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Byrne Identity: Stories From Inside The Ravens Draft Room

Posted May 16, 2014

The reaction to picking Mosley, Ozzie’s trade demands, Kubiak walks out, conversation about Michael Sam.


Inside The Draft Room

Immediately after the Ravens drafted Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley with the 17th selection in last week’s NFL Draft, Baltimore’s area scout for the western part of the country, David Blackburn, had a huge smile on his face.

“I know none of us wants to be drafting this high, but I haven’t felt this good with a first-round pick in a while. Having a higher pick than teams making the playoffs makes a difference. The quality is better,” Blackburn said. (He then added, “I hope we pick at No. 32 next year.”)

The 15 minutes prior to our pick of Mosley were intense. Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta and Joe Hortiz were all getting calls from teams making offers for our 17th slot. At one point, when Dallas, which had the pick before us, was on the clock, we were fielding calls from four different teams.

“We were willing to move for a blockbuster offer. We weren’t going to leave that spot without at least someone’s No. 1 for next year – and it would have to be a one (draft choice) from a team that we thought would be in the top half of the draft,” Newsome explained.

“We would have had a huge decision to make if the Cowboys hadn’t taken [Zack] Martin,” DeCosta said. “We knew a lot of teams behind us loved Martin – and we liked him too, he was high on our board – but we probably would have had better offers to move back if Martin was still there when we were on the clock. That didn’t happen, but we had no trouble selecting C.J., who was rated very high on our board. Our fans will love him. He’s our type of player.” 

Players Dropped To Us

While it was clear that the top players on our draft board were also rated very high by the other NFL teams, I was excited that we drafted players that were consistently rated higher by our team than where we selected. Mosley was very high on our list. (Ozzie would chastise me if I revealed exactly where we ranked C.J.) We drafted defensive tackle Tim Jernigan in the second round, the 48th player selected last weekend. We had a first-round grade on him, while our third-round choice Terrence Brooks, the 79th player selected, was rated in our top 40.

(Brent Urban, the defensive lineman from Virginia that we drafted in the fourth round, was graded a second-round player by the Ravens.)

“It was one of those drafts when it looked like our grading of players was very consistent with the rest of the NFL, especially in the first round,” DeCosta said. In our draft room, you could see that. As teams selected, you would hear John Harbaugh or one of the personnel staff members remark: “He’s a good player. He’s going to help them.” Or, “We’ll have to find a way to block that guy … or defend that guy.”

“Before the draft, we targeted three players we thought could make it to 17. C.J. was one of them,” DeCosta said. “But, when you see these outstanding players – ones we love – start coming off in a hurry, we worried that one of our three might not be there for us at 17.”

Ozzie summed up the draft after we traded to get a seventh-round pick and grabbed receiver Michael Campanaro, the Wake Forest product who prepped at Baltimore-area’s River Hill High School: “We really, really had a good three days. You can’t get everyone you want or take a player at a position you might want, because we have other players rated much higher. But, if we talked last Thursday afternoon and said we would get these nine draft choices, we would have all taken that.”

Kubiak Walks Out

What Ozzie and Company did take is defensive players with our first three choices. Guys in the room had some fun with new Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak during this span. 

While it was clear on our draft board that each of the players we selected in the first three rounds was rated higher than any offensive player at the time, Oz, Harbs or Eric would ask Kubiak for his thoughts on some of the highest-rated offensive players.

After we took Brooks in the third round, Steve Bisciotti turned to Kubiak and said: “That’s what we do here, we ask you for your opinion, but then Ozzie always takes defensive players.” Gary smiled and replied: “Now I see why the Ravens are always so good on defense.”

Soon after Brooks became a Raven, Kubiak left the room. In a conversation with DeCosta and Hortiz, Newsome hadn’t noticed. When he finished, Oz looked to where Gary had been sitting and asked, “Where’s Gary?” Harbs laughed, “He left. Someone get his shoelaces.”

When Kubiak returned to the room a few minutes later, he found the side of our board with all the offensive players listed covered by a curtain. He laughed – and so did Harbs, who had pulled the drape over the board.

After we took tight end Crockett Gillmore with our second third-round pick late Friday night, Kubiak was handed the phone by Harbs. “I’ve been waiting for two days to talk to you,” Kubiak said as our room erupted with laughs.

Couple Of Observations

  • When Coach Harbaugh did a satellite interview with the NFL Network on Saturday, he was asked about the addition of Steve Smith, Sr. John mentioned how much he like Steve, including his leadership and competitive zeal. “We put his locker next to Terrell Suggs. How’s that for a combination? Iron sharpens iron.”
  • I was impressed with our conversation about Michael Sam. When ESPN continually focused on Sam during the seventh round, Bisciotti turned to Newsome and asked: “Oz, we interested in Sam?” Ozzie replied, “As a free agent. He has some rushing skills.” Steve, sitting between the Wizard and Harbs, “John, we’d handle it?” John: “Sure, the focus would be all about football and how he could help us win.” End of discussion.
  • Early Saturday morning, before the start of the fourth round, I was in our weight room and found three current Ravens pushing each other through a tough cardio workout on the Stairmaster. There was last season’s starting center Gino Gradkowski, along with T/G Jah Reid and G/C Ryan Jensen, two guys fighting to start on our offensive line, taking the extra step to be the best Ravens they can be. (By the way, at this time of the year, we have football activities for our players from Monday through Friday.)
  • The mad scramble to sign rookie free agents immediately after the draft is intense. Joe Douglas and Mark Azevedo of our personnel department do a terrific job coordinating this effort. (Think Marlon Brown and Justin Tucker as two guys we obtained in this process over the last two years.) It’s a massive recruiting attack on these players. Coach Harbaugh is very involved, both as a recruiter and organizer. There was John on a step ladder in our draft room placing names in a column as they committed to the Ravens. He had another designation for guys with offers, but no commitments. “You love this, don’t you?” Harbaugh, who had been the recruiting coordinator at the University of Cincinnati earlier in his career, said, “It was easier in college. It was spread out over many months. We’re doing this in a couple of hours.”

Now all of our rookies – draft choices and free agents – are here in a two-day rookie minicamp. It’s exciting to see all these young guys on the field and around the building. Many of them will have an impact on how good we will be this season. First indications are most encouraging.

Talk with you soon,

Kevin

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