Although they haven’t been around for too long, the Baltimore Ravens are quietly one of the more successful franchises in the NFL. Their first season was in 1996, but they have done well enough in that short time to amass the seventh-highest winning percentage of any active team, as well as the best playoff winning percentage for any team in the NFL. They’ve been fairly consistent as well, only enduring seven losing seasons, three of which came in their first three years. We aren’t going to look at any pre-Baltimore players, as the Cleveland Browns returned three years later.
They haven’t been known for great offense throughout the years, and are more known for having some of the greatest defensive teams of all time (an argument for another day). It’s time to jump in and meet the best players at each position in the Ravens history, including the best head coach to command the sidelines in Baltimore.
Baltimore Ravens All-Franchise Team
Head Coach: John Harbaugh (2008-Present)
John Harbaugh managed to get the Ravens back to the Super Bowl in 2012-2013 and was able to make it past the hangover of important role players leaving for starter money contracts. Edging out Brian Billick, Harbaugh got all that was possible from the latter half of the careers of Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. Making the jump from special teams coach to head coach, Harbaugh has proved himself as the best coach the Ravens have had.
Quarterback: Joe Flacco (2008-Present)
Although most fans want Joe Flacco out currently, he is easily the best quarterback the Ravens have ever had. Flacco set a record for most wins by a quarterback in his first five seasons at 63. Although he has never been to a Pro Bowl, he does have a Super Bowl MVP under his belt, having one of the best runs in a single postseason of any quarterback.
Running Back: Jamal Lewis (2000-06)
Jamal Lewis set the record for rushing yards in a game in 2003 with 295 against the Browns. He gained over 1,000 yards in five of his six seasons with the Ravens, getting him to a total of 7,801 yards on the ground with the team, to go along with 45 touchdowns. A great rookie season by Lewis helped the Ravens make the playoffs, and he scored four touchdowns during the playoffs on their way to the Super Bowl. Lewis only made the Pro Bowl once, but he did it during a 2,000+ yard season in which he earned All-Pro honors as well.
Wide Receiver: Derrick Mason (2005-10)
Receiver is a rough area for the Ravens, as their best player at the position is someone you think of on a different team. Derrick Mason came over in 2005 and put together a great run for Baltimore. Four of his six seasons were 1,000+ yard years, and he was their number one option for the majority of the time. He leads the Ravens all-time in yards and receptions and is third in touchdowns caught.
Wide Receiver: Torrey Smith (2011-14)
The second best receiver the Ravens have had, Smith was an extremely dangerous weapon who meshed quite well with Flacco. Flacco’s arm and Smith’s speed and ability to get past corners led Smith cash in extra yards from penalties, gaining 26 calls for 571 yards over four years, which led the league for yards gained in that time. Although only in Baltimore for four years, Smith ended up second in both yards and touchdowns in Ravens receiving history.
Pass Catcher: Ray Rice (2008-2013)
Yes, we are cheating here. With such poor choices to pick from, Ray Rice needs to be commended for his ability out of the backfield to catch the ball. Rice is third in catches, fifth in yards receiving and did it all while being the second greatest running back the team has had. Rice broke 60 catches four times, and 70 catches twice. If Rice would’ve lined up throughout his career as a slot receiver instead of a running back, chances are he would’ve been one of the three greatest receivers to suit up for the team.
Tight End: Todd Heap (2001-10)
Todd Heap was great, and if he would’ve stayed healthy he could’ve been incredible. Always seemingly afflicted with an injury, he is still in contention for best receiver. Heap was an above average blocker who for nearly a decade helped pave the way for the likes of Jamal Lewis and Ray Rice. He ended his career second in catches and second in yards as well, as well as earning back-to-back Pro Bowl honors early in his career. Unfortunately for Todd Heap, he is one of the few iconic Ravens who wasn’t on the roster for either Super Bowl.
Left Tackle: Jonathan Ogden (1996-07)
Jonathan Ogden is likely the greatest left tackle to ever play the game and was the offensive cornerstone for over a decade. Drafted fourth overall in 1996, Ogden played his way to four first-team All-Pro selections, five second-team All-Pro selections, and was an 11-time Pro Bowler as well. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013, Ogden was also one of the largest left tackles, standing at 6’9”. Normally when you think of longtime behemoths on the line, you would assume they are mean men. Ogden was one of the nicer and happier guys you could meet and could lull opponents into a false sense of security. Michael Strahan has been quoted as saying “You see him, you think to yourself this guy is not mean enough to handle the mean guys out there in the NFL. Jonathan would rip your limbs off, and he’d smile…and wave your arm in front of you.”
