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Monday, April 28, 2014
What Ravens can learn from 2009 draft

By Jamison Hensley

All week, the Baltimore Ravens blog will take a look at what the team can learn from each of its previous five drafts:

A great story doesn't always lead to a great player.

In 2009, the Ravens wanted to so make sure they got offensive tackle Michael Oher that they traded a fifth-round pick to move up three spots in the first round. It was a high-profile pick because Oher's life served as the inspiration for "The Blind Side." But it wasn't one of the Ravens' better moves in the first round, because Oher never lived up to expectations.

In hindsight, the Ravens didn't need to trade up to get a quality blocker. There were three tackles taken in the second round who turned out to be just as good, if not better, than Oher, who was the 23rd player drafted overall.

Minnesota's Phil Loadholt, who was selected No. 54, has been the foundation of the Vikings' offensive line at right tackle. New England's Sebastian Vollmer, who was chosen 58th overall, is not as durable as Oher but he's more effective at right tackle when healthy. And the New York Giants' Will Beatty, who was picked at No. 60, has been a starting left tackle for the past three seasons.

This isn't to suggest Oher was a bust. When the Ravens drafted him, draft analysts expressed a concern over Oher's ability to assimilate to an NFL offense. Pro Football Weekly questioned his intelligence, saying he "will require extra attention to absorb a playbook." Oher's college coach said they "tried to keep it simple for him."

Oher proved to be a fast learner for the Ravens, starting immediately as a rookie. He never missed a start in his five-year career with the team and approached the game in a workmanlike manner. Mental mistakes, however, like such as false starts, were a problem every season with him.

The biggest knock on Oher was he never significantly improved throughout his career. There were high projections placed on him, and probably unrealistic ones, considering that he was the first offensive tackle taken by the Ravens in 13 years (Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden was drafted in 1996).

In the end, the Ravens didn't re-sign Oher because he never developed into an above-average starter on "The Blind Side." Last season, the Ravens needed a left tackle so bad that they traded fourth- and fifth-round picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars for Eugene Monroe. Coincidentally, Monroe was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2009 draft, the same one that later produced Oher.

This offseason, the Ravens made Monroe a bigger priority than Oher and signed him to a five-year, $37.5 million contract. Oher got his payday as well, but it came from the Tennessee Titans. Many believe the Titans overpaid Oher, giving him a deal that averaged $5 million per season ($20 million over four years).

So, the Ravens did get their left tackle from the 2009 draft. It just wasn't the one they traded up for at the time.

Here's how the Ravens' 2009 draft graded out five years later: