavares Gooden, Derrick Martin, and Kyle Boller.
7. Drafted too high.
The player may have had some solid value, but the pick used was too high. I submit this is only an issue with 1st and 2nd round selections. Mark Clayton would be in this group. You can see why Kyle Boller is looking up at this category.
8. Core special teamer.
This is a mild failure in many cases. With some 6th or 7th round selections, that’s really what the selecting team wants…as a fallback. Excluding return specialists and the kicking crew, other draft selections need to contribute on either offense or defense to be considered successful. The best example on the Ravens in recent years is Prescott Burgess, who played well on special teams but contributed just 23 career defensive snaps in 5 seasons with the Ravens. David Reed and Marcus Smith are also in this group. I look at these players as ones where good special-teams coaching can provide some decent residual value for your missed selections at WR, RB, LB, and DB.
9. Blossoms after rookie deal is complete.
This is an extremely rare category, particularly if you mean a player that blossoms for the drafting team after the rookie deal is complete. Dwan Edwards is the lone Ravens example. Such a player is not providing draft value, but we don’t need to discuss that here. If including late bloomers anywhere, you can throw Aubrayo Franklin in this category also.
10. Blossoms in RFA season.
This is a difficult group for the team. They get some value, but are not optimally positioned to sign the player to a long-term deal a year early. Good examples in Ravens history are Tony Pashos, Ovie Mughelli, and Paul Kruger.
Back to Mount Cody. His snap counts by season are 2010: 115, 2011: 497, 2012: 427. That’s not a bad profile for a rotational defensive tackle, but he’s failed to make any significant pass rush contribution (½ QH, 0 sacks, and 2 PDs career) and the team has been only marginally better at stopping the run with him in. He is now at the crossroads of his career and guaranteed to be no better than the last category of draft bust identified here. Even if he plays well in 2013, the Ravens must still draft DT help this April.
I included Terrell Suggs with the defensive line, since he plays more snaps with a hand on the turf. Of the 8 men who played DL for the Ravens in 2012, I didn’t do an evaluation on Bryan Hall. He played just 73 snaps and had 3 tackles, so I don’t think any analysis would be particularly meaningful.
Each player has 3 grades:
- The Play grade is a representation of how well he played vs. his positional peers last season. It is not a representation of value relative to salary.
- The Value grade is a representation of the player’s contribution relative to 2012 cap expenditure. Great players, at mid career (after signing their first FA contract), will almost never be graded an A in this category since they are typically paid the market price for their services. It’s not a slap in the face to be graded a C here, but the best front offices will have many more As and Bs than Ds and Fs because they consistently uncover value in the draft and sign bargain free agents. A player who does not miss time due to injury, but otherwise performs exactly as might be expected by his contract would be graded a B-. In the case of linebackers and secondary, this grade includes consideration for their contributions on special teams.
- The Developmental grade is an indication of how much the player improved relative to expectation as well as a measure of future expectations. The primary reason to expect growth (or decline) is age, but injuries (particularly changes to prospective durability), leadership, position changes, etc. were all lumped in this category. Even a 35-year-old gets a developmental grade.
Snap totals and percentages include only non-penalty snaps which were played competitively (excludes kneels and spikes) for both regular and postseason games unless noted otherwise. The 2012 Ravens had 1,390 such defensive snaps as a unit in 20 games.
Individual Player Comments
2012 Role: 2-down NT (427 snaps, 31%).
What was there to like about his season? Not much. He did not have a big impact versus the run in most games and was invisible when the other team threw.
When did he play best? The Chiefs averaged just 2.5 YPC in his 19 run snaps in week 5. When Cody wasn’t in there, the Chiefs averaged 5.2 YPC. He also shared a QH and had a PD versus the Steelers in week 13.
When did he play poorly? He played a career-high 51 snaps versus Houston in week 7 and did not hold up well to the extra duty with 2 tackles his only contribution.
What was his signature play of 2012? He bulled Mike Brisiell which caused the Raiders’ guard to step on Palmer’s foot and fall for a sack by Kruger.
What does he need to do better? He makes no contribution to the pass rush. According to the NFL, he still does not have a QH, but he and Jones each hit Batch to take him down in week 13 (Q2, 3:07).
Grades: Play D, Value D, Developmental: F. The Ravens need Cody to play better in his 4th year, but to date he has shown no signs of progression.
2012 Role: Starting 3-4 DE (649 snaps, 47%).
What was there to like about his season? He flipped a switch at mid season and began to make a significant contribution to the pass rush.
When did he play best? In the Ravens’ last 10 games, including the playoffs, he had 5.5 sacks among 12 QHs. In particular, the game at San Diego was the turning point of his career. He had 2 sacks and consistently held off double teams from Clary and Vasquez to help stop Matthews.
When did he play poorly? His lack of pass rush was part of the problem in the week 2 loss to the Eagles.
What was his signature play of 2012? He hustled to recover the fumbles of Ridley and James in the AFCC and Super Bowl, respectively. The plays were similar in that he was a little late to the pile each time, but burrowed in to get the football. Against the 49ers, Walker, Iupati, and Moss were all close, but none made an effort to get on the ball as Jones recovered.
What does he need to do better? He’ll be a fine 3-4 end if he can play at the level he did in the last 10 games for a full season.
Grades: Play B-, Value B+, Developmental A-. Arthur took a big step forward in the 2nd half. This is a case where his value grade will probably drop in 2013 simply because the Ravens have to pay him a RFA tender.