Left Guard: Edwin Mulitalo (1999-2006)
Edwin Mulitalo got to play his entire Ravens career next to Ogden, which likely contributed to the success he achieved. It wasn’t just Ogden, as Mulitalo showed very early on that he deserved to start next to the big man, earning a starting role partway through his rookie year, and playing in the Super Bowl during his second season. Part of a long lasting left side of the Ravens offense, Mulitalo paired with Ogden made it difficult for anyone to get through to the passer, coming in at 345 pounds himself, adding up to over 700 pounds with Ogden.
Center: Mike Flynn (1998-07)
Mike Flynn started his career as an undrafted free agent who signed with the Ravens. After being released and bouncing around the league, he made his way back in 1998, and wouldn’t leave again for 10 years. A great teammate, Flynn made the move to center after playing right guard and playing there during the Super Bowl. Although he never made a Pro Bowl, Flynn rarely missed time, playing in 15 or 16 games in seven of his final eight seasons, helping to solidify the center position for the Ravens.
Right Guard: Marshal Yanda (2007-Present)
Easily the second-best offensive lineman the Ravens have ever had, Marshal Yanda could’ve pushed for the title if he would’ve had a healthy career. Considered the best guard in the entire league for years, the honors showed that as well. Yanda made the Pro Bowl six years in a row from 2011-2016, as well as being named first-team All-Pro in 2014 and 2015.
Right Tackle: Michael Oher (2009-13)
This one comes with an interesting caveat, in that Michael Oher has to be looked at for more than what he did on the field. The interest he gained off the field for his upbringing helped non-football fans to become interested in the Ravens, thus growing the fan base. Oher had one of the fastest first steps around and was quite difficult to beat during his time with the Ravens.
Defense (4-3 Setup)
Defensive End: Terrell Suggs (2003-present)
Terrell Suggs came to the Ravens in 2003 and has been a force from day one. Earning rookie of the year honors that season, Suggs contributed 12 sacks while only starting one game, coming off the bench the majority of the year. That isn’t his only “of the year” honor, as Suggs earned defensive player of the year in 2011, becoming the third Raven to earn the award. These go along with his six Pro Bowls, and his current standing of 17th all-time in sacks, which he looks to climb coming into his 16th season.
Defensive Tackle: Haloti Ngata (2006-14)
Haloti Ngata was an enormously strong man and is the best defensive tackle the Ravens have ever had. Without having to look too hard, you can find videos of Ngata taking on two blockers with ease, or even grabbing NFL offensive lineman with one arm, and moving them like a child with a toy. Ngata earned multiple accolades, with five straight Pro Bowl nods, and two first-team All-Pro honors. Along with the next tackle on the list, Ngata helped the Ravens to one of the greatest defensive stretches for a team of all time during the second half of the 2000’s.
Defensive Tackle: Kelly Gregg (2001-10)
The Ravens have had some of the largest defensive tackles of all time play for their squads. Apologies to Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams, who combined to make the largest pairing of defensive tackles ever seen, but they don’t make this list. Kelly Gregg was a mainstay for 10 years, quietly holding down the center of the field for a decade, allowing Ray Lewis to attack all over the field, knowing that Gregg had the center of the line held down.
Defensive End: Michael McCrary (1997-02)
A key part of the first Ravens Super Bowl run, Michael McCrary was a force off the edge, even earning back to back Pro Bowl nods in 1998 and 1999. Unknown to most, McCrary had 51 sacks in his time with the team and ended up third all-time for the Ravens in sacks. A member of the original great defensive run, the Ravens inducted him into their Ring of Honor in 2004. McCrary’s career ended early due to knee injuries, which still plague him to this day. Multiple cortisone shots extended his career, and McCrary has said if he could do it again, he would’ve retired much sooner.
Outside Linebacker: Peter Boulware (1997-05)
Coming in hot after being drafted fourth in 1997, Peter Boulware tallied 11.5 sacks and a rookie of the year honor. Like McCrary, Boulware’s career was cut short due to injuries. However, at the time of his retirement, Boulware was the leader in sacks in the team’s history with 70, obtained in only 126 games. One of the reasons Boulware was such a great Raven was his ability to cover ground as a linebacker, as well as having great pass rushing skills, earning him four Pro Bowl nods in a six-year stretch.
Middle Linebacker: Ray Lewis (1996-2012)
Whenever there is an argument for greatest linebacker of all time, Ray Lewis is more than deserving of being in the conversation. Lewis is the only player in NFL history to finish his career with 40+ sacks and 30+ interceptions. Part of the greatest first round draft a team has ever put together after the Ravens took Ogden with the fourth pick, they took Lewis with the 26th pick in the first round.
