2011 NFL Draft Grades: Baltimore Ravens Strike Gold Early, Struggle Late

Todd McGregor@@mcgregor_toddCorrespondent IMay 4, 2011

2011 NFL Draft Grades: Baltimore Ravens Strike Gold Early, Struggle Late

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    NFL Draft Headquarters at Radio City Music Hall in NYC
    NFL Draft Headquarters at Radio City Music Hall in NYC

    It’s often hard to judge the success of a team’s draft only several days after the main event.  Several NFL seasons usually pass before one can gauge how an organization made out on draft day.

    There are several benchmarks, however, that are universally used to grade the initial prospects selected, and what impact they may have once September rolls around.

    Throughout this presentation, we will look at how the Baltimore Ravens fared during all rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft—analyzing each pick and assigning a grade based on team needs, value, athletic ability and NFL-readiness of every player chosen, and most important, if the Ravens remained true to their own draft board.

    Hopefully the following information will prove useful for fans of the Ravens, and other clubs alike.

    Todd McGregor is a Baltimore Ravens Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

    Follow Todd's work on Twitter!  Twitter.com/ravens023

Round 1 (Pick 27) – CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado

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    (#3) CB Jimmy Smith, University of Colorado
    (#3) CB Jimmy Smith, University of ColoradoBrian Bahr/Getty Images

    This is a pick we analyzed earlier, and honestly, are extremely excited the Baltimore Ravens selected CB Jimmy Smith with their 27th-overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

    Smith was a player heavily tied to the Ravens in months leading up to the draft, having participated in several private workouts and interviews with team officials.

    A few media outlets, including Yahoo Sports, scored the Ravens’ overall draft as very average (a “C+” on your typical grade scale), because the team “usually doesn’t deal with character problems that early in the draft,” Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports deduced.

    “Smith’s selection speaks to the desperation the Ravens face at cornerback,” Cole added.

    One thing is certain:  We are comfortable in saying Smith’s inherent character flaws will not even remotely be an issue once this young man steps into the Ravens’ locker room, as LB Ray Lewis and S Ed Reed help to form one of the most morally strong locker rooms in the NFL.

    With all of that said and Smith’s past problems being two years removed, the Ravens landed one of the bigger steals of the 2011 NFL Draft. 

    Smith is a top-10 talent (character flaws or not) and will make an immediate impact in the team’s secondary.

    Smith should challenge CB Lardarius Webb for the starting job right off the bat, as Webb struggled mightily with basic coverage skills during the better half of the 2010 season.

    In addition to Webb’s slow development into a true NFL corner, free agency is set to hit Baltimore’s secondary hard.  With many of last year’s starters looking to shop the free-agent market, it makes the selection of Jimmy Smith in the first round of the NFL Draft even more brilliant.

    Round 1 Draft Grade:  A

Round 2 (Pick 58) – WR Torrey Smith, Maryland

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    (#82) WR Torrey Smith, University of Maryland
    (#82) WR Torrey Smith, University of Maryland

    The Baltimore Ravens with their 58th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft selected Torrey Smith, wide receiver from the University of Maryland.

    Just like Colorado CB Jimmy Smith, Torrey Smith was a prospect that was highly tied to the Ravens from the get go.

    We like this pick even more than the Ravens’ first round selection, and for several great reasons.

    First, and most important, GM Ozzie Newsome was patient enough to let Smith fall right into his lap. 

    Because of the run on defenders early in the draft, receivers didn’t start disappearing from the board until the second and third rounds.

    The Ravens’ war room could’ve easily pulled a stunt similar to what the Atlanta Falcons pulled in reaching for WR Julio Jones (possibly the biggest reach of the century), but they stayed true to their board and got the third-ranked receiver in this year’s draft.

    Smith started 38 games at Maryland, notching 152 receptions and 2,215 receiving yards.  Smith’s 2,000-plus receiving yards ranked second in Maryland’s school history.

