Draft Grades – 2012

Draft Grades: Baltimore Ravens

Sometimes it feels like the Baltimore Ravens can do no wrong on draft day. Everything Ozzie Newsome touches turns to gold this time of year. How often does a team trade out of the 1st round and still end up with one of the players they were targeting?

The Ravens would have been happy to make Courtney Upshaw a 1st-rounder, but instead they move back and still snag him in the early 2nd round. The recent injury to Terrell Suggs now makes this one of the most important picks in the entire draft.

Kelechi Osemele played left tackle at Iowa State, but he’ll likely be given an opportunity to compete for the starting left guard position vacated by Ben Grubbs. He was a slight reach in the 2nd, but I can’t fault them too much for filling an immediate need.

Bernard Pierce is a great fit as a compliment to Ray Rice. He’ll probably never develop into a starter, but he can play the role of the short-yardage back in Baltimore.

Gino Gradkowski was a reach in the early 4th round. He rose up draft boards this offseason, but 98th overall was early for a developmental guard/center. That said, the Ravens are probably hoping to develop him behind Matt Birk.

I like the selection of Christian Thompson. He’s an intriguing developmental prospect and he landed in an ideal place to learn the game behind Ed Reed. He’ll play special teams early in his career, with the hope that he can grow into a starting role down the line.

Asa Jackson adds some depth to the secondary and could compete with Corey Graham and Cary Williams for some playing time.

I was not as high on Tommy Streeter as some, but was still surprised to see him on the board in the 6th round. He has all the measurables necessary to be a matchup nightmare, but never really put it all together at Miami. He’s a nice developmental prospect to have around.

DeAngelo Tyson is a nose tackle who will compete for playing time behind Terrence Cody. If he wins the backup job, he’ll see a fair amount of playing time due to Cody’s lack of stamina and inability to remain effective deep into games.

This was another strong draft for Ozzie Newsome, who consistently puts together some of the best draft classes. They may have landed two immediate starters (Upshaw and Osemele) and at least one other (Pierce) who will contribute immediately.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Ravens Comments Off

Baltimore Ravens select Courtney Upshaw, Grade A+

This is why teams like the Baltimore Ravens remain contenders year after year. They don’t get cute in the draft, they just wait for a great player to fall into their lap.

There are legitimate reasons why Courtney Upshaw fell into the 2nd round. He’s a ‘tweener, who doesn’t really look the part physically. But he’s been nothing but productive at Alabama, and the Ravens have the coaching staff and the leadership on the field to get the most out of his potential. They’ll use him in ways to fit his strengths and I have no doubt Upshaw will be productive from day one.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Ravens Comments Off

Draft Needs: Baltimore Ravens

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Baltimore Ravens [full archive here].

Season Recap: If it weren’t for a Billy Cundiff missed field goal or a Lee Evans dropped touchdown pass, the Baltimore Ravens likely would have beaten the New England Patriots and clinched a spot in the Super Bowl. The Ravens need to stop coming up short and do whatever it takes to give Ray Lewis one more shot at another Super Bowl ring.

Team Needs:
1. Center: Both Matt Birk and Andre Gurode are free agents. The Ravens need to find an upgrade over both aging players. Peter Konz and Ben Jones are the two best centers and the draft and should be in play for the Ravens in the first two rounds.

2. Inside Linebacker: There’s no doubting Ray Lewis as an exceptional player, but at 36, there’s no telling how much time he has left. Starting ILB Jameel McClain and reserve Brendon Ayanbadejo are both free agents. Ideally, now is the time to find a replacement for Lewis. Dont’a Hightower, from Alabama, is an option in round one. If Baltimore decides to pass on Hightower, Vontaze Burfict would be a good selection in the middle rounds. Burfict’s known character issues and poor combine performance will push him down the draft, but if anyone can shape this guy up, it’s Ray Lewis.

3. Offensive Tackle: The Ravens have a hole at whichever tackle position Oher doesn’t play. There is no question Oher can be an effective starting Right Tackle, but he still hasn’t proven enough to lock down the left side. Ozzie Newsome needs to figure out the plans for Oher, and then make moves accordingly.

4. Wide Receiver: Torrey Smith played very well during his rookie season, but the Ravens need to continue adding weapons for Flacco. Anquan Boldin is still a starter, but seems to be regressing a bit. Reuben Randle and Stephen Hill are options in the first two rounds. The Ravens could target a Laurent Robinson or Brandon Lloyd in free agency.

5. Offensive Guard: The Ravens must resign Pro-Bowl LG Ben Grubbs. Marshal Yanda and Ben Grubbs are one of the top guard tandems in the league. Losing Grubbs would push OG higher on the need-list for the Ravens, but I think Grubbs returns to Baltimore.

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Draft Needs - 2012, Ravens Comments Off

Ravens targeting wide receiver in draft?

According to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net, the Baltimore Ravens have a “large number of wide receivers” on their official draft interview list and could be considering one as early as the 1st round.

