Friday, December 17, 2021

The Franchise 9: Baltimore Ravens

Though they moved from Cleveland, the Ravens didn't keep the franchise history of the Browns. For historical purposes, the Baltimore Ravens are treated the same as an expansion franchise starting in 1996. Still, despite the short history of the franchise, there have been some great players to suit up in black and purple. The Ravens have claimed two Super Bowl victories in two separate decades. So who are their best all-time players?

1. Joe Flacco, QB (2014 Panini Rookies & Stars)

With over 38,000 passing yards, Joe Flacco is the quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. Nobody else has even hit 10,000 (though Lamar Jackson should get there this coming week). Flacco is the leader by almost triple in passing TDs, too. He never received a single Pro Bowl or All-Pro nod, but no signal caller can equal what he has done for the Ravens.

2. Jamal Lewis, RB (2006 Fleer)

As I researched this team, I found the Ravens seem to run into legal trouble at the running back position. Their top two ball carriers both had major off-field issues. But that doesn't play into consideration here; Lewis's on-field performance earns a spot for him on this list. He is the Ravens' leading rusher in yards and touchdowns. In 2003, he joined an elite club of NFL runners who gained over 2,000 yards in a season. It earned him an All-Pro nomination and helped him be named to the NFL's All-2000s team.

3. Jonathan Ogden, T (1996 Playoff Prime)

The Ravens took Jonathan Ogden with the fourth pick in the 1996 Draft, making him the franchise's first draft pick. He rewarded their confidence by making the Pro Bowl in 11 of his 12 seasons and playing every game of his career with the team. For 12 years, he was a rock on the offensive line and earned a spot in Canton.

4. Marshal Yanda, G (2017 Score)

While he has very little representation on cardboard, Marshal Yanda was one of the top offensive linemen in the game through the 2010s. Earning All-Pro recognition in two seasons and eight Pro Bowl bids, Yanda was named to the All-Decade team. He played every game of his career with Baltimore and rose to fifth in team history in Approximate Value, according to Pro Football Reference. He retired in 2019 and will probably be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the future.

5. Haloti Ngata, DT (2011 Score)

Before he was a pro football player, Haloti Ngata was a hometown hero football player here in Utah. He originally committed to my BYU Cougars before eventually signing with Oregon. With the Ravens, he became a disruptive force to be feared on the interior defensive line. He ranks 7th on the team in career AV. He made five Pro Bowls and received two All-Pro bids for the Ravens.

6. Terrell Suggs, LB (2014 Bowman)

For a franchise that is known for hanging its hat on defense, Terrell Suggs is the team's all-time sack leader. And it's not close; his 132.5 sacks nearly double up the 70 put up by the closest guy behind him. Suggs started his career by winning the league's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2003. He continued on the right track, becoming an All-Pro and a seven-time Pro Bowler. In 2011, he force seven fumbles en route to taking home Defensive Player of the Year hardware. He is the Ravens' best edge rusher ever.

7. Ray Lewis, LB (2010 Topps)

In 1996, Baltimore took Jonathan Ogden 4th overall in the draft. Twenty-two picks later, they made another first-round pick. This time they took Ray Lewis. He only went on to become the best player in franchise history. Those are two solid first two picks to build around. Let's just list Lewis's career achievements: 2,056 tackles (leading the league in the category in three separate seasons), 12 Pro Bowls, seven 1st-Team All-Pros, two Defensive Player of the Year awards, a spot on the 2000s All-Decade team, a Super Bowl MVP, and a bust in Canton. Oh, and he was a Raven for his entire career. The club may never see better.

8. Ed Reed, S (2008 Score)

Ed Reed was a human highlight reel. He led the league in interceptions three times in his career. He picked off 61 passes as a Raven. He returned seven of them for TDs. Even more impressive, two of those returns were over 100 yards. He was a danger to throw around and even more dangerous with the ball in his hands. Like Suggs and Lewis, Reed won a Defensive Player of the Year award. That makes four DPOY awards going to Baltimore between 2000-2011, including Lewis and Reed going back-to-back in 2003 and 2004.

9. Justin Tucker, K (2019 Donruss)

Justin Tucker is the only kicker to make this list for any franchise. He deserves it. No other kicker has cracked his team's top 25 in AV. He has four All-Pro nominations to his name. He's automatic and beloved in Baltimore. Oh, and there's this:

Yes, that's an NFL record and yes, it was a game-winner as time expired. This guy was the NFL's All-2010s kicker for a reason.

The Ravens build their teams around defense, special teams, and line play. Only two of their skill players ended up on this list. But this is as solid a roster as you will find. It's only a matter of time before Lamar Jackson unseats Joe Flacco, however. He just needs a few more seasons in purple to match Flacco's accomplishments for the team. Who else is close? Would you make any changes?

Some notes on this series:

  1. This includes Super Bowl Era players only.
  2. The "nine" in Franchise 9 is to fill a page in a binder. There is no intent to fill a roster or even a starting lineup.
  3. A player can represent multiple teams.
  4. I tried to find a balance between steady producers with longevity and explosive players with shorter careers. Time with the team does count for something, as does impact with the team.
  5. For a link to Franchise 9 lists that I have already posted, click here.
  6. This is all subjective, so I'd love to hear whom you would choose!