The 25 Greatest Players in Baltimore Ravens History

Mike Fast@@michaelfast1Contributor IMay 24, 2013

The 25 Greatest Players in Baltimore Ravens History

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    Who are the best Ravens of all-time?

    What constitutes such an achievement?

    Longevity within the organization, major awards, Super Bowl titles and Hall of Fame nominations are good criteria to start with.

    One thing is for sure: Each player on this list is tough. Each player has consistently shown passion for the game of football and for their teammates.

    Not all players on this list were drafted by the Ravens, however. In fact, 20 percent (five) of the players on this list were drafted by other teams. But they made such an impact with the Ravens that they couldn't be ignored.

    By position, there were 13 defensive players, nine offensive players and three special teams players that made the cut. The most common position on this list was linebacker (six players).

    Eight players from the famous 2000 Ravens defense are on this list, which should come as no surprise.

    Here are the 25 best players in the history of the Baltimore Ravens.

25. Tony Siragusa, Defensive Tackle

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    Years with the Ravens

    Five (1997-2001)

    Best season

    1999 (34 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one fumble recovery)

    Why he made the list

    Tony Siragusa didn't make Ray Lewis by any stretch, but he certainly helped Lewis a lot.

    Siragusa helped occupy blockers so that Lewis could move more freely in his pursuit of the ball-carrier. "Goose" was also a key veteran presence during the Ravens' Super Bowl winning season in 2000.

    Although he was only a Raven for five seasons, Siragusa was with the organization for over a decade and helped usher in the Ravens' trademark swagger.

    You had to go through him (and Sam Adams) to get through Lewis. Not an enviable task in the least.

24. Sam Koch, Punter

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    Years with the Ravens

    Seven (2006-Present)

    Best season

    2008 (84 punts, 45.0 yard average, long punt of 74 yards)

    Why he made the list

    A punter?

    Yes, a punter.

    Since he became a Raven in 2006, Sam Koch has routinely been among the league's best special teams players. He can punt for distance, placement or both, and is an impeccable holder for the field-goal unit.

    I know that sounds minor, but think about the value of field position in the NFL—let alone in the AFC North. Think about how precious points are. Think about how it got Joe Flacco and company a couple of yards to get the offense going.

    Lastly, think about the play depicted in the photograph above. Maybe Koch's most famous play is when he ran around in the end zone for eight seconds at the end of Super Bowl XLVII.

    That left the 49ers with no other choice but to return the ensuing free-kick for a touchdown if they wanted to win the Super Bowl.

23. Jermaine Lewis, Wide Receiver/Kick and Punt Returner

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    Years with the Ravens

    Six (1996-2001)

    Best season

    1998 (41 receptions, 784 yards, six touchdowns; 12.7 punt-return average, two touchdowns; 24.2 kick-return average)

    Why he made the list

    Jermaine Lewis made three returns for touchdowns in the last five games of the 2000 football season (Week 17-Super Bowl XXXV).

    While he was an able wide receiver, his impact was felt most in the return game. Since Baltimore's offense often struggled to move the ball in their early years, field position was critical. Lewis knew how to hit a crease perfectly and accelerate through it.

    And as you can see in the video above, his footwork along the sideline was excellent.

22. Ray Rice, Running Back

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    Years with the Ravens

    Five (2008-Present)

    Best season

    2011 (4.7 yards per rush, 9.3 yards per receptions, 2,068 total scrimmage yards, 15 total touchdowns)

    Why he made the list

    As the youngest member on this list, Ray Rice might seem like a stretch here, as he's only 27 and just entering his sixth season.

    However, in a short period of time, Rice has shown that he's among the elite athletes in the NFL.

    In 2011, Rice led the league in yards from scrimmage. He also made 76 receptions that season.

    As long as he's in Baltimore, Rice will be a huge part of what the Ravens do—on and off the field. His well-publicized fight against bullying makes him a fan-favorite and a local hero.

    The more you think about it, Rice personifies what it means to be a Raven.

21. Adalius Thomas, Outside Linebacker

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    Years with the Ravens

    Seven (2000-06)

    Best season

    2006 (64 tackles, 11 sacks, one interception, one fumble recovered for a touchdown, one safety)

    Why he made the list

    For all that Adalius Thomas did on the field, he was relatively unheralded nation-wide. He could line up at either defensive tackle or gunner on the punt team. He was truly a jack of all trades.

