Mikey’s Incoherent Guide to Understand the NFL Draft

The NFL Draft usually takes place every year sometime in April, and is held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Each year several hundred players identified to possibly have what it takes to benefit professional football teams. These players were identified through a combination of watching the game tape of their college career, and evaluating performances in the Senior Bowl [ located in Mobile, AL usually ], if they were one of the lucky players invited to play in the Senior Bowl.

The NFL Scouting Combine, which takes place currently in the Indianapolis Colts stadium, gives scouts, general managers, head coaches, basically entire front offices, owners and other people important in the drafting process to watch things in person that might otherwise go unnoticed.

SUPPOSEDLY, you get to see the immeasurables, things like a potential player’s charisma, football IQ, overall intelligence, the way his hips move, quickness in a small space, ability to take directions (AND ability to change directions), composure under pressure, composure when being grilled by people who know the game, blah blah you get the idea. I said supposedly because every year there’s a number of players who should never get drafted, or at least should get drafted much lower that end up going much higher based solely on how they performed at the Combine.

Let me get this straight, if a player has languished around doing absolutely nothing on the football field, eating potato chips and drinking beer, going to frat parties and being a detriment to his team, but then decides he really wants a multi-million dollar contract, he can just work out really hard for a few months with elite personal trainers, score really high at the Combine, or at his college’s Pro Day, or both, he deserves a pick in the first or second round rather than the 7th or going undrafted?

That’s a great way to find people who love football, understand it, and will provide reliable offensive or defensive output for years to come.

Despite some of the more brainless draft picks taken over the years, the NFL Draft is still the most important tool for teams to find continuity and success. There are other ways of getting decent players like buying them for exorbitant amounts of money during Free Agency, signing players from NFL Europe (I’m not sure if this is still around), signing college players who weren’t chosen through the draft, and of course there’s the NFL Supplemental Draft.

I’m not really sure how players enter the Supplemental talent pool, but I think it has something to do with players that are dismissed from their teams. Suspensions, criminal charges, taking money from crooked agents, missing a significant amount of time in college, in short, players who for whatever reason weren’t invited to take part in the traditional NFL Draft.

Even with all these other minor talent pools from which the 32 NFL teams get to choose from, the regular draft is where successful franchises are born. There are exceptions to this rule when a team gets really good in a short amount of time, but for continued success take a look around.

The Baltimore Ravens, guided by General Manager Ozzie Newsome, have arguably drafted  better than any other team in the past two decades. The New England Patriots have Bill Belichick and had GM Scott Pioli, the New York Football Giants have Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin, and the Indianapolis Colts had Bill Polian and Tony Dungy.

In the past 20 years, these 4 teams have combined for 8 Super Bowl wins and 11 appearances. Teams that don’t draft particularly well like the New York Jets under Rex Ryan, can have short-term success but eventually begin to fall apart. After two consecutive appearances in the AFC championship game, they haven’t been to the playoffs since.

Maybe it has something to do with their troubles involving Tim Tebow, Darrelle Revis’s contract dispute, continued offensive struggles, or signing Mark Sanchez to a contract extension (WTF?) but mainly it has to do with not having successful draft classes to replace losses in free agency, and retirement.

The 2013 NFL Draft is finally over, and I can finally relax now that I know that my team (the Ravens) will be able to field a defense this season. I can’t remember the last time our team (or any team) lost that many star players in a single season to free agency and retirement. I tried to tell myself that this happens all the time, but honestly I was starting to lose faith in Ozzie the Wizard.

I know, shame on me.

I felt a little better when we signed OLB Elvis Dumervil from Denver for 5 million less than former-Raven OLB Paul Kruger (HAH!). I don’t want to get into a long conversation about the free agents we signed prior to the draft (I brought this up in a previous article, see State of the Franchise: Baltimore Ravens 3/30), but I really have to say at least one thing about Rolando McClain.

