It’s often difficult to understand how others view the world, but I wanted to give a window into how I do in the context of an evaluation I made 4 years ago.
In 2008, I wanted to write a piece on how evaluations need to change rapidly when assessing NFL talent and put that in the context of a particular question.
The hypothetical question was: Who is the player most likely to be identified as the Ravens best 5th round draft pick ever in the 2020 Media Guide (the Ravens 25th season in Baltimore)? Obviously, conditions have changed since I wrote the following after the Ravens 17-10 opening-day win versus the Bengals in 2008:
Gaither: Looked progressively better as the game went on. He had a false start and a holding penalty, but was otherwise 72/73 as a blocker. As the game wore on, he got excellent push despite the fact the Bengals were rotating defensive linemen. He denied his assignments any inside penetration on pass plays and fanned them out so Flacco had time to step up in the pocket to throw. I’m an actuary by training, so I look to predict and price things ahead of the curve. And let’s face it, there’s absolutely no fun to predicting things after the fact. So here goes. Should the 2020 Ravens media guide include a section labeled “The Ravens best 5th round selection of all time” I’d set the current probabilities of the top spot as:
· Gaither: 37% (he’s got the marquee job and the most talent with commitment and conditioning the keys)
· Jermaine Lewis: 29% (done the most to date by a long shot, but won’t improve on his current standing)
· Dawan Landry: 12% (likely has almost 3 more years as a starter, but would need to return to a level of play near that of his rookie year to contend with Lewis)
· Troy Smith: 2% (would have to have both Flacco fail and play well himself. He would probably also have to sign his next contract here.)
· Quinn Sypniewski: 1% (current injury has greatly reduced his chance to fill a huge Ravens need)
· Field: 19% (2020 is not that far away, but it’s certainly possible a pick in the next 5 years would turn in a 6+ year career that outshines Jermaine plus all of the others on the list)
My point here is simply that there are not a lot of football games played and each provides significant portent. This list would have looked very different 3 weeks ago. Since then Smith’s stock has plummeted while Gaither has looked good. It’s completely appropriate to regauge expectations.
I saw this as a close race on 9/7/08 with 4 entities (including Mr. Field) having a legitimate chance to make the claim. We have a good bit more information today, so we’d handicap it differently. Here is the complete list of 5th round selections ever made by the Ravens along with a new estimation of their percentage chance:
Jermaine Lewis (1996): 27%. His career is in the books and he’s currently the leader.
Jeff Mitchell (1997): 0%. Mitchell wasn’t a bad player, of course, but he didn’t contribute what Jermaine did in Baltimore and can no longer improve on that standing, so he’s heaped in at the same percentage as some players who never made it.
Martin Chase (1998): 0%
Ryan Sutter (1998): 0%
Richard Mercier (2000): 0%. I’d like to have some comment about these last 3 guys, but they’ll always be anonymous to me.
Chris Barnes (2001): 0%. Despite an opportunity created by the 2001 injury to Jamal Lewis, he was outplayed by Jason Brookins. ‘Nuff said.
Terry Jones (2002): 0%. He made a modest contribution to Jamal’s 2003 season.
Aubrayo Franklin (2003): 0%. He is still in the league and bloomed late after playing few snaps with the Ravens (12 as a rookie in 2003 and 154 in his last year, 2006. I don’t have 2004 or 2005 numbers.). One could make the argument he had the best career of any Ravens 5th round draftee, but it wasn’t here.
Tony Pashos (2003): 0%. Pashos played for the Browns in 2011. He cashed in on one good season with the Ravens and was a fairly effective run blocker for several teams after he left.
Roderick Green (2004): 0%. “The CEO” is still available to organize your corporate event and lists his experience managing the 2004 rookie class camp scheduling on his resume.
Justin Green (2005): 0%
Dawan Landry (2006): 0%. There are folks that would say his 5 years were more valuable than the 6 from Lewis. I’m not one of them.
Quinn Sypniewski (2006): 0%. The Ravens are still looking for a TE that can block.
Troy Smith (2007): 0%. He was last seen crawling in the general direction of Cleveland.
Jared Gaither (2007 Supplemental): 0%. Gaither is to the Ravens what Mike Young was to the Orioles, a player for whom it is difficult to find a complete explanation for his fall. There are a number of rumors and several plausible reasons advanced, but there isn’t a single answer I believe captures the full story. His 2008 season and McPhee’s 2011 season would be close as the best single seasons turned in by a Ravens 5th round pick. Jermaine Lewis also had a terrific year in 1998 with 784 receiving yards, 6 TDs, and a good year as a punt returner.
Jason Phillips (2009): 0%
Davon Drew (2009): 0%
David Reed (2010): 0%. He’s still a Raven, so perhaps this isn’t exactly 0%, but I’m rounding to the nearest percentage point.
Arthur Jones (2010): 3%. He’ll have to improve his overall level of play, including his contribution as a pass rusher, then sign his next contract with Baltimore. I don’t see him passing McPhee unless Pernell gets hurt, but he would see increased playing time were that to occur.
Chykie Brown (2011): 0%. A tremendous longshot given the young depth at corner, but stranger things have happened. It’s more likely Chykie gets a chance somewhere else and makes good like Franklin.
Pernell McPhee (2011): 59%. He had an outstanding year as a situational pass rusher who rushed primarily from the inside. I expect McPhee is one of the players the Ravens will build their defense around and as such, he’s the clear favorite at this point.
Field (2012 or later): 11%. The window is closing on a draft pick from this year or later to make an impact that outstrips McPhee, Lewis, and Jones prior to 2020.
Happy New Year everyone. Enjoy the NFL draft this weekend, especially the Ravens pair of 5th round selections.
By the way, if you think 37% was too high for Gaither, you should have asked me after the 2009 playoff win at New England. My answer then would have been 75%!