Ray Lewis Named Greatest Linebacker Ever by ESPN; Three Other Ravens in Top 2 All Time at Their Positions
Even though the Ravens are the second-youngest franchise in the NFL, they were well represented in an ESPN survey of 50 experts, reporters and analysts that determined the greatest players of all time at each position.
Ray Lewis was named the GOAT at linebacker, while safety Ed Reed, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden and kicker Justin Tucker were the first runner-up at their positions.
Lewis earned 23 votes, 10 more than runner-up Dick Butkus.
“What separates the greats from one another is not physical skill. It’s preparation, football intelligence, instincts and execution,” analyst Louis Riddick said. “Lewis made some of the most spectacular individual defensive plays we have ever seen because he was the very best at getting the most out of everything he had mentally before the ball was even snapped, allowing his physical skills to shine. That is being a GOAT in my eyes. “
“NFL Matchup” host Sal Paolantonio said: “I covered Lewis from the day he was drafted until the night he walked away a winner in his second Super Bowl. He was the toughest, smartest NFL player I ever encountered. Lewis’ film study habits allowed him to see things on the field before they happened. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning would both probably tell you Lewis rented space in their minds pre- and post-snap. “
Tucker received 21 votes, one less than Adam Vinatieri. No disrespect to Vinatieri, but I think the voters whiffed on this one.
Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley agreed. He contended that “Tucker is the best kicker in the game because of his accuracy and ability to come through in the most pressure-filled situations, converting 91.1% of his field goals (best in NFL history). And he has connected on 58 straight field goals in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a record 66-yarder last year. “
Bengals reporter Ben Baby said: “The five-time All-Pro is definitely one of the most clutch kickers ever, but he’s also one of the most reliable.”
Vinatieri played a whopping 24 seasons and finished with a 83.8 field goal percentage. His clutch playoff kicking and multiple Super Bowls certainly helped his case by him.
Reed (15 votes), was second to Ronnie Lott (27).
“Reed was the ultimate game-changer with rare instincts and ball skills, totaling 64 career interceptions and seven defensive touchdowns,” analyst and former safety Matt Bowen wrote.
Stats & Information’s Michael Proia pointed out that Reed is “the only free safety to ever win Defensive Player of the Year, is tied for most interceptions in postseason history (nine), had 13 career TDs and posted the most interception return yards in NFL history . “
Ogden received 10 votes, second to Anthony Munoz (27).
“Imagine you step to the line of scrimmage and the man across from you is 6-foot-9, 345 pounds and smiling. That’s what Ogden’s opponents bore witness to for 12 seasons,” Dolphins reporter Marcel Louis-Jacques wrote.
Rams reporter Sarah Barshop, who also picked Ogden, wrote: “Ogden was one of the linemen who showed just how important it is to protect a quarterback’s blind side. And he was consistent, making the Pro Bowl every year of his career except for his rookie season. “
Cornerback Deion Sanders and returner / special teamer Devin Hester, who both played for the Ravens in the twilight of their careers, also were named the GOAT at their positions.