WHAT THE HELL MAN! If for some reason Ozzie and John Harbaugh don’t toss you off the team prior to the regular season, count your lucky stars and don’t go back to Decatur, GA for any reason until you can get your sh*t straight! Stop getting arrested and use that passion for life to show our team, and the entire NFL, that you’re not completely worthless. You were a top-10 draft pick in Oakland, and it’s about damn time you act like it.

There I said it.

This year’s draft class was different from any other I have ever witnessed. Only one QB went in the 1st round, which is crazy since there are a LOT more than 1 teams who need a new starting QB. It wasn’t even one of the quarterbacks we thought were going to be drafted in the 1st round, it was EJ Manuel, QB from Florida State. Nothing wrong with that, except he’s probably going to be asked to step in immediately since he got picked in the 1st round.

I refuse to make fun of this pick, even though it seems a little out there, especially when there were so many other quarterbacks available at the time.

Another quarterback, Geno Smith from West Virginia, went as high as 6th overall in a number of mock drafts, but didn’t get drafted until the 2nd round, 39th overall by the New York Jets. Now this I do have a problem with since the Jets have MANY other needs. They also have 5 other quarterbacks on the roster currently (4 others now that they released Tim Tebow), Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy (former Alabama QB), David Garrard and Matt Simms (?).

Quarterback is the one position where you do NOT need that much depth.

Very quickly I’ll list some of the other things I took from watching this year’s draft.

Manti Te’o didn’t fall as far as some sports analysts feared he would, and didn’t get taken as high as I thought he would (38 overall by the Chargers). Even though Geno Smith threw a hissy fit for not getting drafted in the 1st round, at least he didn’t fall as far as USC QB Matt Barkley (4th round, 98 overall by the Eagles), or Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib (4th round, 110 overall by the Giants).

Tyrann Mathieu (aka: the Honey Badger), despite getting dismissed from LSU last year for smoking weed, managed to get drafted pretty high (3rd round, 68 overall by the Cardinals) thanks to a vote of confidence from Patrick Peterson.

DJ Hayden’s love for the game and burning determination got him drafted on the first day of the draft (1st round, 12 overall by the Raiders), even after sustaining a life-threatening tear of his IVC (inferior vena cava) 6 months ago. Most people (upwards of 95%) with this injury die before or during the surgical operation. Somehow the University of Houston corner back is back on the field, this time in the National Football League.

No running backs went in the 1st round, not Wisconsin’s Montee Ball (2nd round, 58 by the Broncos) or Alabama’s Eddie Lacy (2nd round, 61 by the Packers), South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore (4th round, 131 by the 49ers) or anyone else. Lacy and Lattimore both dropped due to injury concerns, but Montee Ball’s only fault, being used a lot in high school and college, was a double-edged sword; Some teams take that to mean he’s reliable and non injury-prone while others look at the mileage on his body due to taking an enormous amount of carries and/or hits.

Two offensive tackles got drafted 1st and 2nd overall for the first time in the draft since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. Three offensive linemen were grabbed in the top 4 picks, and five in the top 10. That leaves two conclusions on the table.

Either the linemen are that much better than usual this season or the skill position players, especially QB and RB, were just that much worse than usual.

West Virginia’s Tavon Austin (1st round, 8 overall by the Rams) needs recognition as perhaps the biggest play making wide receiver in this year’s draft. No wonder Geno Smith threw for so many touchdowns. Austin is reminiscent of ex-Vikings receiver Percy Harvin, or perhaps Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson. Even though he’s only 5 ft 8 in and 180 lbs soaking wet, he should immediately step in as one of Sam Bradford’s top receiving options, as well as be able to contribute during punt/kick returns, or as a slot receiver.

At least that’s what’s expected of him.

Florida State’s EJ Manuel (1st round, 16 overall by the Bills), I mean what can I say about this pick that hasn’t already been said? Even though the Bills already swapped picks with the Rams (used to acquire Tavon Austin), many people think that he still got drafted too high.

I can’t think of a single mock draft that had him picked ahead of better known quarterbacks such as Barkley, Nassib, or Smith.

