A look back at Ravens’ draft returns

I don’t believe in grading draft classes. Sorry, I just don’t.

Yeah, it’s harmless, and if you’re a fan, it’s nice to get instant feedback for how those around the NFL feel your team fared over the three-day draft process. But there’s simply no way of knowing how a draft class will play out.

Last year at this time, most experts gave the Ravens very high marks for the return they got on their six picks - Sergio Kindle, Terrence Cody, Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta, David Reed, Arthur Jones and Ramon Harewood. (ESPN’s Mel Kiper gave the Ravens an “A”; they were one of only two teams to earn that grade.)

How did those six fare last year? Kindle and Harewood didn’t play a down; Cody, Dickson and Reed saw action but, for the most part, made minimal impacts; and Pitta and Jones did little outside of serve as blocker/cover guys on the kick units.

That’s not to say that group won’t make a major impact further down the line. There’s also not much point in passing judgment on a draft class after just one year; I was just trying to prove a point.

So, to make a long story not-so-short, I won’t be grading the Ravens’ 2011 draft class. I will, however, share my opinion on the eight guys coming to Baltimore and pass along the thoughts of those who made the selections. Hope that’ll do.

One of the comments from the Ravens’ post-draft press conference that I thought was interesting came from director of player personnel Eric DeCosta, who admitted that while things haven’t exactly shaken out for the Ravens the way they would have liked in years past, they had the chips fall their way this year.

Jimmy-Smith_Colorado.jpgAs DeCosta put it, some years, the Ravens have had a plan in mind for how to address certain positional needs on their team, but those ideas have gotten busted up during the draft by the actions of other organizations. This year, things played out as DeCosta had hoped.

“There’s been many years, for instance, where we would need a corner, and we just couldn’t get one,” DeCosta said. “We tried, four different rounds to get a corner, and he gets picked every time. This year, the draft just fell for us the right way. We had some positions that we felt we needed to address to make ourselves a better team, and really good players fell down to us - players that we really felt could help this team. They were there when we had the chance to pick. So, we got lucky this year, in some respects.”

You’ll never hear an NFL team claim that it’s not happy with its draft class or it got a crappy return on its picks. That won’t be a clip you’ll see on SportsCenter.

It also wasn’t something we heard on Saturday night. What we did hear is that the Ravens feel they got two first-round talents in the Smith boys - Jimmy and Torrey - while adding potential contributors in offensive tackle Jah Reid and wide receiver Tandon Doss. They expect late-round selections of cornerback Chykie Brown, defensive end Pernell McPhee, quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running back Anthony Allen to improve depth and contribute on special teams.

There are some needs areas which weren’t addressed in the draft, including getting an explosive pass rusher (more on that later today), adding depth on the interior of the offensive line, and grabbing a middle linebacker that can learn under - and hopefully, one day, replace - Ray Lewis.

Still, many of the major holes on the roster appear to have been addressed. That’s not normally an Ozzie Newsome-like draft strategy, but the Ravens’ GM feels he was able to get top talent while still filling key spots on the roster.

“All in all, we were able to address some needs, but we were also able to get some players that the City of Baltimore would be very proud of,” Newsome said. “And, we think we added some quality depth to our football team. We are a better football team today than we were when we started out at 8:00 on Thursday night.”

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