Since moving to Baltimore in 1996, the Ravens' draft prowess has been well-documented under general manager Ozzie Newsome.
Nine first-round draft picks have earned Pro Bowl selections. In all, 13 draftees have taken a trip to Hawaii (or Miami, the location of this year's All-Star game). For a team that professes a penchant for building through the draft, the Ravens certainly have hit the mark over the years.
As Newsome and the rest of the personnel department hunkers down to evaluate the players who will make up the Ravens' future, let's take a look at the past. Here is my list of the Top 10 draft picks in Ravens history.
Keep in mind, this is meant to reflect all Ravens drafts, not just the current team, so that puts perspective on someone like Michael Oher's one-year accomplishments.
Check back on Wednesday for a look at the Ravens' top trades, and don't miss Tuesday's Top 10 free-agent signings.
10. TE Todd Heap (31st-overall, 2001)
Heap may have battled injuries during his rookie season (ankle), but he quickly became one of the hottest tight ends in the NFL, earning Pro Bowl berths in 2002 and '03. Always a receiving threat, Heap was extolled for his blocking in a more sedentary role in 2008, but again emerged a red-zone stud last season with six touchdown catches.
9. RB Ray Rice (55th, 2008)
It's only been two seasons, but Rice has the makings of a special playmaker in the league for a long, long time. The Ravens relied on Rice for a ton of offense last year, as he finished second in the league with 2,041 total yards from scrimmage (1,339 rushing, 702 receiving). Many times, the diminutive Rice turned what was thought to be a small gain into a huge game-changer.
8. OLB Terrell Suggs (10th, 2003)Suggs entered the league as a loquacious youngster and quickly earned AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors with 12 sacks. More recently, the three-time Pro Bowler has expanded his game from merely a dominant hand-in-the-ground pass rusher to a well-rounded hybrid linebacker. Just check the two interceptions he ran back for touchdowns in 2008.
7. DT Haloti Ngata (12th, 2006)
Finally, people across the league are giving Ngata his props, as he went to his first Pro Bowl in January. But, the 6-foot-4, 345-pound monster has been plugging up the middle for one of the NFL's best rush defenses for years. If Ngata can improve his pass rush this offseason, he could become one of the NFL's best at his position for a while.
6. CB Chris McAlister (10th, 1999)
McAlister was an athletic freak. At 6-foot-1, 206 pounds, he had the size and aggressiveness to stand up to any receiver, but the agility and quickness to run with them, too. Registering an impressive 26 career interceptions, McAlister routinely shut down the opposition's top wideout. McAlister earned a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens, went to three Pro Bowls and even notched a then-NFL record for the longest play with a 107-yard touchdown return of a short field goal attempt in 2002.
5. RB Jamal Lewis (5th, 2000)
The workhorse Lewis literally carried the Ravens offense early in his career. As a rookie, he was key to Baltimore's Super Bowl march with 309 attempts for 1,364 yards and six scores. Later in 2003, he earned a place in NFL history with a magical 2,066-yard campaign on 387 carries. Lewis left the Ravens in 2007 holding a franchise-record 7,801 rushing yards.
4. LB Peter Boulware (4th, 1997)
This Ring of Honor member came off a decorated collegiate career at Florida State to become the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, log four Pro Bowls and amass a whopping 70.0 career sacks (a Ravens record). Boulware teamed with former Raven great Michael McCrary to make up one of the league's most-feared pass-rush tandems for many years.
3. QB Joe Flacco (18th, 2008)
This might be a little high to put a two-year veteran, but in a game where quarterback is the most important position on the field – and drafting one in the first round is generally a 50-50 crapshoot – having the guts to trade down (from No. 8 to No. 26) and then back up and take Flacco now looks like a genius move. If he can stay healthy, the Ravens finally have their franchise quarterback.
2. S Ed Reed (24th, 2002)
The former Miami Hurricane essentially changed the way safety is played in the NFL. A five-time Pro Bowler, NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 and only unanimous All-Pro selection in 2008, Reed's impact cannot be understated. He's done it all as far as personal accolades go, and in addition, he is the only player in league history to have touchdowns off a punt return, blocked punt, interception return and fumble recovery.
1a. LT Jonathan Ogden (4th, 1996), 1b. LB Ray Lewis (26th, 1996)
How can you discriminate between the Ravens' first two draft picks? Both are immediate Ring of Honor enshrines, both are first-ballot Hall of Famers, and both will go down as among the best to ever play their respective position.
Even now, Lewis is playing at an elite level, as his 164 tackles last season only builds on his franchise record (2,346). He is coming off his 11th Pro Bowl selection and still making plays like a young buck – see his game-saving hit on Chargers running back Darren Sproles in Week 2.
Ogden rode off into the sunset with a nagging toe injury, but he truly epitomized the prototype left tackle, with agility and grace that belied his massive size (6-foot-9, 345 pounds). Like Lewis continues to do, J.O. was a perennial Pro Bowler in his day and a man all young offensive linemen aspire to become.
One Final Note: Another aspect that should not be overlooked is the high character of a Ravens draft pick. Looking back on this list, the charitable contributions and community service of each player is a common thread.