Two of the Ravens interviewees were Rueben Randle and Stephen Hill, both of whom are potential late 1st-round prospects.

It may come as a slight surprise that Ravens would be targeting a receiver a year after drafting Torrey Smith in the 2nd round, but Smith’s long-term upside is limited. While he has the speed to stretch the field, he’s basically a one-trick pony and probably always will be. Randle and Hill, on the other hand, have the size (both over 6’4″) to be the perfect compliment to Smith.

This could be the year the Ravens go all-in with Joe Flacco, and attempt to surround him with the talent he needs to take their offense to an elite level.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Ravens 1 Comment

Why stamina is crucial for nose tackles

It’s not easy to move around when you weigh 330 pounds. The mere fact that some NFL nose tackles are able to take the field every Sunday is a testament to their incredible conditioning.

But even among these elite athletes, there is a tipping point where production diminishes.

In 2012, there were seven defensive linemen listed at 330 pounds or more who started at least 10 games. In an effort to determine just how valuable stamina was to their performance, I attempted to find their collective tipping point.

Using the snap count information from ProFootballFocus.com and their game-by-game grades, I was able to determine that somewhere around 30 snaps (roughly half of a game), these behemoths tend to see a decline in their production.

Cody is effective, but only when the Ravens limit his snaps.

During games in which these linemen played 30 or fewer snaps, they earned a cumulative grade of +7.6 (in 870 total snaps). In games in which they played more than 30 snaps (3,498 total snaps) they earned a cumulative grade of just 5.6.

If you break those numbers down, the players had a +.0016 grade per snap when playing more than 30 per game, and a +.0087 grade per snap when playing 30 or less. Those numbers may seem small, but that’s 445% increase in production, just by limiting their snaps.

The best example of this is Terrence Cody who, at 360 pounds, has struggled with stamina throughout his career.

When playing over 30 snaps, Cody earned a cumulative grade of +0.8 (253 total snaps). When playing 30 or fewer snaps, his grade was -7.8 (291 total snaps).

So how can we use this information?

I believe there are two valuable takeaways from this study.

First, always have a quality backup on hand. Due to their hybird defense, and the prescence of Haloti Ngata, the Ravens were able to limit Cody’s snaps in 10 of the 18 games (including postseason) in which he played in 2011. This made him an effective weapon on defense, even if he wasn’t capable of being a three-down lineman. On the flip side, the Packers used B.J. Raji an average of 55 snaps per game, which led to him having the lowest overall grade of any of the 330+ linemen.

The second takeaway, however, is that not all nose tackles are created equal. Mount Cody clearly struggled when asked to take on a larger role. However, Sione Pouha – PFF’s highest rated defensive tackle in 2012 – still performed at a high level when playing 30+ snaps. Pouha did see a dramatic decline in production (.089 per snap, down to .042 per snap), however, his 30+ snap grade was still well above average and resulted in a cumulative grade of +23.1 in such games.

In terms of the NFL Draft, teams need to look beyond pure talent at this position, and pay close attention to how stamina effects each player’s performance late in games.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Packers, Ravens, Research 2 Comments

2011 Draft Grades: Baltimore Ravens

Few GMs have ever mastered the draft like Ozzie Newsome, and he put on a clinic once again this year. The Ravens 2011 draft class is a near perfect blend of value and need and puts them in position to make another run deep into the playoffs.

Nearly everyone steered clear of Jimmy Smith in the 1st round and some likely removed him from their draft board altogether. His long list of positive drug tests and run-ins with the law raise serious concerns about his ability to stay out of trouble, but it was a necessary risk for the Ravens. Realistically, he won’t stay clean in the NFL – handing millions of dollars to a 20-something with a history of drug abuse just isn’t a recipe for success. But in the short term the Ravens strong leadership group, featuring Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, should be able to keep him focused. Even if he strays later in his career, this pick was about the immediate future – anything Smith gives beyond that is an added bonus.

I love the selection of Torrey Smith in the 2nd round. The concern surrounding Smith was that he is a one-dimensional deep threat at this point in his career. In Balitmore, however, that’s all they need. He can be used to stretch the field as a third or fourth option while he develops into a more well-rounded receiver.

Jah Reid was a slight reach in the 3rd round in my opinion, but due to his size and athleticism he realistically wasn’t going to fall much further. Ideally Jared Gaither re-signs and Reid can develop while playing a backup role. If Gaither bolts, however, Reid will be given an opportunity to win the starting job at right tackle.

Tandon Doss is a 2nd round talent who fell due to concerns about his health, but in the 4th round he is well worth the risk. In the long run, it’s possible that he develops into a more polished receiver than Torrey Smith. I wouldn’t expect much from him in 2011, but he’ll be groomed to step into a starting role once Mason and Boldin are gone.

Chykie Brown (pronounced: shockey) had value in the 5th round, but he’ll struggle to find a spot in a crowded Ravens secondary. As of right now he looks like their fifth or sixth option at cornerback.

