After the 2009 draft, many Ravens fans were unsure about the direction of the franchise. Sure, Michael Oher was a great addition, but who are Paul Kruger and Lardarius Webb? Many fans were angry that Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome did nothing to address the need for a wide receiver, passing up on Kenny Britt, Hakeem Nicks, and Ramses Barden among others. Newsome had become a nuisance.
Monday morning Ravens fans were delighted to hear the great news and more of it kept coming in throughout the whole day. By the time the day was over, Ozzie Newsome had signed 12 undrafted free agents and had assembled one of the best classes in the league.
The class is highlighted by Dannell Ellerbee. Ellerbee was projected in some mock drafts to land as high as the third round, but slid due to concerns about his size and issues off of the football field. Ellerbee is extremely versatile, starting at all three linebacker positions during his career at Georgia and was ranked as the seventh overall inside linebacker in the draft by ESPN.
Eron Riley was also an excellent addition. Riley was thought of as a possession receiver and therefore not very high on many teams' boards, but shocked scouts after running a 4.3 40 yard dash. Riley is similar to Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was drafted seventh overall. Both are tall, lightening fast, and played in the ACC, but one could argue that Riley is better than Heyward-Bey as he runs much better routes and has much better hands, hence the "possession receiver" title.
Former Wolverine Will Johnson was also snapped up by Newsome. Like the superhero Wolverine, he is insanely strong, posting the best numbers in the 225 lb bench press out of all prospects at the combine. Unlike his more talented colleagues, Johnson never takes a play off and has an outstanding motor. He also fits the defensive tackle mold with good size and long arms.
Graham Gano and Jason Cook were signed to replace departing starters. Gano, one of the best kickers in college football, was No. 1 at his position on many a mock draft site. Cook will replace Lorenzo Neal and will retain all of the qualities Neal brought to the team last year; toughness, grit, and of course, excellent blocking.
If Ravens fans are not too happy with the 2009 Draft, they only need to look to the undrafted free agents signed to brighten their spirits. No longer should they call Newsome a nuisance, instead they should refer to him as Ozzie Newsome the nonhuman for his prowess as general manager.