    While Smith does struggle in press-coverage situations, he excels in just about every other area.  Known for his hard work and team dedication, Smith will be an immediate starter in Baltimore.

    Shortly after Smith was taken by the Ravens in the second round, free agent WR Donte’ Stallworth wished Smith all the best via his Twitter account, stating he would have an excellent mentor in WR Derrick Mason when he arrives in Baltimore.

    Stallworth, and other Ravens’ wide-out T.J. Houshmandzadeh, will not rejoin the team in 2011 with the selection of Smith in Round 2, and WR Tandon Doss of Indiana in Round 4.

    It’s worth noting that QB Joe Flacco had a significant say in which receivers were acquired by the Ravens in the 2011 Draft.  Flacco wanted a particular type of receiver to work with on game day, and Smith, along with Doss, should make Flacco one happy quarterback.

    Round 2 Draft Grade:  A+

Round 3 (Pick 85) – OT Jah Reid, Central Florida

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    (#76) OT Jah Reid, Central Florida
    (#76) OT Jah Reid, Central Florida

    In Round 3, the Baltimore Ravens traded their third and sixth-round picks to the Philadelphia Eagles in order to move up five spots and grab OT Jah Reid, an athlete from Central Florida who was rising rapidly in nearly every mock draft.

    Many analysts scored Reid as a top-10 tackle in the 2011 Draft, and there was a sincere interest in Reid among several teams, including the Eagles

    At pick No. 85 overall, the Ravens had to select Reid, as he was easily the best available tackle on the board, and it was a position the team needed to address in the offseason.

    Reid, who measures 6’7” and weighs 327 pounds, possesses above-average athleticism and a rock-solid work ethic—the type of player Baltimore usually targets in a draft.  However, he is still considered a work-in-progress. 

    The biggest knock on Reid is he usually plays too high, often ending up on the ground when opposing teams bull rush.

    For the most part, Reid had an injury-free career at Central Florida, and all scouting reports suggest Reid is one of the more durable players in the entire NFL Draft.

    The selection of Reid in the third round, albeit a bit of a reach, was yet another smart move by GM Ozzie Newsome. This will allow for Ravens’ guard Marshal Yanda to play at his natural position, and keeps tackle Michael Oher at the left tackle position where he belongs.

    Head Coach John Harbaugh insists Reid will compete immediately for the starting job.  This is something we believe to be true, and frankly, will result in tackle Jared Gaither’s departure from the team.

    Overall, we like the selection of Reid with the Ravens' 85th-overall pick.  Hopefully Reid will contribute immediately to an offensive line that played poorly during the 2010 Regular Season.

    Round 3 Draft Grade:  B

Round 4 (Pick 123) – WR Tandon Doss, Indiana

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    (#2) WR Tandon Doss, Indiana
    (#2) WR Tandon Doss, Indiana

    WR Tandon Doss from Indiana University might be one of the true gems the Baltimore Ravens landed with their 123rd pick in Round 4 of the NFL Draft.

    All 32 NFL teams were present at Doss’ Pro Day, which speaks volumes about the athleticism and Pro potential Doss possesses.

    Coming into the draft, Doss was a solid Round 2 prospect.  However, due to some injury problems in his senior year (a surgically repaired groin), Doss slid down to Round 4 and into Baltimore’s lap.

    QB Joe Flacco played an important role in the selection of Doss in the fourth round. 

    As we mentioned earlier, Flacco was given some authority by the Ravens’ front office to choose the receivers coming out of the draft that he felt most comfortable with—receivers that would complement Flacco’s own on-field abilities.

    Doss is the well-rounded receiver Flacco has been lacking in his arsenal of weapons.  Along with his above-average speed and strength, Doss is one of the more polished route-runners coming out of the 2011 Draft.

    Head Coach John Harbaugh had nothing but high praise for the new Baltimore Raven.

    “He was their [Indiana’s] go-to guy.  They got the ball to him anywhere they could,” said Ravens’ Head Coach John Harbaugh. 

