Reviewing the NFL draft’s No. 27 pick from the last decade

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Matthew Stevens
·9 min read
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With an unusual offseason that won’t have the NFL Scouting Combine due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 2021 NFL draft might be sneaking up on everyone. Now just two months away, the Baltimore Ravens are likely knee-deep in their preparations; scouting prospects to move them up and down their draft board.

The Ravens’ first pick is at No. 27 in the first round, which has historically been a pretty good draft spot. While the exact pick number has no bearing on what a player will do once in the league, quite a few special players have been taken at the 27th spot, including one of Baltimore’s own. Of the 11 players selected at No. 27 from 2010-2020, they’ve earned a combined 11 Pro Bowl nominations and four first-team All-Pro nominations.

Instead of looking forward to which prospects might make the most sense for Baltimore, let’s take a look back at what type of player has typically been taken over the last decade.

2020: Seattle Seahawks - LB Jordyn Brooks

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Though Brooks has had limited time to impress given his lone year in the NFL and a knee injury, he's done well for himself. Starting six games for the Seahawks, Brooks had 57 combined tackles, two tackles for a loss, and two passes defensed. With Seattle potentially losing some defensive talent, 2021 will be a big year for Brooks. He'll likely have a bigger opportunity to make an impact and become a star in his own right.

2019: Oakland Raiders - S Johnathan Abram

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Abram didn't get to show off during his rookie campaign at all, as a shoulder injury ended his season during his first game. Unfortunately, while Abram would finally get on the field in 2020, injuries and COVID-19 derailed his second season in the league as well, seeing him miss three games. Though Abram was hampered a bit last season, he had some positive moments for the Raiders. He finished with two interceptions, six passes defensed, a fumble recovery, 86 combined tackles, three tackles for a loss, and four quarterback hits. If Abram is able to stay healthy in 2021, he should be viewed as a player ready to break out for Las Vegas. He's a hard-hitting safety who has the speed to make quarterbacks pay for looking his way. Once he puts it all together, he's going to be dangerous.

2018: Seattle Seahawks - RB Rashaad Penny

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One of the very few offensive players taken at No. 27 over the last decade, Penny hasn't really come close to living up to his first-round grade. Over three seasons, Penny has played in just 27 games, starting none of them. He's put up a combined 823 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns on 161 carries, adding another 158 yards and a touchdown reception through the air. Penny has been hampered by injuries since coming into the league. He went on injured reserve late into the 2019 season and missed most of the 2020 season on the physically unable to perform list. With his injury history and the potential loss of Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde in free agency, the Seahawks might be looking for some fresh competition for Penny in either free agency of the 2021 NFL draft. As Penny enters the final year of his rookie deal (excluding the fifth-year option which Seattle will likely decline soon), it will be a big one. Another disappointing season and it'll be unlikely the Seahawks want to bring him back.

2017: Buffalo Bills - CB Tre'Davious White

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White is widely considered to be one of the best cornerbacks in the league right now. That's backed up by his two Pro Bowl nods and his 2019 first-team All-Pro nomination. White has been a force for Buffalo. He's started all 61 games he was active for, coming down with 15 interceptions, four forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries (including one for a touchdown), 2.5 sacks, 238 combined tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, and four quarterback hits. Over the last three seasons, White hasn't allowed better than a 56.9% completion rate or a passer rating better than 79.9. Buffalo wisely used the available fifth-year option on White but also signed him to a four-year extension just before the 2020 season. White is now one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the league, matching his awards and outstanding play.

2016: Green Bay Packers - DT Kenny Clark

We're now at the point where players have either signed extensions with their original team or have hit free agency and are now elsewhere. It's the real defining point of a player's success, matching the money to their play. There's a reason why Green Bay kept Clark, making him one of the highest-paid interior defensive linemen in the NFL. After earning his only Pro Bowl nomination last year on the back of a six-sack season, Clark had a down 2020 regular season due to injuries but came alive for the Packers in the playoffs, where he notched 2.5 sacks over two games.

