Analyzing Fair and Unfair Criticisms of Ravens' Recent Drafts
Stop me if you've heard this one before:
Proof that the Ravens are TERRIBLE (sarcasm) draft evaluators came in 2010 when General Manager Ozzie Newsome selected Morehouse offensive lineman Ramon Harewood with the 194th pick in the sixth round. Then, with the 195th pick, the Steelers selected Central Michigan wide receiver Antonio Brown.
"At this point, ESPN might as well make a '30 for 30' special on the two individuals just to torment Ravens fans," wrote WNST's Luke Jones. "Yes, the Steelers were so much smarter than Baltimore that they passed on the eventual best wide receiver in the NFL eight different times in that draft and took such studs as Crezdon Butler and Stevenson Sylvester before finally taking Brown in the sixth round."
Every Tom, Dick and Harry is a superb general manager with the power of hindsight.
That's why Jones calls commentary about the Ravens' recent draft selections "predictable."
Is draft criticism fair?
Jones explains the type he thinks IS fair, but first, he says what's not fair is cherry-picking other teams' Pro Bowl selections in any given round and comparing them to a Ravens player that didn't pan out.
"The truth is you can go back in time to any draft and nitpick why Player A was taken over Player B over and over and over," Jones wrote. "Even after selecting two future Hall of Famers with his first two picks of the 1996 draft, Newsome took underwhelming cornerback DeRon Jenkins six spots before future nine-time Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins went to Philadelphia in the second round.
"See how easy that was?"
Jones sees valid reasons behind several of the Ravens' recent picks:
1) Keeping their No. 6 overall selection (eventually franchise left tackle Ronnie Stanley) plus their third-rounder (eventually defensive end Bronson Kaufusi) instead of trading up two spots to select now-Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Jones: "In a vacuum, it's easy to call that a bad decision, but let's remember quarterback Joe Flacco was rehabbing a torn ACL at the time and the Ravens didn't have a trustworthy left tackle … it's tough to be outraged by such a move if you're someone who's also blasted the organization for repeatedly neglecting its offense since Super Bowl XLVII."
2) Trading back two times in the second round of the same draft to select linebacker Kamalei Correa instead of grabbing linebacker Myles Jack, who intercepted quarterback Ben Roethlisberger Sunday.
Jones: "The Ravens were far from the only team to pass on Jack, who was projected by some to be a top five pick if not for major concerns about the health of his knee. They also came away with starting outside linebacker Matthew Judon and strong special teams contributor Chris Moore with those trades while Jack hasn't been anything more than a solid starter for the Jaguars to this point."
3) Passing on Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who caught a miracle touchdown pass with no seconds remaining to advance to the NFC championship game.
Jones: "There's no question that the Ravens should have had an advantage on intel about a prospect playing 40 miles down the road, but there were fair concerns about Diggs, ranging from his injury history in College Park to questions about his maturity. As a result, this was a player passed over multiple times by every team in the league, so the Ravens weren't alone and Washington didn't take the local kid either."
Having said all this, Jones does say that the Ravens' recent draft classes haven't been up to par with what the organization has produced in the past.
Prior to the 2016 NFL Draft, even Newsome himself admitted recent draft classes weren't "up to my standards."
Baltimore drafted 16 Pro Bowlers from 1996 to 2008, which is more than one per year. But the Ravens have only drafted two Pro Bowlers from 2009 until now in linebacker C.J. Mosley and fullback Kyle Juszczyk. (Kicker Justin Tucker and long snapper Morgan Cox were undrafted but also Pro Bowlers and guard Kelechi Osemele became a two-time Pro Bowler after he left and signed with the Oakland Raiders in 2016).
It's this overall trend that Jones says is fair to criticize.
"The real problem isn't passing on these aforementioned players, but it's that the Ravens haven't been making enough great picks of their own in recent years to make these second-guessing exercises a moot point," he wrote. "At the macro level, it's more than fair to argue that the Ravens have too frequently played it safe, relied on quantity over quality, and possibly even conformed with too much groupthink in recent drafts.
"Even if many of the real-time decisions were sound at the time, the sum of the parts has still added up to too much mediocrity, the same place the Ravens are trying to escape."
Tony Jefferson Wouldn't Hate Jarvis Landry Coming to Baltimore
The Ravens will continue their perpetual search for playmaking wide receivers this offseason, and they'll be looking in both the draft and free agency.
Perhaps the biggest name that's scheduled to hit the market in March is Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry, and it appears Ravens safety Tony Jefferson wouldn't hate seeing him come to Baltimore.
A Ravens fan reached out to Landry on Twitter and Jefferson retweeted it, much to the chagrin of Dolphins fans.
As much as the Ravens could use a playmaker like Landry, Jefferson or anyone else shouldn't get their hopes up. I suppose anything is possible, but Landry is reportedly looking for big-time money and the Ravens just don't have it, as we reviewed last week.
Jacoby Jones Takes Wide Receivers Job at Lane College
Congratulations to former Ravens wide receiver and Super Bowl XLVII hero Jacoby Jones.
He just landed a job as the wide receivers coach at Lane College (Tennessee), a Division II school that he transferred to in 2003 after originally enrolling at Southeastern Louisiana University on a track scholarship. While playing football at Lane, Jones became a three-time All-Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) player.
"Thank you, Jesus!" Jones says in his Instagram video below making the announcement.
Lil' Haloti Ngata Is Already a Beast
I can already hear it now …
"With the 16th-overall pick (because the Ravens always have the 16th pick, right?) of the 2030 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens select lil' Haloti Ngata."
Check out Haloti Ngata's nephew's game tape (who knew that was a thing at … what … 8 years old?) below. The lil' guy is absolutely blowing up these poor kids in the trenches. He is opening up running lanes on offense and collapsing the pocket on defense.
Like uncle, like nephew?
(Note: an ealier version of LFW incorrectly wrote lil' Haloti Ngata is the former Raven's son.)
Shout-Out to Jeff Zrebiec and Mark Viviano
You'll often see me quoting the work of The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec and WJZ's Mark Viviano in LFW, so it only seems appropriate to highlight the awards both received yesterday.
Zrebiec was voted Sportswriter of the Year for Maryland for the third time and Viviano was voted the Maryland Sportscaster of the Year for the fifth time.
I respect both men greatly for their work and coverage of the Ravens and all Maryland sports. Congratulations to both, as the honor is well-deserved.