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Byrne Identity: Draft Room Drama, Best Moments

Posted May 3, 2013

Byrne details war room emotions, including during the trade and a phone call to Aaron Mellette.


Draft Room Is Nerve-Wracking

Ozzie Newsome is so calm during the draft.

I’m not.

Don’t like my heart broken.

I’ll give you an example. In 2007, we owned the 29th pick in the first round. We loved Joe Staley, a tackle from Central Michigan, but knew he was a long shot to make it to us.  As the first round evolved, Staley was dropping, and the conversation in our draft room turned to what team could take Staley.

As we got closer to our selection, I had canonized Staley. In my mind, he was going to be our left tackle for a decade, go to Pro Bowls and was a player we could not live without.

Then, bam! The 49ers grabbed Staley with the 28th selection. My heart broke. I needed a Cher/Moonstruck slap to the face.

Ozzie didn’t bat an eye. “Tell them to write down this name: Ben Grubbs, guard, Auburn. And give it to the league.”

Both Staley and Grubbs became Pro Bowl players.

So it was last Thursday night in the 2013 first round. We loved Matt Elam, and I was engaged to him by the middle of the first round. “We’ll all sleep really well tonight if Elam gets to us,” Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said.

The belief by our scouts was that this was a good draft for safeties and inside linebackers, two areas of need for us. There were more outstanding linebackers than safeties, so the hope was that we could grab the safety in the first round and the linebacker in the second.

St. Louis and Dallas, two teams we believed wanted to draft safeties, traded down in the first round. Those teams would still pick in front of us, and our intelligence indicated that both teams had Elam high on their boards.

The Rams, at the 30th pick, took LB Alec Ogletree. Whew! Chad Alexander, our assistant director of pro personnel, who was on a headset to the NFL Draft Headquarters in New York, then said: “Dallas’ pick is in.” We all stared at Chad. “It’s Frederick” (the center from Wisconsin).

High fives all around. Ozzie called Matt Elam, and he became our 2013 first-round choice.

Second-Round Drama

“We did sleep well after taking Elam,” DeCosta said. “And then we all had the kind of feeling with Arthur Brown that we had with Torrey Smith a few years ago. We thought there was a chance that Torrey could get to us in the second round, and he did. We wanted Brown, and we thought we had a shot.”

As the second round unfolded last Friday night, it became clear that Ozzie and Co. were not confident Brown would make it to our spot, the 62nd slot in the draft. Newsome and DeCosta started calling teams above us, hoping to move up. Seattle responded. They had the 56th spot. Moving up six places – by giving up our second-, fifth- and sixth-round selections – we drafted Brown. Even more enthusiastic high fives after that.

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King then wrote on Monday: “It’s well known how smart Ozzie Newsome and his staff are at working the draft. … Sources tell me Brown was going to be Houston’s pick at 57, and he was a strong consideration for Denver at 58. Great trade for Baltimore.”

The ‘Purple Board’

We all know that the draft now lasts three days with rounds four through seven taking place on Saturday. To help keep the enthusiasm and focus for those picks, our scouts and John Harbaugh stay up late Friday night and “re-stack our board.”

Imagine the largest wall in your house. That’s our draft board. The best players are at the top of the wall, listed in columns by positions. By the end of Friday night and the second round, the top half of the wall was clean – all those players had been drafted, and the card with their names on it had been taken off.

So around 11:30 p.m., the scouts and Harbs, under the direction of owner Steve Bisciotti, started moving names up the wall, and the wall looked filled once again. This extra space allowed the scouts to spread the names enough so that clear separation could now be seen among the remaining draftable players.

Steve invited scouts to show their passion for players they wanted. Great discussions took place, and there were verbal battles that, this year, lasted until 2:00 on Saturday morning. It is clear Steve loves this sparring. “He encourages scouts to fight for their guys,” DeCosta explained.

One thing Steve orchestrates is impressive. When the new board – nicknamed by the scouts as the “purple board” – was completed, Bisciotti asked each scout to put his name on the player he most wants the Ravens to take that day. Three scouts: Joe Douglas (our “National” scout), Milt Hendrickson (Midwest) and Andy Weidl (Northeast) put their initials on John Simon’s card.

You know what happened: we drafted Simon, a linebacker and team captain from Ohio State, near the bottom of the fourth round. Just before we selected Simon, Ozzie and Steve brought the three scouts into the room so they could be there when we picked the guy they showed so much passion for earlier that day. Kind of cool.

Best Moment Of The Draft

When Ozzie called Aaron Mellette to tell the Elon receiver we were taking him in the seventh round, this is what we heard Ozzie say: “Yes, this is real. This is Ozzie Newsome of the Baltimore Ravens. No, no, this is no joke. Look at the area code: 4-1-0, that’s Baltimore. Really, yes, really.” After convincing him that he was being drafted by us, Oz handed the phone to Coach Harbaugh. Harbs welcomed him to the Ravens and then said: “He dropped the phone, I think. Aaron, are you there? Aaron? I think they’re watching his name on ESPN right now. Aaron, are you there? I can hear a lot of shouting and screaming. There you are. Guess you and your family were watching TV.”

Fun. We shouldn’t forget how dramatic it is for these young men to be drafted. Not to mention getting drafted by the Super Bowl champs.

I’m Just Sayin’

Had the privilege of saying a few words to the rookies last night. Here’s what I noticed right away: first-rounder Matt Elam sat in the first row, center; second pick Arthur Brown was in a suit wearing a 

purple shirt with a purple tie; and third-rounder Brandon Williams, second row, center, was also in a suit. Had never seen a rookie wear a suit to the first meeting. Most were in sweats.

Didn’t see it, but heard: After Simon signed his contract yesterday afternoon, he asked if he could use the weight room for a lift – and that’s what he did. Impressive.

Talk with you soon,

Kevin   

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