Come April, Ravens usually start getting exciting about that year's draft. The Ravens general manager, Ozzie Newsome, has consistently been one of the best drafters in the league; as such, the Ravens have had great draft picks over the years.
So, now it's time to look on the 13 drafts in Ravens history and isolate 20 special players; The five biggest draft busts, the five biggest draft steals, and the 10 best overall picks.
Now, seeing as the Ravens have been so great at drafting since their inception, some of the draft busts are kind of reaches, but disappointments nonetheless.
Top 5 Draft Busts
5. Patrick Johnson (WR), second round, 1998 Draft (42nd pick)
Johnson is a classic example that top speed does not equal an effective receiver. A champion sprinter at Oregon, Johnson never became more than a marginal backup for Baltimore.
His best year was in 1999, when he had 29 catches and three touchdowns. Hardly worth the 2nd round pick the Ravens spent on him while Hines Ward and Az Hakim were still on the board.
4. Travis Taylor (WR), first round, 2000 Draft (10th pick)
Taylor is not a player whom I would classify as a true bust, but rather a disappointment. He had some good years with the Ravens and is currently third in team history in receptions and fourth in receiving yards. However, he was clearly not worth the 10th overall pick that the Ravens used on him in the 2000 Draft.
There wasn't great talent at wide out in the first round of that draft, and Taylor panned out better than the two receivers taken after him in the first round (Slyvester Morris and R. Jay Soward), but he was frustrating for Ravens fans. He would have some very good games, but could never put it together consistently.
3. DeRon Jenkins (CB), second round, 1996 Draft (55th pick)
Jenkins had a few good stretches during his four-year tenure with the Ravens, but never lived up to his high draft status. He was good in run support, which showed itself at times (he had a good number of tackles for a corner during his time with the Ravens).
Still, he lacked real ball skills, didn't get many interceptions, and just wasn't starting cornerback caliber. One good thing that came from his selection was that the Ravens realized their mistake, correcting it wonderfully in upcoming drafts with the picks of Duane Starks and Chris McAlister (more on them later).
2. Dan Cody (DE/LB), second round, 2005 Draft (53rd pick)
Cody was a player who just could never shake his injuries. He spent most of his career on the injured reserve or physically unable to perform list, appearing in only two games for the Ravens before being cut after the 2007 season.
His grand total? One tackle. While he is not a typical bust in that injuries took over his career, the fact of the matter is that he was taken in the second round and only played in two games.
1. Kyle Boller (QB), first round, 2003 Draft (19th pick)
Kyle, Kyle, Kyle. What else is there left to say about Kyle Boller? Not much except that he is the biggest bust in Ravens history. The Ravens panicked and reached when they drafted him.
Though not for lack of trying, he never succeeded at the next level. The Kyle Boller experience was an interesting (and frustrating for fans) time period in the Ravens history, but with him signing with the Rams this offseason, we can safely say it's over.
Top 5 Draft Steals
5. Brandon Stokley (WR), fourth round, 1999 Draft (105th pick)
Stokley was very valuable during his four years with the Ravens. Despite catching only 11 passes during the entire 2000 NFL regular season, he led the Ravens in receptions in the Super Bowl with three, one of which was a touchdown.
He continued to be a solid receiver for Baltimore until 2002, when they foolishly decided not to resign him despite their need for a consistent pass-catcher.
4. Dawan Landry (SS), fifth round, 2006 Draft (146th pick)
If Landry can rebound from his injury-shortened 2008 season, he will probably shoot to the top of this list before his career ends. A great compliment to Ed Reed in the defensive back four, Landry is a hard-hitting safety who is invaluable in run support.
He also shows good ball skills at times, such as his five interceptions in his rookie campaign. The Ravens chose not to re-sign Jim Leonhard this offseason, so Landry is locked to be the starting safety on the other side of Ed Reed in 2009.