The list of awards and accolades for Lewis is fairly long, so we will touch on the most important ones. One of seven players in history, Lewis won multiple defensive player of the year awards in 2000 and 2003. He also won the Super Bowl MVP in 2000, all the while being named first-team All-Pro seven times. Although tackles are a little hard to track, Lewis is near the top of the list here as well, finishing with what many think to be the second most in recorded history up to now.
Outside Linebacker: Adalius Thomas (2000-06)
Coming to the Ravens while the defense was in full swing, it took Adalius Thomas a while to make his mark. An incredible athlete, Thomas excelled at multiple situations and positions, first earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2003 for his role in special teams. One of many Ravens to play a linebacker/defensive end role, Thomas was able to make an impact at both positions, starting at defensive end, making his way to linebacker, and even playing cornerback when the need arose. The finest season of his career came in 2006 when he was named a first-team All-Pro, tallying a career high in sacks with 11, making over 100 tackles, and amassing a safety and fumble recovery for good measure.
Cornerback: Chris McAlister (1999-08)
One of the longer tenured Ravens, Chris McAlister was drafted in the first round by the Ravens, extending the teams run in the 90’s of impact players taken in the first round. Although he only ended his career with 26 interceptions, McAlister was a fairly large and physical corner, which led him to not be challenged as often, keeping the number of interceptions down. He used that size and length well, amassing over 100 passes knocked down. Another Raven to earn an All-Pro nod, McAlister’s came in 2003. He set the record for longest play up to that point in history as well, returning a missed field goal 107 yards for a touchdown against the Broncos in a 2002 Monday Night Football game.
Cornerback: Duane Starks (1998-2001)
Only with the team for four years, Duane Starks made quite the impact during his time with the team. Starks, like McCallister in 1999, was taken in the first round with the 10th pick. With 20 interceptions, Starks was effective and dangerous every year with the team. He showed he could bring it in big games as well, with a pick-six against the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.
Safety: Dawan Landry (2006-10)
Unlike the other secondary players on this list, Dawan Landry wasn’t taken in the first round. He was taken much later, being drafted in the fifth round. This didn’t stop him from making an immediate impact, where as a rookie he was named a starter next to the incomparable Ed Reed. He played well enough to earn a vote for rookie of the year. His career was almost cut short, as he sustained a back injury in 2008 that knocked him out for the season in only the third game of the year. Luckily he was able to come back, where he has a fantastic two-year stretch, playing in all 32 games, and being one of the team leaders in tackles.
Safety: Ed Reed (2002-12)
As we get to the end of the Ravens defense, we come yet to another player that has earned the right to be talked about as one of the best all-time at his position. Playing his entire Ravens career with Ray Lewis, Reed made a second player on the defense that teams had to be aware of at all times. Reed finished his career with 64 interceptions, good for seventh all-time, 61 of which came with Baltimore. He didn’t just find the ball, but he was able to do something with it as well, being the all-time leader in interception return yards, tallying 1,590 yards total. This included an incredible season in 2004 where he had 358 interception return yards.
In 2007, with the Ravens needing a big play, Reed decided to go back and field a punt, turning it into the play that was needed, returning it for a 63-yard touchdown. Coming off Lewis’ defensive player of the year nod in 2003, Reed made it back-to-back for the Ravens, finding himself earning the same honor a year later. He led the league with nine interceptions, to go along with a 106-yard pick-six. Reed was known for his hard hits as well, forcing 11 fumbles during his career, and breaking up countless attempts at receptions over the entire decade.
Kicker: Justin Tucker (2012-Present)
Justin Tucker takes the edge over longtime Raven Matt Stover here, as he is one of the most consistent kickers in today’s game. In addition to that, he is the current record holder for most accurate kicker in history, coming in at 90.18 percent. Earning two Pro Bowl honors to go with first-team All-Pro as well, Tucker is currently holding the belt for best kicker in the NFL.
Punter: Sam Koch (2006-Present)
Sam Koch has been an extremely consistent and effective weapon in the Ravens special teams game and assisting in their great defense as well. Coming in at 16th all-time in yards per punt, Koch has been bombing it for the Ravens for nearly 200 straight games.
Returner: Jacoby Jones (2012-2014)
Regardless of what Jacoby Jones would’ve done the rest of his career as a Raven, there is one game that puts him on this list. In Super Bowl XLVII, Jones took the second half kickoff 108 yards for a kick return touchdown, making it the longest play in Super Bowl history. This play alone helps to make him the greatest returner in Ravens history, with a shout out to the short-lived Deion Sanders stint.