Editor’s note: While much of the Trib’s coverage leading up to Thursday’s start of the NFL Draft will focus on the Pittsburgh Steelers, we also will look at the league at large. Particularly, the Steelers’ divisional rivals. Between April 18-20, we’ll examine each of the three best and three worst picks by AFC North teams over the past five years.
Ozzie Newsome deservedly earned a reputation as one of the NFL’s better personnel men. A strong late-season run last season allowed him to avoid retiring from the Baltimore Ravens on a down note.
The Ravens avoided their first five-year stretch without a playoff berth in franchise history by running down the Steelers in November and December for the AFC North title last season. But even with that 10-6 finish, Baltimore is a pedestrian 50-46 with just one playoff victory over the past six seasons.
Is that a result in a dropoff in their drafting? Perhaps, at least in part. There doesn’t seem to be a star they’ve picked over the past five drafts. But there aren’t too many duds, either. Take a look:
1. Za’Darius Smith, OLB, 2015, 122rd overall
If the four-year, $66 million contract the Green Bay Packers gave Smith last month is any indication, he far outplayed his fourth-round draft stature. Smith had 8½ sacks last season, his first full campaign as a featured part of the Ravens defense.
2. Matt Judon, OLB, 2016, 146th overall
Part of the Ravens’ decision to allow Smith to leave was tied to the emergence of Judon, who has 15 sacks over the past two seasons and could be poised to take a star turn now that Smith and Terrell Suggs have moved on from Baltimore.
3. Orlando Brown, OT, 2018, 83rd overall
The mammoth Brown was considered a lock as a first-round pick until he had what will probably go down as one of the worst combine performances in the event’s history. He slipped to the third round, where the Ravens scooped him up and reaped immediate dividends when he became a quality right tackle as a rookie.
1. Breshad Perriman, WR, 2015, 26th overall
The son of a former NFL receiver, Perriman was viewed across the league as a sure-fire first-round pick. If the Ravens didn’t take him, someone else probably would have. But he produced just 43 catches in 27 games for Baltimore and has joined his third team in five seasons.
2. Kamalei Correa, OLB, 2016, 42nd overall
The Ravens turned this mid-second-round pick into a sixth-round pick two years later when it became apparent Correa would not make the 53-man roster last summer, and they traded him to Tennessee. Correa had just 19 tackles and zero sacks in 25 games for the Ravens in 2016-17.
3. Maxx Williams, TE, 2015, 55th overall
Though injuries are part of Williams’ story, the Ravens surely envisioned more than three touchdowns and 63 catches over the four seasons of his rookie contract. Most telling, Williams remains unsigned in late April after entering free agency last month at age 24.