3. Edwin Mulitalo (OG), fourth round, 1999 Draft (129th pick)
Mulitalo was a beast on the Ravens' offensive line for eight seasons, missing very few games, save for a 2006 season where he missed all but four games. He was a big reason for Jamal Lewis' 2,000 yard rushing season in 2003 and secured the left side of the Ravens' offensive line very well during his tenure.
2. Adalius Thomas (DE/LB), sixth round, 2000 Draft (186th pick)
He's listed here as a defensive end and linebacker, but A.D. is so versatile that he has played every position on the Baltimore defense at point. In his first few seasons, he was strictly a special teams player (and very good at it too, being selected to the Pro Bowl in 2003 for his special teams exploits).
Gradually, he got more time at linebacker. In 2006, he made his second Pro Bowl, this time for defense, and helped make the Ravens linebacking corps one of the best in the league again. However, after that season, he signed a big contract with the Patriots, much to the sadness and anger of many Ravens fans.
1. Jermaine Lewis (WR/KR/PR), fifth round, 1996 Draft (153rd pick)
The man who sealed the first and only Super Bowl victory for the Baltimore Ravens, Lewis was one of the biggest weapons in team history. He scored six touchdowns on punt returns, went to the Pro Bowl twice as a return man, and his 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown secured the Ravens' win over the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.
Lewis was also useful in the passing game, as he had 43 and 42 catches in the 1997 and 1998 seasons, with six receiving touchdowns in each of the two seasons despite being one of the shortest players in NFL history at 5'7". Lewis was a Raven great during his six years in Baltimore.
Top 10 Best Draft Picks
10. Duane Starks (CB), first round, 1998 Draft (10th pick)
A shut-down corner in his four seasons with the Ravens, Starks was an integral part in what many say was the greatest defense in NFL history. A rare blend of true ball skills and raw physicality was Starks, who missed only two games during his four seasons with the Ravens.
He had a staggering 20 interceptions in that time period, as well as 187 tackles. A soft-spoken and charitable man off the field, Starks played with a mean streak and reckless abandon once his pads were on, and his presence was felt in Baltimore.
9. Jamie Sharper (LB), second round, 1997 Draft (34th pick)
Sometimes called the forgotten one of the Ravens' fearsome 2000 linebacking corps, Sharper's play was definitely not forgotten by Raven fans. Not missing a single game during his five years in Baltimore, Sharper was a backer who could get sacks and deflections as well as anybody.
He had a penchant for making big plays when they mattered, such as a game-sealing interception against the Raiders in the 2000 AFC Championship game and an interception off a Ray Lewis tip during Super Bowl XXXV.
8. Jamal Lewis (RB), first round, 2000 Draft (fifth pack)
2,006 yards rushing, 14 rushing touchdowns, 5.3 yards per carry, 129.1 yards per game. That was Lewis' 2003 season, one of the best for a running back in NFL history. For many years, Jamal was the Ravens' offense, carrying them when their passing game proved to be too incompetent.
He was the key which led them to a Super Bowl, as Trent Dilfer just had to avoid making mistakes while Lewis made defenses look silly with an amazing combination of strength and speed.
His time with the Ravens was up-and-down, including a four game suspension stemming from drug charges and a somewhat bitter divorce which led to his signing with the division-rival Browns, but his time with the Ravens and the success he had will not easily be forgotten.
7. Todd Heap (TE), first round, 2001 Draft (31st pick)
Drafted immediately after the Ravens' Super Bowl victory, Heap is the longest-tenured Ravens player without a ring currently. He is also the Ravens' all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. Coming out of Arizona State in 2001, he was as big of a deep threat that you will ever find in a tight end.
Through his years with the team, the Ravens have constantly lacked production from their wide receivers, but Heap's pass-catching prowess has made up for it many a time.
Recently, his injuries have been a concern as the Ravens' receivers have gotten better. But, if he can stay healthy, there is no reason that he can't be as a big of a weapon in the passing attack in the future that he has been in recent years.