    Thomas was 6'2", 270 pounds and could get after the quarterback—to the tune of 58.5 sacks in 74 starts.

    That kind of production from someone who "wasn't a superstar" is something that has been common among Ravens since they came to Baltimore in 1996.

20. Duane Starks, Cornerback

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    Years with the Ravens

    Four (1998-2001)

    Best season

    2000 (45 tackles, six interceptions, two fumble recoveries)

    Why he made the list

    Duane Starks was the 10th overall selection in the 1998 NFL draft. He was a tough cornerback out of Miami who knew what it meant to play outstanding defense.

    Though he only played four years in Baltimore, he made 187 tackles and 20 interceptions. He didn't stand out like Ray Lewis on that 2000 record-setting defense, but Starks certainly held his own.

    In the postseason that followed the 2000 regular season, Starks made three interceptions (two in the AFC Championship game, one in the Super Bowl).

    In what was undoubtedly the play of his career, Starks returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXV.

19. Ben Grubbs, Guard

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    Years with the Ravens

    Five (2007-11)

    Best season

    2011 (Pro Bowl selection, blocked for Rice when he led the league in yards from scrimmage)

    Why he made the list

    Ben Grubbs started 70 of the 74 games he played in as a Raven. He was as durable and talented a guard there was during his five years in Baltimore.

    In 2011, Grubbs suffered a toe injury that kept him out of six games. Still, he played well enough to make the Pro Bowl and help Ray Rice lead the NFL in yards from scrimmage.

    You can't do that and be just an average player.

    If it weren't for him being in high demand in free agency after the 2011 season, Grubbs would probably still be a Raven.

18. Mike Flynn, Guard/Center

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    Years with the Ravens

    10 (1998-2007)

    Best season

    2003 (Center for offensive line that led the league's best rushing attack)

    Why he made the list

    Mike Flynn was a grinder. He played right guard when the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV, but later moved to center. He was what you want in an offensive lineman: tough, determined and cerebral.

    Flynn is tied with Ed Reed at fourth in team history for most complete seasons (11). If you play 11 seasons in the NFL, you're doing a lot of things right.

    He also played on the same line as Jonathan Ogden for all of his career, so naturally he wasn't the star.

    Still, Flynn won a Super Bowl, blocked for a 2,000-yard rusher (Jamal Lewis, 2003) and blocked on a line that gave up only 17 sacks in the entire season (2006).

17. Chris McAlister, Cornerback

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    Years with the Ravens

    10 (1999-2008)

    Best season

    2006 (43 tackles, six interceptions, two returned for touchdowns)

    Why he made the list

    Say what you want about Chris McAlister, but you can't deny he was an elite cornerback for many years.

    As a First-Team All-Pro in 2003, McAlister made 33 tackles, defended 14 passes and made three interceptions. That wasn't even his best year.

    His toughness, ball skills and bravado easily earns him a spot on this list.

    Besides his interception in Super Bowl XXXV, this record-breaking field-goal return will go down as the highlight of McAlister's career.

16. Derrick Mason, Wide Receiver

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    Years with the Ravens

    Six (2005-10)

    Best season

    2009 (73 receptions, 1,028 yards, 14.1 yards per reception, seven touchdowns)

    Why he made the list

    Although he played just six seasons in Baltimore, Derrick Mason would eventually become the Ravens all-time leading receiver in both yardage (5,777) and receptions (471).

    Here you can see Mason's career in Baltimore depicted in one play. He catches a 13-yard touchdown, while basically playing with one arm due to a serious shoulder injury.

    In 2007, when he was 33 years old, Mason finished fourth in the NFL in receptions with 107. In 2009, he recorded his eighth 1,000-yard receiving season.

    Mason finished his career playing six of his 14 seasons in Baltimore. He retired ranked 20th all-time in receiving yards (12,061).

    Though he wasn't drafted by the Ravens, Mason is definitely the best wide receiver the Ravens have had in their history.