2015: Dallas Cowboys - DB Byron Jones

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Jones was initially drafted to play safety but switched to cornerback in 2018, which turned out to be a huge boon for Dallas and eventually the Dolphins as well. In his final two years with the Cowboys as a cornerback, Jones allowed a 52.8% completion rate, giving up just five touchdowns on 144 targets. However, he had a pretty down 2020 campaign -- his first with Miami -- allowing a 60.3% completion rate, five touchdown receptions, and a 108.0 passer rating on 73 targets. It's easy to dismiss Jones' 2020 season with the Dolphins as being a dud. But with a full season in Miami, there's hope Jones can return back to form in 2021, especially if the Dolphins can play to his strengths a little more. Regardless, Jones is a versatile and effective cornerback rightfully considered to be among the league's best.

2014: Arizona Cardinals - DB Deone Bucannon

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It didn't seem like Arizona really knew where to put Bucannon, lining him up at both safety and linebacker through his five years with the team. However, the real testament to how good or bad Bucannon really is comes after his time with the Cardinals After signing a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offseason, he only played eight snaps before being cut. While Bucannon got more playing time with the New York Giants, he didn't make a big enough impact to warrant being back. Ultimately, Bucannon spent the 2020 season on Tampa Bay's practice squad, playing no snaps at all. The physical talent is clearly there but his time in the league might be coming to an end quickly. At this point, Bucannon is likely to be viewed as a developmental option or a special teams player rather than a starter.

2013: Houston Texans - WR DeAndre Hopkins

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The Ravens just barely missed out on Hopkins, seeing him go off the board to the Texans at No. 27 while they took safety Matt Elam at No. 32 following their second Super Bowl win. Baltimore tried to fix their mistake by trading for Hopkins last offseason but the Texans eventually sent him to the Cardinals instead. Hopkins is universally considered to be one of the top wide receivers in the NFL. He's earned three first-team All-Pro nominations, as well as five trips to the Pro Bowl. In total, Hopkins has caught 747 passes for 10,009 yards and 60 touchdown receptions over his eight years in the league.

2012: Cincinnati Bengals - G Kevin Zeitler

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As an offensive lineman, there are few stats to use to really judge Zeitler on. But he's been rock solid throughout his career for the Bengals, Browns, and Giants, playing nearly 100% of the snaps since 2016 and missing just nine games over his nine-year career. Spending the last two seasons in New York, Zeitler has given up just five sacks and earned grades of 76.4 (2019) and 65.9 (2020) from Pro Football Focus. While a poor 2020 season could point to Zeitler beginning a downward trend at the end of his career, the Giants weren't exactly excellent around him, potentially impacting his play. Still, New York has a big decision on what to do with Zeitler this offseason, potentially seeing him cut as a way to free up cap space. Though Zeitler hasn't gotten any awards, he's been a really good guard throughout his career. The Ravens would be lucky to find someone of his caliber at No. 27 this year.

2011: Baltimore Ravens - CB Jimmy Smith

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Baltimore loves taking cornerbacks at the end of the first round and have done so at No. 27 before, grabbing Smith. At the time, it was a big-risk and big-reward move as Smith looked to be the most physically gifted cornerback in the draft but was still a little raw with some red flags off the field. It turned out to be a pretty good selection, seeing Smith eventually take over the starting job on the outside and playing at a Pro Bowl level regularly. Unfortunately, injuries have limited what has been a very promising career and might skew opinions with hindsight. Still, Smith has been a great player for the Ravens. He's been very capable both on the outside and the inside, playing extraordinarily well in 2020 in a lesser role. Back for 2021, Smith might be the latest player to play their entire career in Baltimore, which just goes to show the love the team has for him.

2010: New England Patriots - DB Devin McCourty

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McCourty has been about as consistent as any player in the league over his decade in the league. Starting at cornerback to begin his career, McCourty notched 14 interceptions over his first three years in the NFL. Transitioning to safety in 2013, McCourty has largely dominated that assignment as well even if he has been underrated throughout his career at the position. Just like Smith and the Ravens, McCourty has spent his entire career with the Patriots. It's a testament to how much love the franchise has for him and goes to show just how good of a player he still is entering his mid-30s.

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