RAVENS GREATEST DRAFT CHOICES OF ALL TIME

Street Talk RAVENS GREATEST DRAFT CHOICES OF ALL TIME

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This Top Guns article was originally posted two years ago on February 10, 2005.  Time certainly has a way of changing how you might view a top ten list like this one.  We invite you to chime in on our message board and share your thoughts with us on how you think this list should look if we were to re-write the article today.  C’mon, have it!
 
10. 2002 ~ Terry Jones, Jr 5 (155)/Chester Taylor 6 (207)/Chad Williams 6 (209) ~ Generally speaking, NFL teams seeking value in the draft during rounds 5 & 6, are hoping to find productive team players willing to fill roles and willing to contribute on special teams, provided of course that these players can even make the squad. In 2002, the Ravens landed 3 players that not only made the squad, they contributed exactly how the Ravens hoped they might. Terry Jones, Jr. is a developing tight end with solid athleticism and a great work ethic. Chester Taylor capably spells Jamal Lewis and is a contributor on special teams. Chad Williams has been an effective dime back and is developing a knack for producing big plays. The Ravens would have been happy if 1 of these players worked out in 2002. For all 3 to produce as they have must be considered a major coup.

9. 2001 Edgerton Hartwell 4 (126) ~ In Hartwell’s rookie season he saw action in 16 games and two postseason games. In 2002 he started in all 16 games at inside linebacker and became the first player in Ravens’ history other than fellow Ray Lewis to lead the team in tackles with 191 total tackles. "The Edge" earned AFC Defensive Player of The Week honors after his 15 tackles (10 solo) performance in a 13-12 win v. Tennessee on November 24, 2002. Hartwell’s development has enabled the Ravens to implement the 3-4 Defense at a time when the defensive line thinned out due to the 2002 salary cap purge. Edge has contributed consistently at levels well beyond that of a fourth round selection.

8. 1999 Edwin Mulitalo 4 (99) ~ In 1999 as a rookie, Edwin stepped into the starting LG role in week nine after RT Harry Swayne suffered a season ending foot fracture. Everett Lindsay who had played LG was moved to RT. Edwin has yet to relinquish the position except for a brief experiment at RT in 2002. Mulitalo earned a spot on College & Pro Football Newsweekly’s 1999 All-Rookie Team. He’s also been a Pro Bowl alternate, an All-Madden member and together with J.O., he forms one of the most physically dominant run blocking left sides in the NFL.

7. 2000 6 (186) Adalius Thomas ~ Considered a "tweener" coming out of Southern Mississippi, AD’s athleticism impressed the Ravens. The Ravens were confident that AD could make contributions on special teams. Looks like Phil Savage and his boys were dead on in their evaluation. This year Thomas was selected to his first Pro Bowl as the AFC’s Special Teams Specialist. The Ravens have found a way to use AD’s talents on defense despite the "tweener" label. He is a disruptive force on defense at linebacker, end or in the tackle position where he often alters the passing lanes for opposing QB?s. In 2001 against the Colts, Thomas was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after recording eight tackles (five solo), including 1.5 sacks, forced two fumbles and defending two passes in 39-27 win. The only down side to AD is his status as an unrestricted free agent. His versatility could persuade another team to pay AD more than the Ravens may be able to afford.

6. 2002 1 (24) Ed Reed ~ In retrospect, it?s easy to see that Ed Reed’s holdout prior to the 2002 season certainly slowed his development and productivity early on in his NFL career. Several of us joked that the only thing that Reed did during his first few games with the Ravens was help teammates off the pile of tacklers. However, during the second half of the season when defensive schemes finally clicked for Reed, we began to see the playmaker that everyone labeled him as during Reed’s days as a Miami Hurricane. His second half play enabled Reed to be named to the NFL’s All Rookie Team and had he played at that level the entire year, he may have garnished many first place votes. Reed’s prowess on special teams is rare. On any given punt, he is a threat to block it and return it for a score. In 2003, Reed found his way to Hawaii and should be a staple of the Pro Bowl for years to come.