    “He wasn’t really a downfield guy, but I thought that had more to do with their quarterback. He got the ball on screens, crossing routes, stop routes.  Whenever they needed a play, they went to him.”

    Harbaugh went on to say, “He’s great after the catch, but not like a DeSean Jackson.  He’s a catch and get up the field guy.  He’s a strong guy.”

    Out of the six wide-outs Flacco scouted, Doss wound up at the top of his list as the draft neared.  Hopefully this latest addition to the Ravens will help bridge any differences Flacco and the rest of the front office still have.

    Baltimore’s first four picks in the 2011 NFL Draft helped shape the future of their offense for the better, and with all said and done, put the Ravens near the top of the list of teams that had great drafts.

    Round 4 Draft Grade:  A+

Round 5 (Pick 164) – CB Chykie Brown, Texas

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    (#8) CB Chykie Brown, Texas
    (#8) CB Chykie Brown, Texas

    The selection of CB Chykie (SHOCK-ee) Brown by the Baltimore Ravens in the fifth round of the NFL Draft sent a strong message to the loyal Baltimore fan base: 

    The Ravens are serious about cleaning house and retooling their below-average secondary by drafting a second rookie cornerback in 2011.

    Brown probably won’t see much playing time initially, but he has the ability to transform himself into a premier shutdown corner at the NFL level.

    Brown ran a sub-4.40 (4.37) at the Texas Longhorns’ Pro Day back in April, and he consistently maintains the speed to stay in-step with the quicker receivers in the NFL. 

    Brown does a decent job locking down opposing receivers, which should complement the skill set of the first corner the Ravens took in this year’s draft—Jimmy Smith.

    At Texas, Brown played in a system that emphasized press coverage, so it’s too early to tell how long it will take for Brown to adapt to Baltimore’s zone schemes.  The same could be said for CB Jimmy Smith, who also played in similar coverage situations at Colorado.

    Overall, Brown has tremendous upside who should become a starter at some point.  We just don’t know if that opportunity will present itself during the 2011 season, or not.

    Round 5 Draft Grade (Pick 164):  B-

Round 5 (Pick 165) – DE Pernell McPhee, Mississippi St.

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    (#90) DE Pernell McPhee, Mississippi St.
    (#90) DE Pernell McPhee, Mississippi St.

    The Baltimore Ravens elected not to select a defensive end in the early rounds of the NFL Draft, but still managed to get excellent value with their back-to-back picks in Round 5, selecting DE Pernell McPhee of Mississippi State with their 165th-overall selection.

    McPhee was one of the most sought after lineman coming out of high school, but due to poor academic performance, had to attend Itawamba Community College before transferring to Mississippi State in 2009.

    The academic hiccup undoubtedly hurt McPhee’s path to the NFL Draft, causing him to slip from a second-round prospect, to a fifth-round afterthought.

    The Ravens, however, were more interested in how McPhee could help them on the football field—on a defensive line that underwhelmed many during the 2010 season.

    McPhee earned first-team All-SEC honors in both junior and senior years at Mississippi State, having his most productive year in 2009 as a junior with the Bulldogs, racking up 56 tackles (12 for a loss) and five sacks.

    McPhee’s overall athletic ability at this point is just average, which makes him a definite work-in-progress. 

    On the flipside, McPhee possesses above-average upper-body strength and isn’t afraid to use his whole body to tackle opponents.

    With that said, McPhee has trouble in pass rush situations.  He excels in run support and has quick lateral movement.

    It’ll be up to the Ravens to develop McPhee into a better pass rusher, since that is what the team desperately needs going into next season.

    McPhee’s lack of pass-rushing skills drops the Ravens’ grade in this round.

    Round 5 Draft Grade (Pick 165):  C+

Round 6 (Pick 180) – QB Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech

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    (#5) QB Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech
    (#5) QB Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech

    The selection of Virginia Tech QB Tyrod Taylor in Round 6 by the Baltimore Ravens was baffling on so many fronts, and perhaps one of the more surprising moves in this year’s draft.