6. Terrell Suggs (DE/LB), first round, 2003 Draft (10th pick)
T-Sizzle has been both a fan favorite and a complete beast on defense since being drafted in 2003. The hybrid end/linebacker (endbacker to save time) was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2003 in a season where he had 12 sacks.
He currently has 53 sacks in his career, good for second most in Ravens history, as well as three Pro Bowl selections.
While he was used almost exclusively as an end early on, he has recently improved as an outside linebacker, getting his first two interceptions in 2008, both of which were returned for touchdowns.
He also showed his toughness this season by playing with a severely injured shoulder in the AFC Championship Game, thus extending his streak of no missed games since being drafted.
5. Chris McAlister (CB), first round, 1999 Draft (10th pick)
The 10th pick has been quite kind to the Ravens, what with C-Mac, T-Sizzle, and Duane Starks (then again, Travis Taylor too...can't win them all). McAlister is a physical, ball-hawking corner who was a staple in the Ravens' secondary during his ten seasons with the team.
One of the the best cornerbacks of his time, C-Mac was a three-time Pro Bowler and is second in Ravens' history in tackles and games played, third in interceptions. He never really clicked with new coach John Harbaugh and was released this offseason, but his tenure with the Ravens is still one of the best.
4. Peter Boulware (LB), first round, 1997 Draft (fourth pick)
Known to some as Ray Lewis' right hand man, Boulware was one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL in his day. The Ravens' career leader in sacks, with 70, made four Pro Bowls and was a major reason why the Ravens' defense was consistently among the best in the league.
A leader in the locker room during his nine years with the team, Boulware stayed injury free in his first seven years with the team before missing the entire 2004 campaign due to a knee injury. He played one final season in 2005.
For his exploits, Boulware became the first player drafted by the Ravens to be inducted into the team's Ring of Honor in 2006.
3. Ed Reed (S), first round, 2002 Draft (24th pick)
Currently the best free safety in the league, Reed is the Ravens' most recognizable player ever who doesn't wear No. 52.
His career thus-far has simply been excellence piled upon more excellence; the 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a five-time Pro Bowler, a four-time First Team All-Pro, a safety who led the league in interceptions two different seasons.
Reed just wrapped up his seventh year with the Ravens, which some say was his best yet. He was the only unanimous selection for the All-Pro team and had nine interceptions to lead the league.
He currently is the Ravens all-time leader in interceptions, with 43, and is a threat to score a touchdown whenever he intercepts the ball, which the Miami Dolphins learned the hard way in this year's AFC wild card round.
After a scary neck injury in 2007, many thought Reed's career was in jeopardy, but after his 2008 season, it's safe to say that Ed will be fine.
2. Jonathan Ogden (OT), first round, 1996 Draft (fourth pick)
The Ravens first-ever draft pick was also one of their best. One of, if not the, best offensive tackles in NFL history and a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer, Ogden was the anchor on a consistently outstanding Ravens offensive line, making 11 Pro Bowls as well as eight All-Pro teams.
He was a left tackle who was excellent as both a run and pass blocker, and was as agile as they come. He was also an example of the draft genius that is Ozzie Newsome.
Many in the Ravens organization wanted the team to draft Lawrence Phillips, but Newsome maintained that Ogden would be the better pick, and the rest, as they say, is history.
1. Ray Lewis (LB), first round, 1996 Draft (26th pick)
Was there any doubt? The best player in Ravens history and perhaps the best linebacker in NFL history was the best draft pick by the Ravens. Considered undersized coming out of Miami, Ray fell to pick 26 in the draft, but had an immediate impact.
He has made 10 Pro Bowls, eight All-Pro teams, won NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice, and was the Super Bowl XXXV MVP. There isn't much to say about Ray Lewis that hasn't already been said, but there is no question as to his status as the best draft pick in Baltimore Ravens history.
And when number No. 52 makes it to the Hall-of-Fame one day (it's a matter of when, not if), the Ravens' organization and fans will be swelling with pride.