The perfect draft class does not exist. Even a haul as historic as the Ravens’ 2018 class, which The 33rd Team ranked as the best of the millennium, had its misses. Yes, the Ravens picked quarterback Lamar Jackson, tight end Mark Andrews and right tackle Orlando Brown Jr., among others. But they arrived with a handful of other picks who never contributed in Baltimore.

As the first round of the NFL draft approaches, the Ravens’ pathways to self-improvement are seemingly limitless. Will general manager Eric DeCosta draft an offensive tackle in the first round Thursday? A wide receiver? Will he trade back? Almost nothing’s off the table.

Sometimes, though, it can be useful to look back before looking too far ahead. The Ravens have one of the NFL’s best rosters, but it is by no means perfect. That’s because their draft history, like every other team’s, is flawed as well.

Here’s a look at the team’s biggest miss at each position over the past decade. Only players who were drafted after the Ravens took a player at their position in the same class were eligible. (Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens, for example, was ineligible, because the Ravens did not draft a wideout in 2022. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Riq Woolen, meanwhile, was eligible, because he was picked after the Ravens took corner Jalyn Armour-Davis that same year.)

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Quarterback: Lamar Jackson

OK, this requires some explaining. The Ravens have drafted only three quarterbacks in the past decade: Keith Wenning, a sixth-rounder in 2014; Trace McSorley, a sixth-rounder in 2019; and Jackson, the No. 32 overall pick in 2018. There were just two quarterbacks taken after Wenning, neither of whom amounted to much, and there was none taken after McSorley. That leaves Jackson, the two-time NFL Most Valuable Player. The Ravens didn’t miss on him, of course, but had they taken him earlier in the first round, their next pick probably would’ve been different. (More on that later.)

Running back: Tony Pollard

In the fourth round of the 2019 draft, the Ravens took Justice Hill, a speedster out of Oklahoma State who’s developed into a solid third-down back and kick returner. Fifteen picks later, though, the Dallas Cowboys drafted Memphis’ Tony Pollard. After starting his Dallas career in Ezekiel Elliott’s shadow, Pollard rushed for over 1,000 yards each of the past two seasons and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2022. He signed a three-year, $24 million deal with the Tennessee Titans in March.

Wide receiver: Literally any of the stars in the 2019 draft

Five years ago, the Ravens were the first team to draft a wide receiver. They took Oklahoma’s Marquise “Hollywood” Brown at No. 25 overall. Solid but nothing special. The New England Patriots capped the first round with Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry. Not great, either. The real treasures, it seems, were on Day 2. The San Francisco 49ers took Deebo Samuel (one career Pro Bowl) No. 36 overall. The Tennessee Titans took A.J. Brown (three Pro Bowls) No. 51 overall. The Seattle Seahawks took DK Metcalf (two Pro Bowls) No. 64 overall. The Pittsburgh Steelers took Diontae Johnson (one Pro Bowl) No. 66 overall. And Washington took Terry McLaurin (one Pro Bowl) No. 76 overall. Even Hunter Renfrow, another future Pro Bowler, was nabbed in the fifth round.

Tight end/fullback: Dallas Goedert

So, about that 2018 draft: The Ravens traded down twice, then took South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst with the No. 25 overall pick — seven picks before Jackson. Hurst was traded after two disappointing, injury-marred seasons in which he had just 43 catches for 512 yards and three touchdowns. Had the Ravens waited until the second round to pick a tight end, they might’ve ended up with South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert, who’s seventh in receiving yards among players at the position since 2019. The misfire on Hurst didn’t matter much, as the Ravens found a star in Andrews one round later.

Offensive tackle: Laremy Tunsil

HOUSTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 31: Laremy Tunsil #78 of the Houston Texans takes to the field prior to a game against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium on December 31, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil has been selected to four Pro Bowls. The Ravens went another direction in the 2016 draft. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

The Ravens haven’t spent significant draft capital on offensive tackles in recent years, partly because of their investment in Ronnie Stanley, who before a series of lower-body injuries was one of the NFL’s best linemen. But it is tempting to consider where they might be now had they taken Ole Miss’ Laremy Tunsil, who fell to the Miami Dolphins after video of him smoking from a bong was posted on his Twitter account the night of the draft, instead of Stanley with the No. 6 overall pick. Tunsil has played at least 14 games in all but one season and is a four-time Pro Bowl pick at left tackle.