15. Michael McCrary, Defensive End

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    Years with the Ravens

    Six (1997-2002) 

    Best season

    1998 (66 tackles, 14.5 sacks, one forced fumble)

    Why he made the list

    Michael McCrary was a beast. In his six seasons with Baltimore, he recorded 51 sacks in 75 starts. Besides Peter Boulware, McCrary was the pass-rusher the Ravens looked to during the early 2000's—when they were historically dominant.

    He ranks second all-time in team history with 73 consecutive starts as well.

    McCrary was the first big-time pass-rusher the Ravens ever had. He set the tone for players like Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs.

14. Jamie Sharper, Outside Linebacker

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    Years with the Ravens

    Five (1997-2001) 

    Best season

    2001 (77 tackles, 11 passes defensed, six sacks, one fumble recovered for a touchdown)

    Why he made the list

    Playing alongside Ray Lewis in his prime can't be easy.

    But at the peak of his career in football's biggest game, Jamie Sharper made sure to let the world know who he was.

    Check out this hit.

    Sharper was all over the field, filled up the stat sheet and covered receivers much better than average linebackers.

    In 2001, Sharper had his best season as a Raven. He made 77 tackles, defended 11 passes, recorded six sacks and recovered one fumble for a touchdown.

    So much for a Super Bowl hangover.

13. Matt Stover, Kicker

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    Years with the Ravens

    13 (1996-2008)

    Best season

    2000 (Pro Bowler, 35-for-39 kicking field goals, 30-for-30 kicking extra points)

    Why he made the list

    Yes, he's a kicker, but if you knew how valuable Matt Stover was to the Ravens, you wouldn't question his place on this list.

    He's the franchises' all-time leading scorer (1,464 points). Stover has nearly five times as many points as the team's next highest scorer (Billy Cundiff, 294 points).

    In 2000, Stover was a First-Team All-Pro, and he sure earned it.

    That year, from Week 5 to Week 9, the Ravens went five whole games without scoring a touchdown. Stover converted 14 of his 15 field-goal attempts in that stretch—accounting for all of Baltimore's points (the Ravens were 2-3 in those games).

    The 2000 Ravens are known for their defense, and rightfully so. But if they didn't have Stover, there is no way they would've been Super Bowl champions.

    In what may seem like a minor note, Stover went 402-for-403 on extra-point attempts while with the Ravens. That comes out to about 31 points for each season he played in Baltimore.

12. Jarret Johnson, Outside Linebacker/Defensive End

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    Years with the Ravens

    Nine (2003-11)

    Best season

    2009 (36 tackles, six sacks, four passes defensed, two interceptions, one forced fumble)

    Why he made the list

    Jarret Johnson was a bad man—in a Muhammad Ali kind of way.

    He's the Ravens' all-time leader in games played (129). He wouldn't play that much if he wasn't excellent at what he did. Johnson is also fifth all-time on the teams tackle list (523).

    Johnson was a typical Raven. He was a grinder. He didn't care who the opponent was, what the play call was or what position he played. He would find a way to get the job done.

    From 2007-11, Johnson never missed a start.

    That's how to play like a Raven.

11. Todd Heap, Tight End

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    Years with the Ravens

    10 (2001-10)

    Best season

    2005 (75 receptions, 855 yards, 11.4 yards per receptions, seven touchdowns) 

    Why he made the list

    When it comes to making big catches—specifically for touchdowns—no Raven has ever done it better than Todd Heap. As the franchise's leader in touchdown receptions (41), he's put on clinics of how to make tough catches in the red zone.

    He was an incredible athlete with strength to match. His blocking was well above average and he was remarkably consistent.

    Over 10 years as a Raven, Heap averaged 11 yards per reception. In case you didn't know, Heap was pretty much the team's only option on pass plays, too.

    Another thing Ravens coaches liked about Heap is that he fumbled only seven times in 475 touches.

    Heap was a team player that made more than his share of plays and didn't have to talk trash.

10. Peter Boulware, Outside Linebacker

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    Years with the Ravens

    Eight (1997-2003, 2005)

    Best season

    2001 (45 tackles, 15 sacks, four passes defensed, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery) 

    Why he made the list

    As the fourth-overall pick in the 1997 NFL draft, a lot was expected of Peter Boulware. 

    He delivered.

    In his rookie year, Boulware started every game and made 11.5 sacks. He went on to win the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award as well.

    In 2001, Boulware recorded 15 sacks—which still remains a team record.