5. 2001 1 (31) Todd Heap ~ Initially labeled soft by many here in The Land of Pleasant Living, Heap recovered from nagging injuries that plagued his rookie season and developed into the Ravens only playmaker at any receiver position. Since 2002, Heap has consistently made miraculous catches for touchdowns or to keep Ravens’ drives alive. In each of his past two seasons, Heap has gone on an all expenses paid vacation sponsored by the NFL — it’s called the Pro Bowl. Heap has developed his blocking skills to where he is now an accomplished blocker. He’s demonstrated toughness over the pass two seasons willingly exposing his body to some brutal hits over the middle of the field. This is a pick that fell into the Ravens? laps in the 2001 draft. After the draft, Peter King commented: "I think without any question I love Baltimore’s pick up of Todd Heap. To me, he’s got a chance to be this generation’s Todd Christensen — an 80-, 90-catch guy, if Brian Billick chooses to feature him like that." When you consider that Freddie Mitchell (25), Willie Middlebrooks (24), Rod Gardner (15), David Terrell (8) and Gerard Warren (3) were all taken ahead of Heap, you’d have to say that the stars were aligned for the Ravens back April 21, 2001.

4. 2000 1 (5) Jamal Lewis ~ Some may recall that the 1999 NFL Draft started Jamal’s journey to Baltimore. During that draft, the Atlanta Falcons fresh off their Super Bowl XXXIII appearance, were eager to take Reggie Kelly, a tight end from Mississippi State who was still on the board when the Ravens were set to pick the 11th player in the second round. To entice the Ravens out of that spot, the Falcons dangled their number 1 pick for the 2000 NFL Draft. After a horrific season by the Falcons, that pick turned into the 5th pick in the 2000 Draft which ultimately became Jamal Lewis. Many questioned the pick give Lewis’ knee injury but clearly no one can find fault with it now. In three healthy seasons, Lewis has rushed for 4,757 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Imagine what Lewis might do if Fassel is successful in developing the Ravens’ passing attack. Credit the Ravens for some great draft maneuvering in securing this pick — a pick that helps to soften the blow of the one they made 5 picks later, Travis Taylor. And for the record, old Reggie Kelly in 74 career games has caught 82 passes. The Falcons burned the 35th pick in the draft two years later to take Alge Crumpler, 4 picks after the Ravens selected Todd Heap. Compare Jamal and Heap to Kelly and Crumpler and then be thankful for Newsome, Savage and company.

3. 1997 1 (4) Peter Boulware ~ In 1997, Peter Boulware was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year by AP, Pro Football Weekly, Football Digest, College and Pro Football Weekly, as well as a second alternate to the Pro Bowl. Besides being a solid individual and quiet leader on the Ravens’ team (Boulware won the Ed Block Courage Award after playing the 1999 season in a shoulder harness to support his dislocated shoulder), Peter Boulware is the Ravens all-time sack leader, a 4 Time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl Champion. In 2001 Boulware led the AFC with 15 sacks and was second in the NFL. While some of his pedigree would have resisted the Ravens’ attempts to develop him into an all around linebacker, Boulware embraced the idea sacrificing personal statistical accomplishments for the benefit of the team. Every team would love a Peter Boulware.

2. 1996 1 (4) Jonathan Ogden ~ No one can claim to be the "Original Raven" other than J.O. Ogden was chosen with the 4th pick in the 1996 draft — the Baltimore Ravens first pick ever. Many at the time wanted the flashier, very talented and equally troubled Lawrence Phillips instead. What a dreadful mistake that would have been. Ogden is a 7 time Pro Bowler and 6 time Pro Bowl starter. He is generally considered to be the best tackle on the planet. His nimbleness afoot and excellent technique leave viewers with the impression that he isn’t exerting himself. Yet defenders regularly fall in front of him in both run blocking and pass blocking situations. The Original Raven is a can’t miss Hall of Famer.

1. 1996 1 (26) Ray Lewis ~ Considered by many to be too small to play MLB in the NFL, Ray Lewis fell to the Ravens at #26 in the 1996 Draft. The Ravens’ scouts loved Lewis’ heart, determination and desire for excellence. They can measure speed, strength and size but they can’t measure heart. And #52 just might have the biggest heart of all in the NFL. Ray’s accomplishments in the NFL are staggering considering the fact that he is still only 28 years old. What award hasn’t Ray won that he could win other than league MVP? Even setting aside all his personal accomplishments, Ray is perhaps one of the greatest team leaders in all of sport for all time. And to put this draft pick into proper perspective consider this list of players taken before Ray: Jermaine Mayberry (25), Daryl Gardener (20), Eddie Kennison (18), linebackers Reggie Brown (17), John Mobley (15) and Kevin Hardy (2). Other "notables" drafted before Ray: Ricky Dudley (9) and Tim Biakabutuka (8). One day in the future if not today, draft experts will look back on the Ravens’ first round selections in 1996 as the greatest first round in NFL Draft history. Who would argue?

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts “The Fanimal” also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi.

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