One of the nicer aspects of the NFL draft is that it sometimes brings a pleasant surprise. The Ravens got one of those in 2011 with Pernell McPhee. McPhee was a fifth-round pick last spring.
The 6-foot-3, 280-pound defensive end came from Mississippi State gave the Ravens plenty of help up front, much like Paul Kruger, finishing with six sacks and 23 tackles while playing in all 18 games. When a low-round draft pick gives a team a rookie season like that, the folks who handle the draft are probably smiling a bit. McPhee was solid throughout the season and should probably do even better in 2012 and looks to be on pace to become a force on the defensive line. What makes McPhees story more impressive is the fact that he played just one year of high school football, something his college defensive coordinator talked about with USA TODAY last spring. His best football is ahead of him, said Mississippi State defensive coordinator Chris Wilson in the article.
This is not a guy who has been playing since he was seven years old. I believe Pernell will be a solid NFL player with his size and athleticism. ESPN draft expert Todd McShay didnt appear as sold on McPhee in that article. McShay said that McPhee showed some positives, especially when it came to his strength and ability to take on blockers outside. But McShay still said that McPhee is never going to be a great pass rusher. Oops. The success of McPhee and Kruger leave the Ravens with an interesting question in the off-season. They definitely want more help in the pass-rushing game to give Terrell Suggs and others a hand.
The pass rush slipped a bit in the final part of 2011. But can McPhee and Kruger step up another level and become solid regular guys who pressure the opposing quarterbacks? Or is it too soon to expect that? McPhee really looked strong at times, very quick, agile and tough to block. If he can carry that forward, his second year could be even better than his first.