May 3, 2007
Though the Baltimore Ravens finished 13-3 last season, the memories of most fans are fixated on the January 14th loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the playoffs.
In that game, Steve McNair threw no touchdown passes. In that game, Jamal Lewis ran for 53 yards. In that game, Derrick Mason caught two passes for 16 yards. In that game, the team had six penalties and four turnovers—and no one in a purple jersey crossed the goal line.
In that spirit, the Ravens faithful looked to the 2007 draft as a chance to address the problems that became apparent in the 2006 postseason. Given the team's track record of draft-day success, fans should be fairly pleased with the way things turned out.
Recognizing their needs on the offensive live, the Ravens selected guard Ben Grubbs with the 29th overall pick in the first round. Grubbs was an elite performer in college, and should be able to open holes for newly acquired running back Willis McGahee.
Next up was Yamon Figurs, a wide receiver and punt returner from Kansas State picked 74th overall. Though he's small and has unreliable hands, Figurs' speed makes him a strong candidate to take over for B.J. Sams as the Ravens' return man. Last season, Figurs returned 48 punts for 533 yards and two touchdowns for Kansas State.
The Ravens helped themselves again on the offensive line by selecting Marshall Yanda with the 86th overall pick. The best news about Yanda is that he has great potential, and could be the surprise of this year's Ravens draft class. He needs to get bigger and stronger to compete in the NFL—but that's true of just about every college player. More importantly, Yanda is known for playing with a mean streak, which could help the Baltimore offense keep pace with Ray Lewis' nasty defense.
The Ravens sought to lessen the sting of Adalius Thomas' departure by taking Antwan Barnes with the 134th pick. As an outside linebacker for Florida International, Barnes set a school record with 23 sacks—and is heralded for his strength in pursuit of the ball.
With the 137th pick, the Ravens chose LeRon McClain, a fullback from Alabama. McClain is an impressive blocker with particular skill in clearing the middle—a plus for the Ravens' running game. He proved his versatility with 405 receiving yards last year.
Prescott Burgess, a linebacker from Michigan, was the Ravens' final choice. At 6'3' and 240 pounds, Burgess needs to get a little bigger—but is considered to be a very athletic player with what scouts have called a "nonstop motor."
And oh by the way: Sandwiched between McClain and Burgess was the Ravens' fifth round choice. He's a 6'1' quarterback form Ohio State...and his name is Troy Smith.
Maybe you've heard of him?
The Heisman Trophy winner gives the Ravens their first shot at developing a franchise QB. After watching countless signal callers come and go over the years (including universal retread Vinny Testaverde), Ravens fans have got to be thrilled to see Smith on the roster.
Teams passed on Smith because he's not terribly big and doesn't have great field vision. Still, he'll be looking to stick it to his critics after falling to the fifth round, and is sure to benefit from the tutelage of Steve McNair.
The Ravens lost a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick when they traded for McNair (last season) and McGahee (this season), and still have holes to fill at safety and tight end. According to the Baltimore Sun, they'll be active in the free agent market...but in the meantime they've addressed their biggest concerns, and shown fans and experts alike that they're serious about contending for a championship in 2007.
Odds and ends: The average weight of the Ravens' choices is 248.14 pounds...The only player to have attended college on the East Coast is Antwan Barnes (Florida International)...The Ravens didn't get further west than Iowa in making their picks...5 out of 7 draftees attended schools in regions whose harsh winters are comparable to those in Baltimore...Except for Smith and Burgess, every Ravens pick was the highest drafted player from his respective college.
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