    Even though Taylor broke nearly every school record while playing at Virginia Tech, he’s the product of a spread offense. 

    Quarterbacks that enter the NFL who come from schools that utilize the spread formation, usually don’t enjoy much success at the professional level.

    Taylor has already been compared to former Ravens’ QB Troy Smith, who, like Taylor, is undersized for the position and gets by on above-average arm strength combined with good accuracy.

    With reports of QB Marc Bulger not returning for another season as backup to QB Joe Flacco with the Ravens, GM Ozzie Newsome had to draft a quarterback at this point in the draft, mainly as an insurance policy.

    If the Baltimore coaching staff can work on improving Taylor’s awkward delivery of the football, then Taylor has the potential to be a decent backup to Flacco.  That’s about it, however.

    Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron doesn’t like resorting to gadget plays on the field and hasn’t had much success running such plays in the past with the Ravens’ offense.

    If you were to see Taylor take the field, it would be for a gadget play, or two.  Outside of that, Taylor will serve as a backup to Flacco, or even a bargaining chip in a trade situation to get a proven veteran quarterback into the backup role in Baltimore.

    Round 6 Draft Grade:  C-

Round 7 (Pick 225) – RB Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech

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    (#18) RB Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech
    (#18) RB Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech

    With their final pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens selected RB Anthony Allen of Georgia Tech.

    Much like Baltimore’s previous selection, QB Tyrod Taylor, Allen will likely find it difficult to make the transition from a triple-option offense at Georgia Tech, to a pro-style offense in Baltimore.

    The Ravens, according to McGahee’s agent Drew Rosenhaus, will not renew RB Willis McGahee’s contract.

    Rosenhaus told the South Florida Sun, “We don’t expect [McGahee] to be back unless they’ll pay him his contract.”

    McGahee is set to make $6 million in 2011 alone—money the Ravens don’t have, at a time when so many roster needs must be met.

    Allen could prove to be a decent change-of-pace back to RB Ray Rice.  Allen has a big frame with a low center of gravity, possessing excellent ball-control skills while rushing. In all of Allen’s four years playing college football, he never fumbled the football.

    Having two backs in a time-share who take care of the football (Rice and Allen) will prove highly valuable to a Ravens team that pride themselves on not turning the ball over.

    At this point in the draft, we like the selection of Allen with the Ravens 225th pick.  Having a power rusher in your backfield in the absence of McGahee isn’t a bad idea.

    The Ravens will likely shop a veteran RB in the coming months, but look for Allen to make a few appearances in 2011.

    Round 7 Draft Grade:  B-

Conclusion and Overall Draft Grade

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    Baltimore Ravens Overall Draft Grade for 2011
    Baltimore Ravens Overall Draft Grade for 2011

    Overall, the Baltimore Ravens struck gold early on in the 2011 NFL Draft, but missed during the later rounds.  All of our information is based on in-depth scouting reports, and a proven formula is used to calculate a team grade for each round of the draft.

    It won’t matter what the Ravens do with their late-round picks this year, because they landed the top players they desperately needed in Rounds 1-4.

    Will the Ravens end their awful streak of drafting nothing but busts at the wide receiver position with the selection of Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss? 

    We happen to think both of those young men are the real deal, and will make an immediate impact on team—bolstering an anemic offense that operated for many years out of M&T Bank Stadium.

    Baltimore’s front office made a big statement to the league with their first four picks of the draft, saying they’re in it to win it all this year—not allowing money to get in the way of bringing in top talent to help propel the team to a well-deserved Super Bowl appearance.

    Thanks to a solid draft in the earlier rounds, the Ravens find themselves in the top-10 of all NFL teams when it comes to overall draft success.

    If the Ravens hit the free-agent market with the same prowess in the coming months, this team should easily contend for the Super Bowl in the 2011 season.

    Baltimore Ravens Overall Draft Grade:  B (86 out of 100 Points)