Five thoughts on the front office's pre-draft interview session with the media Tuesday in Owings Mills:
Osemele, Not Oher, At Left Tackle
The statement that made me sit up the most was Head Coach John Harbaugh's comment that Kelechi Osemele would be his starting left tackle "if we had to line up today with the guys we have." Really? Osemele started at right tackle and left guard in 2012, but never played left tackle, the so-called "blind side" slot, which was manned by Michael Oher during the regular season and Bryant McKinnie in the playoffs. But Osemele did play left tackle at Iowa State, and if the Ravens really prefer him to Oher there, they could make Oher their permanent right tackle rather than flip-flop him back and forth, as they have done. They would also have a vacancy at left guard, where Osemele played in the Super Bowl. But you can find a starting left guard a lot more easily than you can find an elite starting left tackle. Whether McKinnie, a free agent, eventually returns is anyone's guess, but if the Ravens like what they see from Osemele at left tackle during the OTA/minicamp season, my guess is no.
Newsome Pledges To Get A Safety
A year ago, General Manager Ozzie Newsome promised that the Ravens would come out of the draft with a center, and they did. Asked Tuesday if he would make a similar pledge about another position this year, he took the bait. "In all of the rounds (on their board), there's a safety we could take," he said. That's going to lead to speculation that the Ravens are going to take a safety high in the draft, and they certainly could; it's a need. But remember, Newsome made good on his pledge a year ago by drafting center Gino Gradkowski in the fourth round, not the first or second round. In 2006, Newsome drafted a starting safety (Dawan Landry) in the fifth round. It appears they're going to take one again this year, but who knows when?
Defensive Overhaul Planned In October
Talk about sticking to your plan. Newsome explained that the decision to make so many major changes to the roster after this season was being debated as far back as October, long before the Ravens made a Super Bowl run and then watched as a parade of starters departed. Clearly, the front office made the decision to overhaul things because it looked in the mirror and saw a team that needed to get younger and faster. When that team happened to pull itself together and win the Super Bowl, the decision to overhaul it became "a lot tougher," Newsome conceded, because everyone became so attached to it. But Owner Steve Bisciotti "has put us in charge of making us competitive in 2014, 2015 and 2016," Newsome said, so they went ahead and pulled the trigger on the overhaul anyway.
Big-Name Signings Won't Affect Draft Strategy
The Ravens have mostly replaced the starters from their Super Bowl team who are gone, bringing in veterans such as Elvis Dumervil, Chris Canty and Michael Huff. But when asked if those moves would change his approach to this draft, Newsome said no. "If there's a quality player (available) at linebacker, safety or defensive lineman, we'll take him," Newsome said. Why stack players at positions where they're set? Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta explained, calling this "a foundation draft" for the franchise. Translation: The Ravens are trying to rebuild the guts of the team, the lines, the middle, and the players they have recently added are all around 30, not necessarily long-term solutions. Ideally, any players they take in this draft would be ready to step in and play in a year or two.
Expect A Defense-Focused Draft
Look for the Ravens to focus more on their defense than their offense in this draft. That side of the ball is where more of the roster turnover has occurred, and while Newsome said he would never stray from his philosophy of taking the best player available, regardless of position, he conceded that a "defense-heavy draft" could ensue. Asked if as many as seven or eight of the team's 12 picks could be defensive players, he said yes. It's about time: Since drafting Haloti Ngata in 2006, the Ravens have only added one first-round pick on defense, taking cornerback Jimmy Smith in 2011.