What the Numbers Really Mean
I just read an article on Foxsports.com written by John Czarnechki and I was left with quite the bitter taste. I honestly have never read John Czarnechki’s work before but I did have to question his grading system and giving the Ravens a C- for their drafting since 2003.
Czarnechki begins by suggesting that Ozzie Newsome’s draft history since 2003 produced few stars. I argue that you cannot judge a draft by the number of pro-bowls a player attends and more by the effect the playerhas had on the team. If you actually look beyond the number, then there is little evidence that the Ravens should receive a C- on drafting since 2003.
To start with, I feel as though Czarnechki’s number of starters on the team is not accurate. He stated that the Ravens had 5 starters out of their picks from the draft period of 2003-2008. By my calculations he is not remotely close. For starters, we can look no further then the offensive line. Jason Brown, Ben Grubbs, and Joe Gaither all started and played 15 or more games for the Ravens. Marshal Yanda started the year and played the first 5 games before getting hurt and then missing the remainder of the season. He was replaced by Chris Chester. Adam Terry also saw significant time last year, whether it was filling in on the line or playing situationally at tight end. What do all of these guys who, mind you, teamed up with Willie Anderson to be one of the best offensive lines in Ravens history have in common? They were all drafted by the Ravens between 2003-2008. That is four starters for the Ravens on just one unit. And while not one of them made the Pro Bowl, the league sure thought highly of Jason Brown who received quite a large contract this off season from the St. Louis Rams.
Moving on to the back field, the Ravens used a combination of draft picks to supplement veteran running back McGahee as both Rice and Pro Bowler, Le’Ron McClain, filled in and played while McGahee had an injury plagued season. That’s right two more drafts picks that were effective- one of which was a starter most of the year. Those backs also played behind rookie QB Joe Flacco. He played the Ravens right into the AFC Championship game as a rookie and appears to have quite the bright future. Flacco also connected on 41 passes, second on the team, to fellow Raven draftee Mark Clayton.
So after breaking down last season’s starting offensive lineup I counted seven offensive players that were drafted by the Baltimore Ravens between the examined period. And they sure did not look like C- talent as they made their way to the AFC Championship and were one drive away from making it a SUPER season.
Well now that we had so much fun with the offense, should we even take a look at the defensive side of the ball? Breaking down the defense, to me, takes special consideration because you have to consider all the talent that the Ravens have always had heading into the draft. Talent like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Bart Scott, and Chris McAlister-all players that have played a constant role on this team game in and game out since they were drafted, or in Scott’s case signed as an un-drafted free agent. You can not penalize a team for drafting so well they never had to replace certain players, can you?
As we continue to examine the defense, look at these numbers and tell me the Ravens are a C- draft organization: From the 2003 draft, the Ravens were able to establish Pro Bowler Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson as every-down-starters on their defense. The draft of 2006 gave the Ravens one of the best defensive tackles in the game, and one of the biggest Pro Bowl snubs last year, Haloti Ngata. The Ravens also drafted their starting safety Dawan Landry. In 2007 the Ravens selected Antwan Barnes who has established himself as an effective 3rd down pass rusher last season. Finally, in 2008 the Ravens selected Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura, two safeties who saw their minutes increase throughout last season due to injuries to guys like Dawan Laundry. To me that is a very solid collection of talent that was complied from the six drafts between the years of 2003-2008. Oh and yes, that was another four more starters. That brings my count for last season’s team to eleven of the twenty two starters drafted between 2003 and 2008. And another four that were drafted previously and are still in the starting lineup. No fault of Ozzie’s there.
Baltimore will forever be scared with the first round failure of Kyle Boller. I personally think he was better then most gave him credit for, but if nothing else, he was a constant competitor that always gave his all to this team no matter how much he got pounded or ridiculed by the media and fans. But I will say by way of first round draft picks he was in fact, a bust. But take that pick away and I feel as though the Ravens have drafted very well.
Not only do the Ravens effectively build a starting unit year in and year out through the draft, they also build a lot of depth. They are able to recognize the talent that exists in each draft and find a way to maximize every pick so that their team is filled with quality and depth at each position. I would argue that without the players obtained from the draft period of 2003-2008, this team would have not even made the playoffs let alone been one drive away from the Super Bowl. The point will be argued that there is no way of telling what type of talent would have replaced them but one this is for sure, there was plenty of talent there.
So really for any football minded person to write about the Ravens draft history and suggest that Ozzie’s recent drafts are anything less that B+ (I would say A+ but I may be biased) really is insulting one of the great minds and eyes for talent in all of football.