Ravens draft: New motto is “best man available”

April 26, 2009 | Drew Forrester

The Ravens by-passed flash, flair and fancy on Saturday’s draft day opener and instead went with one common theme with their two selections:  character.

It’s very hard to debate the merits of their two choices.

Michael Oher’s story is well documented at this point and anyone who professes to be a Ravens fan knows all about him by now.  He’s a young man that will feel ultra-embraced by the close-knit Ravens family at 1 Winning Drive and that should bode well for his future success given his “family life” issues growing up.  The knock on him – for lack of a better term – is his “intelligence”.  Well, he’s not trying to figure out how to send people to Mars, he’s a football player.  And with no disrespect to offensive lineman everywhere, his career will depend more on physical strength and technique than it will depend on “how smart he is”.  Quarterbacks need to be smart.  Offensive lineman need to be technically sound and willing to get down and dirty in the trenches.  

Paul Kruger might serve as Trevor Pryce’s eventual replacement and is a rush-end quarterback chaser who has also endured a long list of personal battles in recent years.  A car accident cost him his spleen and one kidney and he was stabbed a year ago during a fight while serving a Mormon mission.  Any issues about his health should be eliminated, however, since there’s no doubt the Ravens did their due diligence x 2 on this kid before signing off on him in round 2 yesterday.

Once again though, as has become their theme in recent years, the Ravens looked long and hard at the “man” as much as they did “the player”.  Baltimore’s favorite saying: “best player available” is now looking more like “best MAN available”.  Nothing wrong with that theory, if you ask me.  Guys like Haloti Ngata, Ben Grubbs and Joe Flacco (the team’s last three first round picks) are all “character guys” who can also play a little bit.  If Oher winds up as valuable as those three, we’re gonna be thrilled.

Oher does a number of things for Baltimore.  He can start off on the right side and learn from the likes of an All-Pro in Willie Anderson.  If necessary – depending on injuries, depth, etc. – he can also move over to guard, where he played at Ole Miss during his freshman year.  When Oher is a prime-time right tackle, his ability will give the Ravens a chance to run the ball through both sides of the line.  In the Jon Ogden era, it was typically “Jamal goes off left tackle” about 20 times a game.  Oher’s emergence will provide the Ravens with a good mix of left-side, right-side running plays.

Day 2 is underway and the Ravens will be looking to fill depth needs in the secondary, at tight end and, perhaps, at wide receiver and linebacker.  Let’s see what shakes out this afternoon, but I’d call draft day #1 a success by anyone’s standards.

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