Today, the first two rounds of the NFL Draft took place. It was a very exciting draft, to say the least. Darrius Heyward-Bey was, shockingly enough, taken seventh overall, quite a reach for him. Rey Maualuga, a dominating USC linebacker and considered the best ILB in the draft, was taken in the second round, after Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, James Laurinaitis and others. Many teams had very intriguing drafts, such as the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens had the 26th overall pick in the first round going into draft day. However, knowing that day is a day of twists and turns, the Ravens traded the pick to the New England Patriots and the Ravens fielded the 23rd selection. Immediately, Baltimore selected Michael Oher, the Mississippi offensive tackle. *Pumps fist*. Oher, 6'5", 309, projected as a Top 15 pick. The most likely destination for the Ole Miss alum was the Washington Redskins, who were in need of youth on the offensive line. However, the Skins elected to draft Brian Orakpo, the Texas defensive end. Oher is the third rated offensive lineman in the draft, behind just Jason Smith (selected second overall by Rams) and Eugene Monroe (selected eighth overall by Jaguars). Oher is rated higher on some boards than Andre Smith, who was selected sixth by the Bengals.
Oher's selection can be described in one word: ideal. He is a very good run and pass blocker, and the guy provides a presence as a future right tackle. To tell you the truth, Michael Oher and Jared Gaither has to be one of the best, if not the best, tackle combo in the National Football League. Gaither allowed two sacks last year, best for all left tackles. Certainly impressive for a guy who is 22. Oher has not yet played in the NFL, but projects as a great talent who can only get better. Oher may not start in the beginning of the season, but with Willie Anderson only getting older, I wouldn't be very surprised if the vet gets released and Oher is thrown into the fire immediately.
"Quite honestly, we didn't expect Michael Oher to fall down that low," said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of player personnel. "None of us like to give picks away, but when a player is that good and he's such a need and it's a perfect DNA match -- you do it. It just fell that way, and we're ecstatic to get him." Not only is Oher a very good player, he is a character guy. Growing up in the ghettos of Memphis with a drug addicted mother and a father who he seldom saw, Oher had it rough as a youth. He bounced around foster homes and went to eleven different schools in nine years. Oher found that support on the field. He used to be homeless, now he's the 23rd overall draft pick of the 2009 NFL Draft.
"Protecting our quarterback is going to be paramount for us," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. Oher is a great pass protector and with Ben Grubbs, Matt Birk, Jared Gaither, Marshal Yanda and now Oher, the Ravens have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. The Ravens, like DeCosta said, never thought Michael would slip as far as he did. The only reason Oher wasn't the guy discussed within the Ravens fanbase was directly attributed to the fact that like Eric said, no one thought he'd fall this far. I, other Ravens fans and officials are thrilled to have Michael. When the Ravens called Michael, John Harbaugh knew he ws his type of guy. After hearing the word, Oher said "it was time to get to work". He's a hard worker and has a mean streak. Those two characteristics describe the Baltimore Ravens.
In the second round, the Ravens would likely pursue a tight end, defensive end, linebacker, wide receiver, or, quite possibly, trade for Anquan Boldin. The Ravens decided to get younger on their defensive line by adding Paul Kruger, the Utah defensive end. At 6'4", 263, he has adequate size. Kruger, a fifth year senior in 2008, racked up 61 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Kruger provides that youth on the defensive line as a defensive end, as Pryce is entering the last year of his contract and Justin Bannan, at 30, is past his prime. Kruger has great potential and with Pryce nearing a decline and possibly facing some injury troubles, Kruger may see some playing time next year, and even in special packages, he may see considerable minutes.
Kruger is very instinctive at end, and can even play sam linebacker or play as a pass rushing linebacker. He's tough, tenacious and has a nonstop motor, something the Ravens will be very appreciative of. Kruger provides leadership characteristics and is intense, something the Ravens will be in need of when Ray Lewis retires in three seasons. Not only can he play very well as a defensive end, which he exhibited throughout 2008, he's got the versatility and can even play the role Terrell Suggs has played throughout his Ravens career.
Kruger is fast, as he ran a 4.86 in the 40-yard dash, one of the fastest defensive ends. He's quick, agile and has good balance for his 6'4", 263 stature. Kruger can easily have a starting spot in 2010 as a defensive end, lining up next to Haloti Ngata and quite possibly, Brandon McKinney. It's shaping up to be a bright future in Baltimore, and it starts with Oher and Kruger in this draft. It'll be very interesting to see how the Ravens use Kruger: as a defensive end or an sam linebacker.
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