Top 5 Ravens Draft Classes

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Even though the Ravens have had only 14 draft classes in their franchise history, it's not easy to whittle it down to the best five.

That's because there's no denying that Baltimore has been one of the NFL's top franchises when it comes to drafting good players.

But which were the best years?

With the draft right around the corner on April 22, let's take a look back and see just which draft classes are the cream of the crop. Here's my top five; feel free to chime in with your favorites.

### No. 5 – 2002

The Ravens got a sure-fire Hall of Famer in the first round and followed it up with some big contributors on offense, defense and special teams. But Ed Reed puts this class on the map.

First Pick: S Ed Reed, 1st Round (24)Nabbing one of the top defensive playmakers to ever play the game at the back of the first round is quite a find.

Value Pick: DE Anthony Weaver, 2nd Round (52)Weaver was never a Pro Bowler, but he was a solid run-stopper averaging 34 tackles and 3.5 sacks in four seasons in Baltimore.

Late-Round Steal: RB Chester Taylor, 6th Round (207)Taylor was a valuable complement to Jamal Lewis in four seasons in Baltimore and has since shown his value in Minnesota and now Chicago.

The Class: 1 – S Ed Reed; 2 – DE Anthony Weaver; 4 – P Dave Zastudil, 4 WR Ron Johnson; 5 TE Terry Jones; 6 – DB Lamont Brightful, WR Javin Hunter, RB Chester Taylor, S Chad Williams; 7 QB Wes Pate

### No. 4 – 2006

Baltimore got star-power, quality starters and even some good backups in this draft. Top-to-bottom it was one of the deepest in franchise history.

First Pick: DT Haloti Ngata, 1st Round (12)The Ravens swapped spots with the Cleveland Browns in order to take the Pro Bowler in Ngata. The Browns opted for linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, whom they recently traded for a third-round pick.

Value Pick: P Sam Koch, 6th Round (203)Koch has been one of the league's top punters, especially at dropping them inside the 20-yard line, for the past three seasons.

Late-Round Steal: S Dawan Landry, 5th Round (146)Finding starters in the sixth round isn't easy; finding one that starts from Day 1 is almost unheard of. Landry has been the season-opening starter each of his four years.

The Class: 1 – DT Haloti Ngata; 2 – G Chris Chester; 3 – CB David Pittman; 4 – WR Demetrius Williams, RB P.J. Daniels; 5 – S Dawan Landry, TE Quinn Sypniewski; 6 – P Sam Koch, DB Derrick Martin; 7 – LB/DE Ryan LaCasse

### No. 3 – 2007

Baltimore put together three-fifths of its current offensive line in one draft, grabbing Ben Grubbs, Marshal Yanda and Jared Gaither all in one year. Add a Pro Bowl fullback and a solid backup QB and you've got one heck of a draft.

First Pick: G Ben Grubbs, 1st Round (29)Grubbs isn't a Pro Bowler yet, but it may not be long. Grubbs has helped make the Ravens one of the premier grinding offenses in the NFL.

Value Pick: FB Le'Ron McClain, 4th Round (137)McClain was the Ravens' second fourth-round pick and he is now a two-time Pro Bowler who can also contribute at running back.

Late-Round Steal: T Jared Gaither, Supplemental DraftThe fact that Gaither, the Ravens' starting left tackle, is now tendered with a first round pick should tell you how good a pick this was.

The Class: 1 – G Ben Grubbs; 3 – WR Yamon Figurs, G/T Marshal Yanda; 4 – LB Antwan Barnes, FB Le'Ron McClain; 5 – QB Troy Smith; 6 – LB Prescott Burgess; Supplemental – T Jared Gaither

### No. 2 – 2008

This didn't have the depth of 2007, but delivered the two keys to the Ravens' offense. Baltimore had gone through a merry-go-round of quarterbacks without finding a franchise signal-caller. And then the seas parted and Joe Flacco was selected. Ray Rice in the second round could go down as an all-time bargain.

First Pick: QB Joe Flacco, 1st Round (18)Trading back, then back up to grab the quarterback of the present and future; now that's ingenious.

Value Pick: RB Ray Rice, 2nd Round (55)The Ravens traded back from near the top of the second round and still got their player. And what a player that is – a Pro Bowl running back and one of the top offensive playmakers in the game.

Late-Round Steal: S Haruki Nakamura, 6th Round (206)Nakamura has developed into a good special teams player and adds great depth. Although not really late-round, fellow safety Tom Zbikowski and linebacker Tavares Gooden in the third round each look pretty good right now as well.

The Class: 1 – QB Joe Flacco; 2 – RB Ray Rice; 3 – LB Tavares Gooden, S Tom Zbikowski, T Oniel Cousins; 4 – WR Marcus Smith, C David Hale; 6 – Haruki Nakamura; 7 – WR Justin Harper, RB Allen Patrick

### No. 1 – 1996

The Ravens really started with a bang. Drafting two future Hall of Famers with the franchise's first two picks. It just doesn't get better than that. This draft didn't have too much depth, but that could be the best first rounds in NFL history.

First Pick: T Jonathan Ogden, 1st Round (4)Here are the picks that went before Ogden: Keyshawn Johnson (Jets), Kevin Hardy (Jaguars) and Simeon Rice (Cardinals). None of them hold a candle to Ogden, an 11-time Pro Bowler.

Value Pick: LB Ray Lewis, 1st Round (26)It's hard to call this a value. It's an absolute steal, no matter what number it is. Lewis will go down as one of the greatest defensive players to ever play the game. Need I say more?

Late-Round Steal: WR Jermaine Lewis, 5th Round (153)He scored what could be considered the clinching touchdown in the Super Bowl and was a dynamic special teams returner for six years in Baltimore.

The Class: 1 – T Jonathan Ogden, LB Ray Lewis; 2 – CB DeRon Jenkins; 5 – WR Jermaine Lewis; 6 – LB Dexter Daniels, WR James Roe; 7 – QB Jon Stark

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