Around the Web: Draft Grades


It happens every year. On the day after the NFL Draft, media members and draft analysts dole out quick grades on each team's haul, even before any of the rookies have worn a big-league jersey.

This time is no different. took a sweep around the Web to check out how people are grading the Ravens' 2008 haul of prospects.

We'll start locally. **Ken Murray of the *****Baltimore Sun** *is generous with his grading, giving the Ravens a B. He places special emphasis on the first-round selection of Joe Flacco.

Here is what Ken writes:

*Pick to watch // QB Joe Flacco has a better temperament to lead the team than Kyle Boller. It shouldn't take long before he takes over.

Bottom line // Their first three picks - Flacco, RB Ray Rice and LB Tavares Gooden - are guys who figure to contribute early. Although he's suspect, CB Fabian Washington was worth a fourth-pick gamble. Offensive tackle remains an issue.*

But, Ken's review wasn't the most generous of the bunch. That would fall to **’s John Czarnecki**, who offers an A-.

With Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan gone, the Ravens did the wise thing and traded down with Jacksonville, knowing they would be able to take Delaware's Joe Flacco later in the first round. Flacco was a definite need with Steve McNair retired and Kyle Boller never holding onto the job. Flacco is 6-foot-6 and has a solid arm. Rutgers RB Ray Rice was a steal with the 55th pick, and he'll give Willis McGahee a chance to rest. Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski is a former boxer and tough guy. David Hale of Weber State played well in the East-West Shrine Game and could develop into an offensive tackle, although he lacks athleticism.

Baltimore native and expert draftnik **Mel Kiper, Jr.** also gave the Ravens high marks. After a long weekend of 'round-the-clock coverage on ESPN, I'm surprised he can still see straight enough to write. Of course, he's probably starting on the 2009 draft tomorrow.

Mel's grade was a solid B.

The Ravens wanted Matt Ryan, but Joe Flacco was the next-best quarterback in this draft. The Ravens made a great deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars that got them three additional picks. They also traded down and still were able to get running back Ray Rice in the second round. The Ravens need to start bringing in young linebackers and Miami's Tavares Gooden had a very good 2007 season. Tom Zbikowski is a good third-round choice, but only if his play resembles what he did in 2006 as opposed to 2007. Oniel Cousins is a versatile offensive lineman and WR Marcus Smith will help on special teams in kick coverage and as a returner. Safety Haruki Nakamura and RB Allen Patrick might have to make this roster by performing on special teams.**

After that, **Clifton Brown from *The Sporting News*** thinks the Ravens posted a C draft, citing the blockbuster trade with Jacksonville as a "major risk."

Getting Joe Flacco was important, but they took a major risk trading out of the No. 8 spot. Ray Rice is a small back, but he should form a nice combo with Willis McGahee.

Searching a little deeper, it seems that a final C is of the general media consensus. Consider **Pete Prisco of**. He wrote Monday morning:

*Best pick: Third-round pick Tavares Gooden was the best defender on a Miami defense that included two players picked higher than him. Ray Lewis has a fellow from The U. he can take under his wing. *

*Questionable move: Trading up to get quarterback Joe Flacco. They probably could have stayed at 26 and still landed him. Plus, Brian Brohm and Chad Henne were better options. *

*Second-day gem: Safety Tom Zbikowski, a third-round pick, is one of those players who will find his way onto the field. He will be a special-teams star -- bare minimum. *

*Overall grade: C. They reached for Flacco and I didn't really like the pick of Ray Rice in the second round."*

**Rick Gosselin**, reputed NFL columnist for the Dallas Morning News, agrees with Prisco's C.

*The Ravens needed a quarterback and probably overextended for Flacco. New head coach John Harbaugh didn't forget his special teams roots when he drafted safeties Zbikowski and Nakamura and WR Smith. *

As does **Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports**. He thinks Flacco's height may be a detractor and stamps Baltimore with a C.

There's a lot of excitement about Flacco, who has a cannon arm. But look at the history of the league: QBs who are taller than 6-5 generally aren't very good. They can't move fast enough to avoid hits. Flacco lumbers when he moves and he's making a big jump from Delaware. Good luck. Rice is a very good backup to Willis McGahee, and Gooden is a much better player than he showed at Miami.

***USA** Today’s* Larry Weisman** would have given the Ravens higher than a C, but he didn't count the trade of a fourth-rounder for cornerback Fabian Washington.

Wanted a QB. They suspected Matt Ryan would not fall to them in the eighth spot and could not trade up. So they dropped down and grabbed a recent riser in Joe Flacco. Big arm, but how his skills translate from a smaller college program (Delaware) to the NFL is anyone's guess. Filling this position has been an intractable problem for years. Did not get an OT to replace Jonathan Ogden. Grade is higher if you like trade for CB Fabian Washington, a former No. 1 of Oakland's acquired for a fourth-round pick.

And while he typically gives out letter grades to teams after the draft, **Dr. Z of** takes another route this year. He writes that the Ravens are on "The Sliding Scale."

*They wanted Ryan. Falcons got him. So we'll take our ball and go home, said Ozzie Newsome, and he packed up and pulled out of the pick. And there he was heading for the second round, when hello there, Joe Flacco, the big guy with the laser arm, was still aboard. So at 18 he became a Raven. I don't think Kyle Boller's in trouble -- yet. The kid is still too raw, and wild. And at the draft room in New York a great cheer went up when the Ravens, with their second-round pick, selected Rutgers star halfback Ray Rice, the greatest player to wear the scarlet since the great Paul Robeson.
Finally, our friend **Don Banks at** writes that Baltimore is going to love Tom Zbikowski's toughness at safety.

Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski is a tough, hard-hitting player with a name that sounds just as tough and hard-hitting. So it's perfect that he wound up going to Baltimore in the third round, 86th overall. The Ravens defense is as physical as any in the league, and that swagger that they're known for is a big part of their persona.

Zbikowski, who is also a boxer in his spare time, is going to fit right in with the mindset in Baltimore.

As far as Flacco goes, however, Banks thinks that Flacco will get a shot at playing as a rookie if he can make an impression in training camp.

*The Ravens will play Kyle Boller and/or Troy Smith early because they've said all along this spring that Flacco might need some time to acclimate to the NFL game. But a lot will depend on how comfortable Flacco looks in training camp. If he's solid and smooth in his execution, he's going to get a shot at some point in his rookie season.

*While post-draft evaluation is fun to debate moments after the final pick, a true measure of a draft takes a few years to see. So, here is what the others are saying now, but Ravens fans will be hoping the Class of 2008 is getting straight A's once they hit the field.

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