EJ obviously has talent, otherwise he wouldn’t have even been a subconscious thought during the first day of the draft. He has prototypical size and height (6 ft 5 in, 237 lbs), can make all the throws required of an NFL-ready quarterback, and solid mobility (think of Andrew Luck or Ben Roethlisberger). Not the type of mobility that makes him a threat to score with his feet every time he touches the ball like Michael Vick or Colin Kaepernick, but the ability to generate 1st downs by scrambling when necessary, or to buy time in the pocket for coverage to ease up.

His flaws are just as obvious, which is the reason he wasn’t even rated as a 1st-round prospect by most football analysts. He lacks sufficient accuracy to hit smaller windows of opportunity at the next level, he has trouble reading through a complete progression, lacks experience playing under center and/or running a pro-style offense. He forces throws into impossible blanket coverage on occasion. He is not so overwhelmingly good that he can create offense without significant help around him, very possible seeing as how he’s probably going to be starting in Buffalo’s defunct offensive system.

To put it in layman’s terms, he doesn’t have enough skill position options, or even sturdy offensive linemen to keep him from getting annihilated 3-6 times a game. I’m sure he would be much more likely to become a dependable starting quarterback if given time to adjust to the speed of pro football, even thought that’s highly unlikely now that Ryan Fitzpatrick is in Tennessee (Didn’t the Bills JUST give him a contract extension last year?).

I’ve read stories about quarterbacks taking years to develop back in the good ol’ days like Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw, Baltimore’s Johnny Unitas or Oakland’s Jim Plunkett. The shelf life of a quarterback, especially one drafted in the 1st round, has lessened to the point where sometimes a single losing season can lead to him being traded/waived/cut, along with the head coach, general manager and more depending on how desperate the owner/front office is.

Nobody is more guilty of having an itchy trigger finger than the Raiders, especially when under the ownership of the late Al Davis. He hired 8 different coaches since 1998, and only 1 coach has been able to last more than one full season since 2006.

FACT: 15 different quarterbacks have started at least 1 game in a Raiders uniform in the past decade (2003+).

Players all across the league are being given less time to situate themselves, and must spend more time learning complex playbooks than ever before. EJ Manuel and Geno Smith, along with pretty much every other draft pick in the 2013 class, are no different; They will most likely be given less than 2 full seasons to make a good impression on their coaches/bosses.

I’m only mentioning quarterbacks separately since no other position deals with as much criticism and publicity. They will always get more credit and more blame than the rest of their teammates, which puts them in an even more precarious spot.

It’s time to sink or swim, put up or shut up. Although I’m not a fan of this ideology, I understand the reasoning behind this mentality to a certain extent. Too many jobs are on the line and too much money involved for a franchise to give much more time than they are currently without something substantial to show for it.

As in wins and losses, butts in the bleachers, TV contracts and PSL season ticket sales.

Good luck to all those lucky players drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft. Here’s one piece of advice you can take to the bank:

**ADVICE**

Don’t get repeatedly arrested or get caught taking drugs or steroids. Put some money away with your financial adviser and exercise restraint when thinking about adding to your exotic car collection. They just aren’t a great investment, but in the back of your mind you already knew that.

Babymommas can get expensive rather quickly. Just think of each illegitimate kid as a few million dollars being stolen out of your bank account. Use simple math when adding up your expenses:

Contract + Bonuses + Endorsements

– Babymommas – Exotic Cars – Strip Club Expenses – Patron/Cristal/Ciroc/Dom Perignon/Moscato – Agent Fees – Rent on 4 Unnecessary Mansions – Charity Costs – TAXES

= Net Income

 

Next up will be my opinion on Baltimore’s 2013 Draft Class, including Matt Elam, Arthur Brown, Brandon Williams, etc.

 

Read my numerous other articles at: http://www.Kyarnboy.Wordpress.com

OR Email me at: Wong_83@Hotmail.Com

 

 

Return of the Honey Badger

 

Tyrann Mathieu Heisman

Better days, prior to dismissal from LSU

 

I couldn’t go anywhere last year without seeing replays of the Honey Badger plastered all over television sets.

