It's the calm before the storm.
Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, the Four Tops and other Motown headliners are helping Ozzie Newsome stay focused as he power walks on the treadmill before tonight's NFL Draft. With his earplugs in place, Ozzie was interrupted by Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta during his lunchtime treadmill jaunt earlier today.
All I heard from Eric was: "What if…?"
The hay's not quite in the barn, but Ozzie, Eric and the rest of the Ravens' brain trust is ready to select new players.
"Over the last 30 to 40 hours, Eric, Harbs (John Harbaugh) and I have scrimmaged about different possible scenarios that could happen before we pick at 29 tonight. [Director of College Scouting] Joe [Hortiz] is involved, too," Newsome said. "The board is set, and we're comfortable with all the work that went into it.
"We've identified nine players we believe could be there at 29. We've taken those nine players and did some extra study on each," Newsome continued. "We had each of our scouts look extensively at these players. We then matched up all of these against the others and played the game of: 'If this player and that player are there, who do we select and why. That's a real good discussion and takes some time. We get the coaches involved. We get matchups of this offensive player versus this defensive player. We go through as many possibilities that we can think of."
What If The Nine Are Gone?
When I asked Oz if all nine are gone, what do we do, he said: "Not going to happen. I'd be surprised if there aren't four or five of these players still there at 29. We have a lot of information about the players and the leanings of the teams in front of us. We've done our homework," the Wizard added.
And, will the Ravens be tempted to move up to draft a player they covet or move down and gain an extra pick or more, because there will be a group of players with similar draft grades from the Ravens' personnel experts? "We'll listen. I've already heard from three teams ahead of us and two teams behind us who have some interest in moving. We'll see," Newsome said.
What will Newsome focus on once the draft starts? "Trends. I've seen a lot of drafts that have runs at certain positions. It happened last year in the first round with the quarterbacks. Four went in a hurry, and that helped get Jimmy [Smith] to us at the 27th spot.
"Will there be a run at a position this year? Maybe. It usually happens. When you pick late in the first round like we have done recently, runs help. It usually means a good player at another position will drop to us."
It's Like Your Birthday
We know we're going to get a gift tonight. It's like a birthday. There's a big box, all wrapped. We just don't know what's in the box.
I'm confident we'll get a good player at 29. Confident even if we move up or down the board. I'm not bragging, because history says Ozzie and his crew are very good at this selection game. Bill Polian, recently the GM of the Colts and the former head honcho at the Panthers and Bills (when they earned four Super Bowl appearances), said earlier this week that the Ravens are the best in the NFL at picking players.
That's high praise.
Look, there is a lot of work and intelligence that went into the prep for this draft. We're looking for Raven-type players. We do this differently than other teams. Unlike most of the NFL franchises, we don't belong to a scouting combine group that provides a list of draftable players to its members. We develop our own list. We have a profile that results in selecting someone who "plays like a Raven."
Newsome learned much of the base of his personnel skills from Bill Belichick when the two worked for the Browns just prior to the birth of the Ravens in 1996. Belichick, like his mentor Bill Parcells, put great emphasis on size and speed. In other words, draft the biggest and fastest players and then physically dominate your opponents.
When Ozzie first ran his shop in Baltimore, he asked then-head coach Ted Marchibroda what Ted wanted in a player. Ted responded: "Someone with football temperament. Someone who likes it."
That "temperament" is now a significant part of the Ravens' profile.
I can't give away all the secrets – not that I know them. But, I will offer this: We will draft a player tonight who has a passion for football. We will not take a great athlete – maybe one who dominated at the college level – who doesn't like all parts of the game. The newest Raven will like the physicality of the game. He will enjoy working hard in the weight room. He will be a player with a history of taking the extra step. He will be someone who loves to compete – all of the time. He will be tough. He will be a Raven…and play like one.
Can't wait. Go get 'em Oz.
Talk to you soon,
Kevin Byrne, a Ravens senior vice president, has worked in the NFL for 32 years. Byrne has been with the Ravens since the start of the franchise in 1996. Earlier in his career, Byrne was the sports information director at Marquette University, his alma mater, when they won the 1977 NCAA basketball championship under coach Al McGuire.