Though it's far too early to declare the Baltimore Ravens' 2012 draft selections a success or a failure, it's not too early to dissect what the needs team's front office addressed.
Baltimore traded out of the first round, swapping picks with Minnesota. The Vikings received the Ravens' 29th pick, while the Ravens got the 35th and 98th picks.
But as I predicted on Friday, the Ravens must have felt their top target at 29 would still be around at 35. And it appears that was the case, as Baltimore picked up Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw.
Upshaw was projected as a top 10 draft pick earlier in the season, but fell on draft boards after showing up to the NFL Combine at 279 pounds, a weight some considered too heavy to be an every-down outside linebacker.
But Upshaw's production and toughness were too much for Baltimore to overlook, and the Ravens found a guy they think can compete to replace Jarret Johnson at outside linebacker. He's drawn comparisons to Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley.
Later in the second round, Baltimore addressed a need on the offensive line by drafting Iowa State tackle Kelechi Osemele. NFL.com's Mike Mayock loved the pick but believes the Ravens will move Osemele to the inside. If that's the case, he could be the eventual replacement for Ben Grubbs, who signed with the New Orleans Saints this offseason.
Baltimore also added depth at running back (Temple's Bernard Pierce), offensive line (Delaware's Gino Gradkowski), secondary (South Carolina State's Christian Thompson and Cal Poly's Asa Jackson), wide receiver (Miami's Tommy Streeter) and defensive end (Georgia's Deangelo Tyson).
Pierce, Jackson and Streeter were all rated as high-value selections in the third, fifth and sixth rounds, respectively.
Pierce should fill the void that last year's backup Ricky Williams did. He's a tough, rugged back who shows good power and surprising quickness for a 220-pounder.
Jackson flew under the radar as starting cornerback for Division I-AA Cal Poly, but has been noted for his production, starting 42 of 43 games for the Mustangs. He's a bit undersized and struggles some against big, physical receivers, but he's solid in coverage and has good hands.
Streeter started just one year at Miami (FL), but his rare combination of size (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) and speed (4.34 40-yard dash) led the Ravens to take a late-round flyer on him. He reportedly needs to strengthen his route running, but it's a solid low-risk pick in the sixth round, particularly for a guy who NFL.com rated as a third-round talent.
In the end, the Ravens did what every successful NFL franchise does in the draft: they picked players who will compete for a starting spot or provide depth at positions without depth. No player will be required to start from Day 1, which speaks volumes to the team's preparedness and long-term vision.
"If you look back over the three days ... all the areas we wanted to address we've been able to do with the young men we drafted,'' Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said.