    On January 7, 2002, he set the team record for sacks in one game (four).

    As you can see, Boulware was dominant from the moment he became a Raven until he retired.

9. Marshal Yanda, Guard

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    Years with the Ravens

    Six (2007-Present)

    Best season

    2011 (Pro Bowler, started every game, blocked for Ray Rice who lead the league in yards from scrimmage) 

    Why he made the list

    During last year's training camp, Marshal Yanda told his teammates three words that would help them stay grounded during a turbulent season and eventually win Super Bowl XLVII: "Embrace the grind."

    Yanda is the best offensive lineman on the Ravens and may be their best player.

    Sure, right guard isn't a sexy position, but Yanda is the best in the game at what he does. According to Pro Football Focus, Yanda has been the best right guard in football since 2011.

    If you think about it, he's probably the second-best offensive lineman (besides Jonathan Ogden) in team history, and he's only six years into his career.

    Last May, in what was a typical Yanda move, he re-structured his contract in order to clear enough cap space for the Ravens to sign Jacoby Jones and extent Bernard Pollard's contract.

    That worked out pretty well, didn't it?

8. Haloti Ngata, Defensive Lineman

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    Years with the Ravens

    Seven (2006-Present)

    Best season

    2011 (37 tackles, six passes defensed, five sacks, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, one for a touchdown)  

    Why he made the list

    What does Haloti Ngata mean to the Ravens? It's hard to describe.

    Like most defensive linemen, it's hard to grasp Ngata's impact by strictly looking at stats. You really have to watch him play in person to see how great he is.

    Ngata is 6'4", 335 pounds and has the quickness of someone 100 pounds lighter. He can be dominant while playing any position on the defensive line.

    Baltimore traded up just one spot in the 2006 draft to get Ngata—showing how much they thought of him. They didn't want to take a chance on not being able to select him, and their faith has been rewarded.

    When it's all said and done, Ngata may be considered the third-best defender in team history after Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. For a franchise overwhelmingly known for its defense, that's saying a lot.

7. Rod Woodson, Free Safety

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    Years with the Ravens

    Four (1998-2001)

    Best season

    1999 (54 tackles, seven interceptions, two for touchdowns, two fumble recoveries) 

    Why he made the list

    Yes, Rod Woodson didn't play for the Ravens that long. But the four seasons he did play in Baltimore were seasons that did wonders for the growth of Ray Lewis.

    From 1998-2001, Woodson made 253 tackles, caused 26 turnovers (20 interceptions, six fumble recoveries) and scored five touchdowns (interception returns). Those five scores helped him become the NFL's all-time leader in interceptions returned for a touchdown (12).

    He was one of the rare players who was an elite talent but who could also lead by example. Without Woodson's impact on the field and in the locker room, the Ravens wouldn't be where they are today.

6. Terrell Suggs, Outside Linebacker/Defensive End

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    Years with the Ravens

    10 (2003-Present)

    Best season

    2011 (AP Defensive Player of the Year, 52 tackles, 14 sacks, seven forced fumbles, six passes defensed, two interceptions) 

    Why he made the list

    Terrell Suggs has pretty much done it all in his time with the Ravens:

    • Super Bowl champion
    • AP Defensive Player of the Year (2011)
    • AP Defensive Rookie of the Year (2003)
    • The franchise leader in career sacks (84.5), sack yardage (625) and forced fumbles (29)

    Now that Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are gone, Suggs assumes the leadership responsibilities of Baltimore's defense. What Lewis was to Suggs, Suggs can be to rookies like John Simon and Arthur Brown—players he will likely play next to quite often.

    Being a Raven means you have to work hard, have talent and support your teammates. Suggs is a very good example of that. If he can come back this season at full strength and put out a few more strong seasons, don't be surprised if Suggs makes the Hall of Fame one day.

5. Jamal Lewis, Running Back

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    Years with the Ravens

    Six (2000, 2002-06)

    Best season

    2003 (AP Offensive Player of the Year, 387 rushes, 2,066 rushing yards, 5.3 yards per rush, 14 touchdowns, 26 receptions, 205 yards)

    Why he made the list

    Jamal Lewis was the best skill-position player the Ravens have ever had.

