Ravens draft history, Part 3 – The Harbaugh era

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This is Part 3 of a three-part series examining the history of the Baltimore Ravens’ strategy and results in the NFL Draft. If you missed Parts 1 and 2, click here and here. In Part 3, we look at the Ravens’ drafts to date under head coach John Harbaugh.

2008

The Ravens held the eighth pick. Perhaps it was time for a payback for 2003, back when the Jags grabbed Leftwich and put the Ravens into their own five years of QB hell.

The Ravens traded pick #8 and got back the Jags’ first round pick, #26, plus two third-round picks (#71-used on Tavares Gooden, and pick #89), and a fourth round pick (#125, sent to Oakland in the aforementioned Fabian Washington deal).

The Jags used pick #8 on Greenbelt Maryland native, defensive end Derrick Harvey. Harvey held out longer than any Jacksonville player had ever done (33 days), was the last first round pick to sign, then got 5-years and $23 million from the Jags.  In three seasons, the “pass rusher” totaled eight sacks for Jacksonville. They eventually waived him and the Broncos picked him up last year for five games before dropping him as well.  Cincinnati signed him in March. Another example of a team moving up to get a “sure-bet” player who doesn’t pan out.

Ozzie then packaged two of those picks from the Jags (#26 & #89, along with his sixth round selection, #173) to move up to the Texans’ spot, at #18, where he took Joe Flacco.

Thank you, Texans, for helping the Ravens select the player who played a big role in knocking you out of the playoffs last seasons.

In essence, the Ravens used picks #8 and #173 to acquire Joe Flacco, Tavares Gooden, and Fabian Washington.

In retrospect, it would have been cleaner to just use #8 on Flacco. People would have said it was a reach, but in the end, it would have been justified. If he was a bust at pick 8 he would have been a bust still at pick 18. It was a lot of fancy maneuvering that didn’t really produce any extra value.

Although, granted, by getting Flacco at #18, the team saved millions in compensation to Flacco, who was drafted before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement brought sanity to the rookie wage scale.  Under the current contract environment, taking Flacco at #8 would make sense.

While we’re discussing value and the 2008 draft, it should be noted that the Ravens held the 38th pick in the second round, and they also traded back with that pick. They got Seattle’s second (#55) and third round picks (#86). Pick #55 became Ray Rice. Pick #86 was spent on Tom Zbikowski. They wanted the very underrated blocking tight end Craig Stevens, but he was selected by the Titans at #85.

So really, the Ravens traded back in both the first and second rounds that year. They selected players who have both outplayed their draft spots. But the “extra value” they received for trading back was not all that great.

By the way, the Ravens have only selected a player in the teens (picks 13-19) twice in team history. Both times it was used on a quarterback. They have never used a first round pick on a quarterback other than these two times, on Flacco and Boller.

2009

The Ravens held the 26th pick, but when Michael Oher was still sitting there as the Patriots were slotted to pick at #23, Ozzie moved up. It only cost him a fifth round pick to move up three spots. Belichick ended up flipping pick 26 again, to the Packers, who took Clay Matthews.

In retrospect, had the Ravens made a similar move to get Staley two years earlier, moving up just a couple spots to get their tackle, not only could they have bypassed Gaither, but Oher, too, probably. We might be talking about 2009 as they year they stood pat and took Mathews, or wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who lasted until 29.

Many fans at that time were discussing the Ravens trading back to take Nicks or fellow wideout Kenny Britt, whichever of the two fell to them. Britt went at 30.

Oher has played both left and right tackle for the Ravens in three seasons. While solid, he has not quite lived up to his first round status, nor to his celebrity that was achieved thanks to the book and movie “The Blind Side.” His troubles with false start penalties drive Ravens fans nuts.

2010

Tebow! Tebow!

The Ravens held pick #25, and for the first time ever they traded out of the first round, largely to fill holes in their 2009 and 2010 drafts from when they acquired Anquan Boldin. The Broncos, to get pick 25, which they quizzically used on Tim Tebow, gave the Ravens their second round pick (#43-Sergio Kindle), third round pick (#70-Ed Dickson) and a fourth round pick (#114-Dennis Pitta).

Supposedly defensive tackle Dan Williams would have been the pick had the Ravens stayed at 25. He went at #26 to the Cardinals. The role Williams would have served was filled probably just as well by Terrance Cody, who they used their original second round pick (#57) to draft that same year.

In retrospect, even though Kindle has not yet contributed, and Boldin has been perhaps a tad less spectacular than advertised, this was a good deal for the Ravens. Unlike two drafts prior, the top player they selected after they traded back was not as good as the player they could have taken if they stayed put…but the extra “value” players they were able to add more than justified trading back.

Pitta and Dickson admirably filled the void left by Todd Heap in 2011, allowing the Ravens to release the veteran to save valuable salary cap space, while not losing anything in terms of on-field contribution from the position.

2011

The Ravens held the 26th pick last year, which they tried to trade back from. They were unsuccessful, but still ended up with the 27th pick.

Recall that they had agreed to a deal with the Chicago Bears to swap first round picks and allow the Bears to move up from 29 to 26. The Ravens were to get the Bears fourth round pick. The Bears wanted offensive tackle Gabe Carimi and were afraid the Chiefs–who had traded back from 21 with the Browns to move back to pick #27—were going to take Carimi at 27. When a Bears staffer spotted the Chief’s card with Jonathon Baldwin’s name on it, they decided to not call in the trade to the commissioners’ office, thus stiffing the Ravens. They later claimed that is was a “mistake.”

Yeah, like copying answers off my test is a mistake.

In the resulting stunned confusion, with Ozzie thinking he had just traded back from 26 to 29, the Ravens allowed their turn to elapse. That’s when the Chiefs turned in the card on Baldwin. Ozzie then sent up the card with Jimmy Smith’s name on it, making him the 27th pick.

The Bears still got Carimi at 29 and ended up using that fourth rounder as currency to trade up 11 spots in the second round, with the Redskins, to select defensive lineman Stephen Paea.

So what can we conclude? Not much, other than the fact the draft can’t get here fast enough and you that you must share an odd affliction (draft mania!) with if you managed to read this entire three-part series.

One take away should be that you cannot worry too much about filling certain need positions. There always seems to be another option, eventually.   The Ravens seem to know this and they rarely reach for a player or deviate from their pre-set draft board.

And while it’s fun to see a team make trades, there does not seem to be a lot of evidence that teams are consistent winners when they wheel and deal. Even when the Ravens look like big draft-day winners, you can point to something they gave up in order to get the win.

It’s like gambling: fun, but it’s hard to beat the house.

In the end, it’s best to keep your pick in your pocket and live within your means.

This entry was posted in NFL Draft ~ Baltimore Ravens by Steve Hasler. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steve Hasler

Steve Hasler
March 29, 1984. Steve Häsler was attending college in Gambier, Ohio when the phone rang in his dorm room. His parents were calling with disturbing news – our beloved Colts had poured the entire organization into Mayflower vans and left town. For the next four autumns, Steve was forced to...more

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