Anytime I’m working at one of my restaurants, making drinks or talking to customers, there are TVs running nearly continuously behind my back. I am forever watching ESPN Sportscenter, the NFL channel, local sports programming, or whatever they feel like nationally televising.

And they always televised the games between LSU and Alabama.

I don’t remember all that much about the games between these two teams except they both are in the SEC conference, they both are NFL football factories, and they both play stifling, suffocating, punishing, physical defense (I distinctly remember one game where they combined to score 9 total points).

Oh and one more thing. Tyrann Mathieu, instantly recognizable from the stripe of bright blond dyed hair, aka: the Honey Badger, is a P-L-A-Y-M-A-K-E-R. With a capital P. If you love football, college or professional, then you should at least admire his awe-inspiring football instincts and ability to lay bigger, stronger, faster players out cold.

If you don’t believe me or need a refresher course, check out this highlight reel:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KBPaoS6odk

Yes that really happened, and No he doesn’t have a stunt double.

If they paid college players based solely on the number of big plays they made, the Honey Badger would be a millionaire before he got to the NFL. He’s just that much better than the next player.

It’s not everyday that a consensus All-American, Heisman finalist as a defensive player and winner of the Chuck Bednarik award gets dismissed from his team. I don’t think that’s ever happened to someone as highly decorated as him.

Fast forward to August 10th, 2012, and that’s exactly what happened.

I was looking through articles on NFL.com and Bleacher Report when a little box on the right side of my screen said something about him getting dismissed from the LSU football program. I clicked on the link and for some reason my brain refused to acknowledge this as reality.

Could one of the best defensive players in the country, on a team that came this close to winning last season’s NCAA National Championship game, really be getting the boot from Les Miles team? I read every single word on that page. Still in denial. I went to the NCAA.com page, searched for Tyrann Mathieu on Google, Yahoo, random sports blogs. I desperately needed to find something that could refute this statement.

Evidently he has a problem with drugs. ‘Technically’ the Tigers team released him for unconfirmed violations of team rules but I’m assuming, along with pretty much everyone else, that he got tossed for testing positive for marijuana on his blood and urine tests.

Here’s where it gets personal. For people on the outside of this world, living in an innocence bubble, it’s just too easy to point fingers and shake your head at others for having substance abuse problems.

Even people who are in the substance abuse-rehabilitation programs are nearly as bad. Doctors, therapists, counselors, program managers, teachers, these are people who think all kids are cured the same.

Kind of like a one size fits all program, a step-by-step program to curing the want or need for whatever substance their clients are stuck on.

You take a kid who has been hanging out with the wrong people for  a very long time, listening to them, using them as role models and aspiring to become the same type of person. Sometimes there are problems at home, domestic verbal, mental, or physical abuse. Sometimes these problems are genetically linked to the parents, or grandparents, such as documented cases of familial alcoholism.

I can’t speak for him personally, but I know that I have dealt with substance abuse issues for a long time, and no program, no speeches, no campfire atmosphere filled with drug addicts and people with mental issues is going to permanently change your way of thinking in a matter of days or months.

What it really takes to change, in my opinion, is to create an outlet, somewhere you can run to and take solace whenever the stress and fear becomes overwhelming. Drugs and alcohol offer something that nothing else can compete with, a way to forget and erase bad memories and suffering.

Friends and family members can only support you by giving you a reason to continue to live, a better option.

Personally, everyone I knew and everyone I spent any time with made it seem like it was normal behavior to go out and smoke weed, drink alcohol, do drugs. It’s not even a debate about whether my actions were right or wrong, because I figured anyone outside of my circle of friends had no idea what we were going through… what I was going through personally.

Every time I wanted someone to talk to and listen to me I was given a stern lecture about how I should know better, how it could be harmful to my body and my life. Well that’s the pont isn’t it? I never thought I would live past adulthood so that point doesn’t even make a difference. When I woke up one day, having suddenly aged into my mid twenties, I was shocked and confused that my heart was still beating and my body was still in relatively good working order.