    As a rookie, he started 14 games and rushed for 1,364 yards—not including the 102 rushing yards and touchdown he posted in Super Bowl XXXV.

    In 2001, Lewis suffered a torn ACL and a sprained MCL in his left knee during training camp.

    Two years later, he rushed for 2,066 yards (third best all-time). Also in 2003, Lewis set the all-time record for rushing yards in one game (295) and ended up winning the AP Offensive Player of the Year award (the only Raven to ever do so).

    During his time in Baltimore, Lewis averaged 1,300 rushing yards and 7.5 rushing touchdowns per season.

    It's tough to overstate how great Lewis was after what maybe should have been a career-ending knee injury. His combination of speed and power was unstoppable.

4. Joe Flacco, Quarterback

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    Years with the Ravens

    Five (2008-Present)

    Best season

    2010 (306 completions, 489 attempts, 62.6 completion percentage, 3,622 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, 10 interceptions) 

    Why he made the list

    Ah yes, Joe Flacco.

    You may think I'm crazy for putting Flacco on this list, let alone at No. 4.

    If that's the case, I encourage you to objectively watch his tape, from the drive shown above until now.

    The video above, in my opinion, was the turning point in Flacco's career. He had yet to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh when Ben Roethlisberger was playing opposite him.

    In the words of Al Michaels: "That drive, that drive was gigantic, in so many ways."

    Since that game in Pittsburgh, the Ravens have won more because of Flacco instead of (according to many fans) despite Flacco.

    Say what you want about his regular season, but the name of the game is winning Super Bowls. Flacco was the main reason the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII.

    Two players in team history have been named a Super Bowl MVP: Ray Lewis and Joe Flacco.

    What more needs to be said?

3. Ed Reed, Free Safety

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    Years with the Ravens

    11 (2003-12)

    Best season

    2004 (AP Defensive Player of the Year, 64 tackles, 17 passes defensed, nine interceptions, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two sacks, one interception for a touchdown, one fumble recovered for a touchdown)

    Why he made the list

    To rank Ed Reed highly on any "best" list is a decision that needs no justification. But here are some fun facts anyway. 

    He's the NFL's all-time leader in interception return yardage (1,541). The next closest active player is Charles Woodson (896). Reed also has the two longest interception returns in NFL history.

    He's scored 13 career touchdowns in four different ways (punt return, 1; blocked punt return, 3; interception return, 7; fumble recovery, 2).

    Reed was as dynamic a player as the Ravens have ever had. He was the quintessential game-changer.

2. Jonathan Ogden, Tackle

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    Years with the Ravens

    12 (1996-2007)

    Best season

    2003 (First-Team All-Pro, anchored the offensive line that blocked for Jamal Lewis when he became the fifth player ever to rush for more than 2,000 yards in one season)

    Why he made the list

    Jonathan Ogden was the Ravens' first-ever draft pick and was the first Raven to be selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    Ogden was absolutely dominant. From 1997-2007, he made the Pro Bowl every year.

    In 1996, he made his mark on the local community and established The Jonathan Ogden Foundation, which provides assistance to disadvantaged youth.

    There are very few players in all of sports you can assume will perform at the highest level every game. Ogden was one of those few players.

    Ogden was the best first pick Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens could've made.

1. Ray Lewis, Middle Linebacker

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    Years with the Ravens

    17 (1996-2012)

    Best season

    2003 (AP Defensive Player of the Year, 121 tackles, 14 passes defensed, six interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 1.5 sacks, one interception returned for a touchdown)

    Why he made the list

    Ray Lewis is the Ravens.

    He's made countless plays and has put up countless staggering stats.

    From 1999-2004, Lewis was a First-Team All-Pro five times. The year he didn't receive that distinction,2002, he played in only five games.

    He's also one of five players to win the AP Defensive Player of the Year award twice: Joe Greene (1972, 1974), Lawrence Taylor (1981, 1982), Reggie White (1987, 1998) and Bruce Smith (1990, 96).

    And in what will be his biggest achievement, Lewis was the center piece of the best defense of all-time (Baltimore gave up an all-time low 165 points in the 2000 regular season).

    He may be the best defensive player of all-time and is the longest tenured and most decorated player in team history.

    Therefore, it's not hard to see why Lewis is the greatest Raven of all-time.