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Late for Work: How the Ravens Nearly Missed Out on Drafting Ray Lewis and Ed Reed

From left: Ed Reed, Ray Lewis
From left: Ed Reed, Ray Lewis

How the Ravens Nearly Missed Out on Drafting Ray Lewis and Ed Reed

No one epitomized what it means to play like a Raven more than Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, but it's scary how close the two Hall of Famers came to not playing for the Ravens.

Former Packers executive Eliot Wolf told the story on “The Adam Schefter Podcast” that Green Bay was all set to take Lewis in the 1996 draft, while General Manager Eric DeCosta shared on “The Ryan Ripken Show” how the Ravens "had to settle" for Reed in the 2002 draft after the player they really wanted went one spot before they were on the clock.

Wolf, the de facto GM of the New England Patriots, recalled being in the Packers' war room when the team thought it was getting Lewis with the 27th-overall pick, but the Ravens took the middle linebacker at No. 26.

"[The Packers] actually had Ray on the phone," Wolf said. "They were talking to Ray and Baltimore was still on the clock."

Fortunately for the Ravens, the Packers didn't make a trade to jump ahead of them, or else Lewis would've been doing the "Squirrel Dance" at Lambeau Field before a stadium full of people wearing cheeseheads.

With Lewis gone, Green Bay selected offensive tackle John Michels, who would only play two seasons before a knee injury ended his career.

In 2002, the Ravens had their sights set on linebacker Napoleon Harris with the 24th-overall pick, but the Raiders snagged him at No. 23.

"It was quiet and painful in our draft room, because we were going to get the 17th-best player on our board," Decosta said. "Now we have to settle for a safety from Miami who's undersized, a step slow, the 24th-best player in the draft. Long story short, Hall of Famer versus Napoleon Harris, where is he now? No one knows. And that happens. That's the nature of the draft."

Harris ended up playing for three teams over seven seasons and starting 73 games, but he never made it to a Pro Bowl. Oh, and as far as where Harris is now, he's a member of the Illinois State Senate.

Adisa Isaac Predicted to Be 'Surprising Rookie Gem'

Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine predicted edge rusher Adisa Isaac will become one of this season's surprising rookie gems, which he defined as players who have "the talent, team situation and scheme fit to become the unsung stars of this year's draft."

Ballentine said Isaac could help in making up for the loss of Jadeveon Clowney.

"Odafe Oweh's former Penn State teammate is a little undersized at 6'4", 247 pounds but actually excelled against the run as a Nittany Lion," Ballentine wrote. "He posted 16 tackles for loss but also showed the ability to wrong-arm oncoming blocks or set a hard edge depending on his responsibility.

"B/R scout Matt Holder did note Isaac is a little unrefined. His hand placement isn't consistent and he needs to develop more pass-rush moves. But the 22-year-old is a strong athlete who posted an 8.99 relative athletic score and can at least be effective as a blitzer as a rookie. That might be enough to get him on the field and making an impact much sooner than the consensus thought."

Lamar Jackson Outside the Top Five in Pundit's Quarterback Power Rankings

Ravens fans should probably be used to seeing Lamar Jackson get slighted by pundits, but it still strikes a nerve when Jackson doesn't get the respect he has earned.

The latest snub came from CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin, who released his first quarterback power rankings of 2024. Jackson came in at No. 6.

The five quarterbacks ranked ahead of Jackson were: the Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes, San Francisco 49ers' Brock Purdy, Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen, Cincinnati Bengals' Joe Burrow, and Houston Texans' C.J. Stroud.

All great players for sure, but it's absurd that the reigning and two-time league MVP isn't among the top five.

Regarding Jackson, Benjamin wrote: "His return to elite form in 2023 ended with a relative whimper, but that doesn't change the fact he remains one of the league's toughest players to defend on a down-to-down basis. Dual-threat home runs are effortless to him. Derrick Henry should aid on the ground, too."

Jackson fared better in “The Athletic Football Show’s 2024 quarterback draft, in which the show's three analysts drafted current NFL quarterbacks based on projections over the next three years.

Jackson was selected third, after Mahomes and Allen.

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