To be perfectly honest, I was actually pretty mad at myself. I couldn’t even do a good job of destroying myself. Once again I was a failure at whatever I was trying to do, even if what I was trying to do was to kill myself before I turned 21.

I’ve given casual thought to the merits of whether drowning myself in drugs and alcohol was the same as pointing a gun to my head through one ear, blowing my brains out through the other. If the end result of both is death, and the procedure or journey doesn’t matter, then there’s no difference between them.

I’m not a psychologist, and through the use of drugs/alcohol, I’ve numbed myself to the point that I don’t possess either the required intelligence or want to give myself a definitive answer.

As for the Honey Badger, I’m not as quick to criticize him for a handful of positive drug tests as many people out there are. I don’t think he was trying to derail his blossoming career in football, I just think he didn’t really know any better. Yeah I’m sure he said all the right things when the LSU football program told him that drugs were forbidden but he probably thought he could just do it in private while covering it up with detoxification drinks or masking agents.

Luckily, he and I both found a reason to continue to battle on.

It must have been quite a wake-up call when he found himself without a job, without an education, pretty much living at home, surrounded by a number of beautiful trophies that he would never have the chance to add to. If only someone who give him a chance. Someone who would take him under his wing, give him a positive male role model without asking for anything in return. There was only a slim possibility that he would ever be able to play football competitively ever again, I mean just look at what happened to Marcus Vick.

For anyone who doesn’t know who I’m talking about, Marcus Vick is the younger brother of Michael Vick, the currently on the hot seat Philadelphia Eagles starting QB. Marcus was supposedly as gifted, if not more gifted, then his brother. He played QB just like his brother, and even starred at the same school, Virginia Tech.

His career path careened off a cliff during the last game of his college career, when he stomped on an opposing player’s hand/arm with his cleats in the nationally televised Gator Bowl. Then he got into a lot of trouble, including possession and gun charges, driving on a suspended license and finally went to jail.

Sounds familiar for anyone who has dealt with substance abuse issues, doesn’t it?

Instead of getting drafted in the top 10 like most of the media thought he would, Marcus ended up as an undrafted free-agent to the Miami Dolphins. They didn’t even bring him in as a QB, despite his game tape or prodigious skill. He got signed to the team as a wide receiver, for almost no money. Not surprisingly, he didn’t make it through one season before his once promising football career was over.

In no way, shape or form is Tyrann Mathieu as bad as Marcus Vick was. He doesn’t have a string of criminal charges attached to his resume, forcing potential employers to weigh those against any potential benefit he might add to the team. He might have gone down that path too if not for several players taking time out of their busy schedules to talk to him, to act as a big brother to a troubled yet undeniably talented youth.

Arizona corner back Patrick Peterson, and famous former All-World cornerback Deion Sanders have both taken an interest in helping Tyrann find his way back to the light. For months, they have been tutoring him, talking to him, and most importantly, listening to his problems, relating to him in a way that doesn’t push him into a corner.

For all the problems he has caused, and all the people he negatively impacted by getting himself kicked off his former team, he remains one of the most exciting and interesting players I have ever seen in at least the past decade. Because he is so short (5’8″) and so small (185 lbs), and just so captivating as a character on the football field, it seems that I’m not the only one in his corner.

It’s exactly because he’s so normal in stature that I want to see him do well in the NFL.

As of yesterday or the day before, the Honey Badger was drafted in the 2nd round, 69th overall by, of all teams, the Arizona Cardinals. The same team that Patrick Peterson plays for.

The return of the Honey Badger to prime time television is good for the sport, good for us, the viewers at home, and good for him, his friends and his family. His personality and penchant for making big plays at the most opportune times will make any game he’s in more exciting.

