Well, it's the first week of May, and for many college students like myself, it's finals time. With finals time comes final grades. Young adults are not the only people receiving grades this time of year, however...
Since the NFL Draft is an ancient three days old and its appallingly obvious how good each pick will be in the pros, the pundits have taken it upon themselves to grade each team's draft performance. These same pundits are the ones who will inevitably start making a mold of Brady Quinn's head for Canton, start a campaign to save Matt Millen's job, and actually buy into the fact that the Raiders are improved and Randy Moss will help the Patriots. Remember, these players have not even suited up in an NFL training facility yet, but the "experts" know enough about them to determine their impact on the team, the future, and the history of the league.
All that being said, I'd like to give my grade of one team's draft. That team, of course, is my beloved Ravens. Here is what I will grade on: the team's ability to fill needs; creativity with it's picks; decision making at crunch time. Here is what I will not grade on: projected success of the picks; ability to grab the best player in the draft. With that criteria, I give the Ravens a solid B for their draft performance. They had a very solid draft, but it wasn't their best draft, and they would most likely admit the same thing (this is the team drafted Jon Ogden and Ray Lewis in the same round!).
The Ravens set out in the first round trying to fill the holes throughout the offensive line. They knew a guard and a tackle would be of equal value, and many people thought Justin Blalock or Tony Ugoh would be the man to fill the hole. Lucky for the Ravens, the best guard in the draft, Ben Grubbs, fell to #29, and the Ravens were sensible to nab him while he was there. That's typical Ozzie Newsome; stick to the gameplan, because that's why it's there. The only thing that would have made Ozzie deviate from the gameplan would have been if Brady Quinn actually would have fallen to #29. The Wizard also didn't do anything rash or hasty, like trade next year's number one pick for the chance to take Quinn. We tried that once, ended up with Kyle Boller, and that will probably scare us away from not having a number one pick again.
All of the other rounds were typical Ravens' drafts. Each pick was a position where we had need, and the player filling that need will most likely be a Pro Bowler some day (Yamon Figurs... by the way, when he inevitably returns a punt/kickoff for a touchdown, join me in a nice "Well that Figurs"). We even came away with the steal of the draft in Troy Smith, who, as we all know, could one day be lighting the NFL on fire. The Ravens were sensible, logical, and realistic with each pick, and the few trades we made served to put us in position to draft more talent. We also realized how many picks we had, and how little money we have, and dumped all second day picks except for the compensatory picks that we have to keep. Even from an economic standpoint, this draft made sense.
The national media thought otherwise. The Ravens' average draft grade, as figured by yours truly, comes out to a 2.44 on a 4.0 scale. Folks, that's a C+. A C+. A C+? Apparently the pundits forgot who they were grading. These are the Ravens. We rewrote the book on drafting. When people thought we were going to take Lawrence Philips, we took Jon Ogden. When it comes to the draft, we are the valedictorian and salutatorian, since everybody else is so far behind. Teams like Jacksonville and Cleveland make our personnel assistants their GMs in an effort to try to draft like us. Yet the national media gives us, the originators, a C+?
The only logical reason I can think of for this slap-in-the-face grade is if they compared this draft to all other Ravens drafts, not every other team. In that case, they might actually be right. This draft was average for the Ravens. We probably picked up a Pro Bowler, maybe two, but we didn't break the bank like in 1996 (Ogden, Ray Lewis, Jermaine Lewis), 1997 (Peter Boulware, Jamie Sharper, Kim Herring, Jeff Mitchell), 1999 (Chris McAlister, Brandon Stokely, Edwin Mulitalo), 2000 (Jamal Lewis, Adalius Thomas), 2001 (Todd Heap, Gary Baxter, Ed Hartwell), 2002 (Ed Reed, Anthony Weaver, Chester Taylor), and 2003 (Terrell Suggs, Musa Smith, Ovie Mughellie). The jury is still out on the most recent drafts, since I figure the rookie contracts of the picks should be expired before we judge. The bottom line is, most of our draft picks are solid contributors, many are Pro Bowlers, almost all gain playoff experience, and anybody drafted before 2001 played in and won a Super Bowl. So if that's the criteria, then yes, I guess this was a pretty standard draft for the Ravens.
The highest grade used to calculate the DGPA (draft grade point average) was a B, and it came from Mel Kiper of ESPN, Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, and Jason Cole of Yahoo.com. Kiper's reputation as the ultimate draft guru speaks for itself, so his grade means a lot. The other two seem to be pretty knowledgeable, seeing as they gave a fair assessment. In Dallas, that guy must have seen what the Ravens did and said "Oh, that's what you're supposed to do during the draft".
So who gave us the grades that yanked the DGPA down? John Czarnecki of FoxSports.com gave us a C-. Who the hell is John Czarnecki, and how does his grading of previous drafts stack up to how the players actually turned out? A C-? Maybe he's new around here and didn't know who he was grading. A C-? For the best drafting team of the decade? If we chose Doink the Clown in the first round he would be a Pro Bowler at something within three years. I've got a good place for John Czarnecki to put that C-.
The most hurtful grade, however, came from our beloved and not in any way out-of-town biased Baltimore Sun. Ken Murray of the Sun (probably some filthy closet Steeler's fan) gave the Ravens a C. He should know better. He has seen Ozzie turn coal to diamond like he has some sort of touch superior to King Midas. If Ozzie looks at you the right way you'll be able to kick a 50 yard field goal before breakfast. But this jackass Ken Murray forgot that he was a) writing for the supposedly hometown Baltimore newspaper and b) writing about the hometown Baltimore team. Don't be like everybody else; we all know picking a guard in the first round isn't sexy, but it's sensible. Throw the fans a bone, and laud the team like the drafting geniuses they are.
The best part of this whole draft grades jazz is that the Ravens don't even care (trust me, I care enough for all of us). They posted the grades as the top article on the team's official website. Why would they do that? Because in three years they can dig up that article and say "Yep, they were all wrong again". The Ravens are too classy to do such a thing, but it's definitely not beneath me. When the time comes, I'll dig up this post again and compare the grades to how the players actually are. The Ravens will simply hang on to the article, and wear it like a badge of honor in their own special way of sticking it to the national media.