Pernel McPhee is a potential steal in the 5th round. He doesn’t have a ton of upside, but he has the size and athleticism to play both end and tackle in the Ravens hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense. They needed to add a versatile lineman who could contribute immediately and to get one this late is phenomenal.

I’m not a fan of the Tyrod Taylor selection. He clearly doesn’t have a future as a starter in Baltimore, and he isn’t nearly polished enough to provide value as a backup. Their goal here is clearly to develop him and trade him down the road. They obviously didn’t pass up on much in the 6th round to take him, but I just don’t like that strategy – especially when the Ravens still need to bring in a veteran backup for Flacco (unless they’re satisfied with Hunter Cantwell).

Anthony Allen was brought aboard in case Jalen Parmele isn’t re-signed as the third-string running back. He’s a similar player to Parmele – a physical downhill runner – and can fill McGahee’s role in the offense if needed.

It’s tough to find any major flaws in this draft class. The only thing missing was the lack of a linebacker, which could become an issue since Tavares Gooden, Jameel McClain and Prescott Burgess could all become free agents depending on how the new CBA plays out. Overall, the Ravens filled most of their needs and managed to do so without reaching in any of the early rounds – a rare accomplishment.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2011, Ravens Comments Off

Top 10 Draft Day Decision Makers

10. Thomas Dimitroff, Falcons
This Bill Belichick disciple rebuilt the Falcons in one draft, possibly even one draft pick, with Matt Ryan in 2008. What Dimitroff has accomplished in three drafts is impressive, and makes you wonder just how good he could make the Falcons in another three years.
Best 1st-round pick: Matt Ryan (2008)
Best late-round pick: Kroy Biermann (5th round, 2008)
Biggest bust: Peria Jerry (1st round, 2009)

9.  Mike Reinfeldt, Titans
Reinfeldt’s first two 1st-round picks (Micael Griffin, Chris Johnson) have already developed into Pro Bowlers, and Kenny Britt is poised for a breakout year in 2011. Reinfeldt has also started to get production from some late-round picks such as Jason McCourty, Gerald McRath and Alterraun Verner.
Best 1st-round pick: Chris Johnson (2008)
Best late-round pick: Jason McCourty (6th round, 2009)
Biggest bust: Chris Henry (2nd round, 2007)
Read more

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, Falcons, Giants, Packers, Patriots, Ravens, Steelers, Titans 1 Comment

Lack of interest in Jimmy Smith?

Smith's off-field problems may keep him out of the 1st round

To the best of my knowledge only two teams have set up pre-draft workouts/visits with Jimmy Smith, the Baltimore Ravens and Detroit Lions.

Normally I wouldn’t put much stock in this fact since teams frequently take players in the late 1st-round without having met beforehand. However, Smith isn’t the type of player you take in the 1st round without doing your homework.

Smith already has multiple arrests and a failed drug test under belt, which has caused some teams to reportedly remove him from their draft board altogether. With that in mind, I simply can’t see a team spending a 1st-round pick on him without having spent a decent amount of time getting to know him first.

Of course, it’s possible that he has made other visits which the media is unaware of, and it’s also possible that more visits will be set up between now and the draft. But if we read between the lines at this point in time, it looks as though Smith may be a longshot for the 1st-round.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Lions, Ravens Comments Off

Draft Needs: Baltimore Ravens

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Baltimore Ravens [full archive here].

Season Recap – The Ravens had a strong 2010 season as young players like Joe Flacco continued to develop. Baltimore finished the season 12-4 but ended the year on a loss to the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Baltimore allowed Pittsburg to score 24 second half points and come from behind to win. This offseason, head coach John Harbaugh will look to add the pieces that will finally push them past the Steelers.

1. Cornerback
– Chris Carr, Fabian Washington, and Josh Wilson are set to become free agents, which leaves the Ravens rather thin at the position. This has been one of the weakest positions for Baltimore the past two seasons, and GM Ozzie Newsome will look to upgrade this offseason. Baltimore should select a corner in round one- Brandon Harris would be a good fit. Read more

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Draft Needs - 2011, Ravens Comments Off

Ravens show interest in cornerbacks with size

It’s no secret that the Baltimore Ravens need a cornerback. Now they may be tipping their hand as to who exactly they’ll be interested.

When asked about the Ravens interest in cornerbacks director of player personnel Eric DeCosta stated: “Smaller corners typically will have a disadvantage going against bigger receivers. If you can get bigger, those guys can be a little more durable and physical. There aren’t many of those guys out there. If you do, you get a guy like Champ Bailey or Chris McAlister or Charles Woodson.”

If they’re targeting that position in the 1st round, that means they’re probably limiting themselves to Aaron Williams and Jimmy Smith. The only other corner widely regarded as a 1st-round pick would be Brandon Harris, who is significantly smaller and doesn’t play a physical brand of football.

One sleeper option could be New Mexico State’s Davon House. At 6’1″, 200 pounds he certainly fits the mold of what they’re looking for, but he’ll need to prove he has the speed and athleticism to make a significant leap from the WAC to the NFL.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Ravens 1 Comment