The doors of opportunity opened slightly once again, all he has to do is not mess up and end up like Rolando McClain.

http://www.baltimoreravens.com/news/article-1/Newsome-Rolando-McClain-Still-Part-Of-Football-Team/646ecc31-8826-47fa-8331-29337b3695ab

Rolando McClain

Rolando McClain 3

Kyarnboy.Wordpress.Com

Wong_83@Hotmail.Com

 

State of the Franchise: Baltimore Ravens 3/30/13

A few quick updates on our beloved Super Bowl XLVII Champion Baltimore Ravens.

Things are not NEARLY as bad as everyone thought only a few short weeks ago. The sky is not falling, the Ravens are rebuilding but not in bad shape at all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the biggest fan of the Boldin to San Francisco trade (more on this later), nor the release of Bernard Pollard or Ed Reed. I just realize that there will always be turnover each year, just like the NFL analysts and the radio show hosts are saying. Get with the program, our team will still compete for the AFC North crown with Pittsburgh and *cough* Cincinnati. So relax.

1. Furthermore, I have to say I like many of the free-agent signings so far this offseason. Michael Huff, the versatile former 1st-round draft pick out of Texas, has a ton of potential and can be very good in Baltimore. He’s far from a lock Hall of Famer like Ed Reed is but at this point in their respective careers, I’m going to go out on a limb and say he’s going to play a lot better than he did in Oakland. He might even make the Pro Bowl if our defensive line can generate any pass rush this year.

2. Chris Canty is another big acquisition this offseason. I seem to remember him being a pretty big deal a few years back when he got traded from Dallas to New York. I think that was 2009 or 2010. Either way, he’s definitely a good defensive lineman, better in run-support than pass-rush, and I’m pretty sure he’s got at least a few more good years in the tank. If you don’t really understand what kind of player he was previously, only 3-4 years ago he was worth $42 million to the Giants. He JUST turned 30. Unlike wide receiver or cornerback or ESPECIALLY running back, the big uglies in the middle of the field don’t suddenly go bad, they often play into their mid or even late 30s.

3. F*#k Paul Kruger. He can go eat a bag of baby dicks in Cleveland. For all of you who thought he was such a huge loss this offseason, I promise you never even heard of him until really the beginning of this season. He was a huge bust for like 3 years of his rookie contract coming out of Utah. So either he was lazy as shit and just underwhelmed with his play for several years or was too stupid and just took that long to figure out our defense. Either way he’s the Browns problem now. Here, let me make it real simple for you:

Paul Kruger is 27 years old. In 4 seasons he has a total of 15.5 sacks regular season, 6.0 sacks postseason. Since 9.0 regular season and 4 postseason sacks all happened this season, he only had 6.5 and 2.0 through 3 whole seasons. Combine that with how bad he truly is in run-support and you can see why I’m not really all that stressed over losing him. He’s costing Cleveland $40 million dollars/5 years!

“One year of decent pass rush does not a star defensive end make.”

Elvis Dumervil is 29 years old. in 7 seasons he has 63.5 sacks regular season, 1.5 sacks postseason. 5 out of 7 seasons he’s had at LEAST 8.5 sacks, including 17 in just 2019!!! Look up the definition of reliable pass-rushing defensive end and there’s a picture of Dumervil next to it. Nobody in the league short of Jared Allen, Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware or Terrell Suggs gets to the QB as often as he does. Guess how much we got him for? $26 million base or $35 million max, contributing only $2.5 million towards this years salary cap.

Who would you take, Kruger for 40 mill over 5 years or Dumervil for 35 mill over 5 years. Enough said.

4. Let’s talk about Anquan Boldin for a minute. This is the guy who dominated the Super Bowl this season, the guy who caught 6 TDs this postseason. Boldin is a large, powerful possession-type receiver who is hard to tackle and even harder to bring down. That kind of receiver can be quite effective in the NFL for a long time, especially when he’s comfortable in an offensive system with a good Quarterback. So WHY the F#$K did we give him to San Francisco for peanuts?!?! Answer me that!!