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Guard/center: Michael Onwenu

Aside from center Tyler Linderbaum, a first-round pick in 2022, the Ravens have typically waited until the third round or later to draft interior offensive linemen, which makes obvious misses hard to find. But Michael Onwenu’s one of them. In 2020, the Ravens drafted Mississippi State’s Tyre Phillips in the third round and Michigan’s Ben Bredeson in the fourth round. The two lasted a combined three seasons in Baltimore. In New England, meanwhile, the Patriots were polishing a hidden gem in Onwenu, a versatile sixth-round pick who has started 56 games over the past four seasons. The Michigan product signed a three-year, $57 million contract extension in March.

Defensive line: Grady Jarrett

In the third round of the 2015 draft, the Ravens took Iowa’s Carl Davis with the No. 90 overall pick. A day later, the Atlanta Falcons drafted Clemson’s Grady Jarrett in the fifth round. Neither defensive lineman had been much of a pass rusher in college; Davis racked up just 3.5 sacks over his career, and Jarrett had 5.5. But, while Davis dealt with injuries and inconsistency over his early years in Baltimore, Jarrett developed into a star. He had four sacks in 2017, six in 2018 and 7.5 in 2019, when he earned his first of two Pro Bowl nods.

Outside linebacker: Maxx Crosby

Third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson arrived in Baltimore in 2019 with an impressive game — he’d set the Football Bowl Subdivision record for career sacks at Louisiana Tech — and a memorable nickname: “Sack Daddy.” But 21 picks later, early in the fourth round, the Oakland Raiders took Eastern Michigan’s Maxx Crosby, and the legend of “Mad Maxx” was born. He had 10 sacks as a rookie and has been named to three straight Pro Bowls. Ferguson, a rotational player over his first three years in Baltimore, died the summer before the 2022 season.

Inside linebacker: Foyesade Oluokun

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 19: Foyesade Oluokun #23 of the Jacksonville Jaguars returns an interception for a touchdown during the third quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Caesars Superdome on October 19, 2023 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Inside linebacker Foyesade Oluokun returns an interception for a touchdown last season for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Passed over by the Ravens in the draft, Oluokun is also one of the leading tacklers in the league. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Maybe no team in NFL history has drafted inside linebackers better than the Ravens have, but their record isn’t unimpeachable. In 2018, they took UCLA’s Kenny Young with a fourth-round pick. He played 21 games and made six starts before being traded to the Los Angeles Rams as part of a deal for cornerback Marcus Peters. Yale’s Foyesade Oluokun, taken two rounds after Young by the Atlanta Falcons, went on to lead the NFL in tackles in 2021 and 2022. Over the past two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he has 357 tackles total, including 20 for loss.

Cornerback: Taron Johnson

Day 1 and Day 2 cornerbacks, unsurprisingly, tend to have the best chances at stardom, and besides Marlon Humphrey, the Ravens haven’t used many high-end draft picks on the position. In 2018, though, a couple of picks separated their fourth-round selection, Alabama’s Anthony Averett, from the Buffalo Bills’, Weber State’s Taron Johnson. Averett, taken No. 118 overall, had a solid career in Baltimore, though he struggled with injuries. Johnson, meanwhile, the No. 121 overall pick, has emerged as one of the NFL’s best slot cornerbacks. He returned an interception for a touchdown in Buffalo’s playoff win over the Ravens three years ago and earned All-Pro honors last season.

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Safety: Talanoa Hufanga

The pickings are slim here, too. When the Ravens drafted SMU’s Brandon Stephens in the third round in 2021, DeCosta said the team viewed him as a safety. As he bounced around the secondary, eventually finding a home at outside cornerback, USC’s Talanoa Hufanga proved to be a revelation at safety for the 49ers. The fifth-round pick started a handful of games as a rookie and was an All-Pro in 2022 after grabbing four interceptions and forcing two fumbles.

Jonas Shaffer is a Ravens beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun. Shaffer graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Silver Spring.

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