2012 Role: 2-down NT (507 snaps, 36%). He started 17 of the 20 games.
What was there to like about his season? After a year out of football, he played poorly early in the season, but picked up his game in the 2nd half like a handful of Ravens’ defenders.
When did he play best? He drew 3 holding penalties on Broncos RG Chris Kuper in the divisional classic.
When did he play poorly? I reviewed the Chiefs’ 17 runs of 6+ yards in week 5 and Kemo had a mention in 10 of those. He was continually handled by Allen, Asamoah, and Lilja that day.
What was his signature play of 2012? He ranged far to his right to force a fumble by Morris (Q2, 9:39) in the game at Washinton that was scooped up by Kruger.
What does he need to do better? Generate some pass rush, but it’s unlikely he’ll be doing it as a Raven.
Grades: Play C-, Value D, Developmental C. At age 34 and a year removed from his last action, he came back to play well for the last 2 months after playing poorly for most of the year. It was about what the Ravens should have expected, but weighted to the more important games.
2012 Role: Pass rushing 3-4 DE (503 snaps, 36%). McPhee had a heavy workload through the first 6 games (308 snaps, 71%). His knee injury then limited him to situational pass rushing for most of the remaining 14 games.
What was there to like about his season? He still is one of the better inside pass rushers in the NFL. The low sack total doesn’t reflect the pressure he generates. He returned, as needed, to a significant snap count in the postseason (105, 32%).
When did he play best? In the AFCC, with the Patriots running their no-huddle offense, McPhee was used sparingly for 3 quarters (6 snaps prior to Q4, 11:02) before being inserted for 17 of the last 18 snaps when the Ravens had the lead. He was fresh and by far the Ravens’ most dynamic defender from that point. His efforts included 2 passes deflected at the LoS in addition to 3 other pressures.
When did he play poorly? He wasn’t good against KC when he had just 2 tackles in 43 snaps.
What was his signature play of 2012? In the AFCC, he deflected Brady’s pass high in the air where it was picked off by Ellerbe (Q4, 6:57). That effectively sealed the game.
What does he need to do better? It has yet to be determined if he can be an effective 3-down, 3-4 DE. The bane of pass-rush specialists is the no-huddle offense, so it would be helpful if McPhee could play the run effectively.
Grades: Play B-, Value B, Developmental C+. Injuries stunted what should have been a fine 2nd season, but McPhee is still on track for a solid career.
2012 Role: Starting 3-4 DE (1001 snaps, 72%). He continues to be the most effective of the Ravens’ linemen. He did not play versus Oakland and sat out the finale at Cincinnati, yet played 72% of the team’s snaps.
What was there to like about his season? He was the heart of the Ravens interior run defense and provided solid pass rush (5 sacks among 19 QHs officially).
When did he play best? He had 3 QHs on Michael Vick versus the Eagles in week 2 and drew a holding penalty on King Dunlap.
When did he play poorly? He had 3 missed tackles in the game at San Diego.
What was his signature play of 2012? When it appeared Brady had a clear opening to run for a first down, Haloti chased him down and delivered a QH as the Pats QB threw incomplete on 4th and 4 (Q4, 8:35) in the AFCC.
What does he need to do better? Stay healthy. Ngata has started each of the last 2 seasons very strong only to be derailed by injuries. It would also be useful to reduce personal fouls (unnecessary roughness plus 2 roughing the passer flags in 18 games).
Grades: Play: B+, Value C, Developmental C. He needs to play fewer snaps, but that means the Ravens will need another good interior lineman.
2012 Role: Starting ROLB/DE (698 snaps, 50%). Suggs returned from his achilles injury in week 7 and the initial results were encouraging. He struggled at a level far below his 2011 DPOY form until he tore his biceps in week 13 which further curtailed his effectiveness.
What was there to like about his season? He set the edge effectively despite a difficult year as a pass rusher.
When did he play best? After failing to have more than 4 tackles in any game, Suggs was credited with 10 versus Denver in the Divisional win there. He had 2 sacks, forced a fumble, and had a PD.
When did he play poorly? It’s difficult to pick a specific game where his pass rush wasn’t effective. He had greatly reduced explosiveness that was apparent in every game except those at Houston and Denver.
What was his signature play of 2012? In just his 7th snap back, Suggs beat Newton inside for a 7-yard sack of Schaub.
What does he need to do better? He needs to fully rehabilitate from both injuries and regain at least a semblance of his pass-rush skill.
Grades: Play D, Value F, Developmental F. It was a lost season for Terrell in terms of personal production. His injuries certainly reduced his chances for Canton via the longevity route, but the fact that he won a ring eliminated one of the common objections for fringe Hall of Famers. At this point, I’d say his legacy is secure, but the Ravens need him to regain some of what he was in 2011.
2012 Role: Backup DE (209 snaps, 15%).
What was there to like about his season? He had an actual role as a rookie that included 13 activations. It’s fairly frequent for low-round rookies in the Ravens’ front 7 to have more limited playing time. He’s already in the DL rotation, has a baseline from which to work, and has 3 cheap contract years remaining.
When did he play best? He batted down 2 passes and had a QH versus Oakland in week 10.
When did he play poorly? Despite a relatively light workload, he wore down as the season went on, which is not unusual for a rookie.
What was his signature play of 2012? He had a QH in the Wild Card game against the Colts on which Luck threw a near interception to Reed.
What does he need to do better? He needs to be quicker off the snap.
Grades: Play C-, Value B, Developmental B-.