Ok, now that I’ve calmed down, slightly, let me explain. Keep in mind that I might not have access to all relevant information involving Boldin’s contract, cap numbers or terms of the trade. This is what I think:

Boldin would have costed Baltimore around $6 million dollars this season, which would mean 6 million towards our salary cap number. Because he would be an unrestricted free-agent if we refused to pay this number, Ozzie/Harbaugh/Whoever decided to offer him up to San Francisco in return for a) not having to pay him $6 million dollars and b) because we would receive a 6th round draft pick in return. Seriously think about that for a second.

There is nothing wrong with a 6th or even 7th rounder, plenty of decent NFL starters are drafted in the later rounds. At the time Baltimore had next to no salary cap room, and that’s why we gave him away for chump change. The thing is, we’re not talking about Bobbie Williams here or even David Reed, the receiver we did end up resigning, albeit for a lot less money ($2.5 million). This is arguably the best receiver on the team when you consider just how valuable he was during the playoffs if nothing else. Instead of getting all antsy and dumping him for whatever we could get for him at the time, I would have done things way differently.

Instead of accepting that trade offer, a better strategy involves paying him the 6 million we owed him this season, and then initiating trade talks with any number of teams. I’m sure there are plenty of teams who would be willing to give us more than a 6th rounder. Since any team that traded for him would essentially be picking up his tab, the $6 mill that we couldn’t afford to pay him wouldn’t have been a problem anyways. Or we could have just kept him, especially since we made so many other moves to free up cap space later anyways.

5. Quickly running through the projected starting lineup. This is how I see things in terms of positional value at this very moment. I’m sure things will fluctuate all the way up until opening day, so in no way is this issue settled:

Quarterbacks: A+ Starting QB Joe Flacco is coming off his best season ever, culminating with a world championship for the team and a Super Bowl MVP award for himself. You couldn’t ask for much more from your QB. Back-up QB Tyrod Taylor is, well, Tyrod Taylor. He’s not great at anything in particular, except for scrambling around during the preseason. It’s not like we ever use him anyways, knock on wood.

Running Backs: A+ Ray Rice is still one of the premier backs in the league, regardless of a minor case of fumblitis during the playoffs. He should still have a few good years left in the tank, especially since his back-up Bernard Pierce is looking like a capable starter himself. Hopefully both will stay healthy and be a steadying veteran influence on the many new players joining the team this offseason. There are several other young backs on the team, such as Bobby Rainey, trying to make the team but they are trying to make the final roster. There’s always hope that one of them can help the team, maybe. FB Vonta Leach is still on the team too. He is a gigantic part of our running game and continues to play at a Pro Bowl-level, despite the NFL’s numerous attempts to eradicate the position.

Wide Receivers: C+ Torrey Smith will be the primary option now that Boldin is playing for San Francisco. He has become an exceptional player over the past couple years, bringing elite speed and above average route running to the table. Jacoby Jones will help him stretch the field, using his speed and quickness for other things besides Dancing with the Stars. David Reed was re-signed during the off-season and will compete for playing time w/ Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams, Tommy Streeter and several other players that have thus far failed to make an impact. Luckily we’ve got over a dozen draft picks AND we’re solid at the tight end position.

Tight Ends: B+ Both of our impact tight ends, Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, are restricted free agents this season. We’ll get Dickson back since he already signed his tender but Pitta is still up in the air for the moment. Tight ends that can take advantage of mismatches are in high demand, especially those with a history of making big plays in the postseason like him. If we somehow escape free agency with both, the Ravens will be in pretty decent shape in terms of receiving options. If all else fails, we still have uh… Billy Bajema, Alex Silvestro, and Steve Watson? 😛

Offensive Line: B For some reason, Michael Oher is still with the team. Ever since the Blind Side came out, he has been one of the most overrated players in the league. He will NEVER be the franchise left tackle the Ravens thought we would be when they drafted him out of Mississippi, contrary to what Hollywood says. Having said that, I am still overwhelmingly impressed with how the O-line blocked during the playoffs. They should staple Oher to the ground at right tackle. Bryant McKinnie, the incredible bulk, looked like a new man after being benched and embarrassed during the regular season. Marshal Yanda continues to play at a Pro Bowl-level, while Kelechi Osemele will be even better with a year (and a Super Bowl ring) under his belt. Gradkowski is in for some “Welcome to the NFL”-moments this year at Center, while everyone else will battle for playing time while continuing to provide depth. If you asked me this question before the playoffs, I would have given a very different answer. As it stands though, I’m actually ok with this group of relatively young men.

