Ray Lewis named ESPN’s all-time leading linebacker; Three more Ravens in the all-time top 2 at their positions
Even though the Ravens are the NFL’s second-youngest franchise, they were well represented in an ESPN survey of 50 pundits, reporters and analysts who determined the greatest players of all time in every position.
Ray Lewis was named GOAT at linebacker, while safety Ed Reed, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden and kicker Justin Tucker were early runners-up at their positions.
Lewis got 23 votes, 10 more than runner-up Dick Butkus.
“What separates the greats from each other isn’t physical skill. It’s preparation, football intelligence, instinct and execution,” said analyst Louis Riddick. “Lewis made some of the most spectacular individual defensive plays we’ve ever seen because he was the best at making the most of everything he had mentally even before the ball was broken, allowing his skills to shine. It’s to be a GOAT in my eyes.”
‘NFL Matchup’ host Sal Paolantonio said: “I covered Lewis from the day he was drafted to the night he walked away winning his second Super Bowl. He was the player of the Toughest, smartest NFL game I’ve ever met Lewis’ film study habits allowed him to see things on the field before they happen Tom Brady and Peyton Manning would probably tell you all two that Lewis rented space in their minds before and after the snap.
Tucker received 21 votes, one less than Adam Vinatieri. No disrespect to Vinatieri, but I think voters sniffed this one out.
Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley agreed. He maintained that “Tucker is the best kicker in the game due to his accuracy and his ability to handle himself in the most pressured situations, converting 91.1% of his field goals (the best in history field goals in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a record 66 yards last year.”
Bengals reporter Ben Baby said, “The five-time All-Pro is certainly one of the best clutch kickers of all time, but he’s also one of the most reliable.”
Vinatieri played 24 seasons and finished with an 83.8 field goal percentage. His playoff kicks and multiple Super Bowls certainly helped his case.
Reed (15 votes), was second behind 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.
Michael Proia of Stats & Information pointed out that Reed is “the only free safety to ever win Defensive Player of the Year, is tied for most interceptions in playoff history (nine), has had 13 career touchdowns and posted the most interception return yards in NFL history.”
Ogden received 10 votes, second behind Anthony Munoz (27).
“Imagine walking to the line of scrimmage and the man in front of you is 6-foot-9, 345 pounds, and smiling. That’s what Ogden’s opponents have witnessed for 12 seasons,” wrote Dolphins reporter Marcel Louis-Jacques.
Rams reporter Sarah Barshop, who also picked Ogden, wrote: “Ogden was one of the linemen who showed how important it is to protect the blind side of a quarterback. And he has been consistent, making the Pro Bowl every year of his career except for his rookie season.”
Cornerback Deion Sanders and returner/special team Devin Hester, who both played for the Ravens in the twilight of their careers, were also named GOATs to their positions.