Ravens' grades are in: B's across the board

OWINGS MILLS -- In an age of immediacy, the virtues of patience and a wait-and-see approach are relics of the past. In the Twitter and text message era, nothing waits anymore, including instant analysis of the NFL draft.

Although conventional wisdom dictates that it takes two or three years to accurately evaluate a draft, what fun would it be to wait that long to offer an opinion?

With that thought in mind, the Baltimore Ravens' meat-and-potatoes draft class of six players headlined by Ole Miss All-American offensive tackle Michael Oher drew solid praise from analysts. The consensus grade was a B.

The Ravens sought players with size, athleticism and versatility.

And several of the incoming rookies have overcome varying degrees of serious adversity.

Oher (homeless as a teenager, mother addicted to crack cocaine, barely knew his murdered father), Utah defensive end-linebacker Paul Kruger (one kidney, no spleen after an accident, stabbed in a gang attack), Nicholls State cornerback Lardarius Webb (kicked out of Southern Miss for rule violations, family history of substance-abuse problems) and Texas Christian linebacker Jason Phillips (had surgery to repair a torn meniscus suffered at the NFL scouting combine.).

"Some teams draft size and speed, and we do," Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta said Sunday. "Some teams draft based off the combine and all-star games. I think what we do is quite honestly we pay attention to all that stuff, but these guys are tough. This was a draft about toughness.

"Mental toughness, most of these guys have had some sort of adversity that they've overcome in some way, shape or form, but also physical toughness. We have a tough team. We're in a tough division. We've got tough coaches. We demand a lot from our players. We got tougher at every position across the board, and that's going to help us this fall."

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper concurred with the Ravens that Oher's ability to play left tackle or right tackle is a major asset.

Assigning the Ravens a B, Kiper opined that Kruger, a 23-year-old hybrid pass rusher, could immediately challenge for playing time. And Webb's presence as well as Phillips' productivity and hard-nosed nature boosted the grade.

"Lardarius Webb is a little light at around 180 pounds, but, with the help of an experienced safety [Ed Reed] to support him, he can definitely play cornerback in this league," Kiper wrote. "I love the fifth-round selection of inside linebacker Jason Phillips. He's going to fit in very well with this talented group of linebackers."

CBSSportsline's Pete Prisco, who gave Baltimore a B, called Kruger the Ravens' top pick, but raised questions about not picking a wide receiver.

A few receivers Baltimore had high grades on were picked by the Cleveland Browns in the second round: Ohio State's Brian Robiskie and Georgia's Mohamed Massaquoi.

"I get that you take big people when you can, but they needed other help," wrote Prisco, adding that sixth-round Virginia running back Cedric Peerman was a second-day gem.

Peerman had the fastest 40-yard dash among the backs at the combine, with a 4.45 clocking and registered a 40-inch vertical leap and bench pressed 225 pounds 27 times. Dallas Morning News NFL columnist Rick Gosselin gave the Ravens a B, predicting a bright future for Oher, a finalist for the Outland Trophy.

"Pencil in Oher as a future Pro Bowler," Gosselin wrote. "Ozzie Newsome doesn't miss often in the first round." That's definitely true with the glaring exceptions of quarterback Kyle Boller and wide receiver Travis Taylor.

"The Ravens' 2009 draft class was far from flashy, but in Michael Oher, Ozzie Newsome once again demonstrated his ability to capitalize on talented prospects slipping on draft day," wrote Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout, giving Baltimore a B. "Utah pass rusher Paul Kruger is a Jarret Johnson clone. ... While the Raven s might have become more stout, they failed to address the need for speed and playmaking ability at receiver, a decision that could hinder quarterback Joe Flacco's development."

The praise for Kruger, despite his hard luck and a rare medical background that prompted some hot-weather NFL teams to downgrade or remove him from their draft boards due to concerns about how he would handle humidity, was nearly universal.

"Utah's Paul Kruger reminds me of Jared Allen, a high-motor pass rusher who seems to fit Baltimore's defensive scheme," said FOX Sports' John Czarnecki, giving Baltimore a B-minus. He called Oher, who made major academic strides in high school after being adopted, the "smartest player at his position in the draft."


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