PS: KEEP MICHAEL OHER @ RIGHT TACKLE. Or cut him, whichever.

Defensive Line: B- Star Defensive Tackle Haloti Ngata should move back in the middle, surrounded by Chris Canty, Arthur Jones, Marcus Spears, Pernell McPhee, etc. That doesn’t sound TOO bad. I’m obviously not 100% sure about how good this group will be since games are won on the field, not on paper. Canty and Spears are new acquisitions and will need time to get comfortable. They might not be accustomed to playing Baltimore defense, which is more aggressive, and more physical than anywhere outside of the AFC North. Players need time to play instinctively, or as a team. The primary objective of this group will mostly be to take on blockers and stop the run so that our linebackers can flow to the ball.

Linebackers: A- Speaking of which, our star linebackers appear to be all set to make plays all over the field. Close your eyes and imagine a back to 100% Terrell Suggs on one side, elite pass rusher Elvis Dumervil on the other side, with Courtney Upshaw, Jameel McClain, and Albert McClellan rotating in the middle. Even before adding anyone else through free agency or the draft, our linebackers look pretty solid. There’s plenty of potential fireworks in this group, as long as they can figure out how to work together. We still have to find Ray Lewis’s heir apparent but with 12+ draft picks already, it won’t be as difficult as many people think. We don’t need a Hall of Fame-caliber middle linebacker, at least not at the moment, we just need someone who can get the job done for now.

Cornerbacks/Safeties: C+ Did anyone see Jimmy Smith during the Super Bowl? The former 1st round pick out of Colorado made two of the biggest plays of the game, solidifying the Ravens trust & faith in his abilities. If you don’t know which two plays I’m talking about, go watch the 4th quarter, you’ll figure it out. Jimmy-boy still has a long way before I will consider him a dependable starter on Baltimore’s defense but luckily he won’t have to do everything by himself. Cary Williams is long gone, having taken a job in Philly to the tune of $17 million over 3 years. Lardarius Webb (aka: Webbie) is on schedule to make it to training camp. When he’s healthy he’s a Pro Bowl-caliber player, which will take some of the pressure off losing Williams, Ed Reed AND Bernard Pollard. Corey Graham is coming back too, and he played well enough to warrant a starting gig last season. Hopefully between free agency and the upcoming draft, we’ll find some upgrades for the defensive backfield.

Special Teams: A+ This is the best Special Teams group in the entire country. Period. There might have been games where the Ravens gave up some big plays or missed a field goal, but that happens to every team. Both of our kickers, punter Sam Koch and kicker Justin Tucker, are as good and confident as they get. Koch already has a few Pro Bowls under his belt, while Tucker will get his share if he continues to play like he did last season (He got ROBBED by Phil Dawson BTW). Jacoby Jones was the best kick returner in the NFL last year, even over the usual suspects like Devin Hester or Josh Cribbs. Baltimore’s coverage unit continues to be led by Pro Bowl Special Teams-Ace Brendan Ayanbadejo.

To put that in perspective, Pro Bowl-caliber Punter, Pro Bowl-caliber Kicker (check his stats! honestly!), Pro Bowl-caliber kick returner, AND Pro Bowl-caliber coverage gunner. You can’t really beat that, but I dare you to try.

That’s pretty much all I got for today. Feel free to voice your agreements and complaints alike, it’s not like I honestly care what anyone thinks about my beloved Ravens anyways but I’d love to hear what everyone has to say. Opinions are like chocolate cake, they can go fudge themselves. I’m just kidding, I must be tired or something.

~Michael

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Contact me @ Wong_83@Hotmail.com OR message me @ Kyarnboy.Wordpress.com