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POSTED SUNDAY – 4:29 PM LOOKS LIKE PRETTY GOOD MANUEVERING
I've read some criticism and heard some comments that Ozzie might have panicked by moving up from the 26th pick in the 1st round to 18 to select Joe Flacco.
I don't think there was any panic at all. When Ozzie traded down from the 8th spot, his goal was to put the Ravens in position to get Flacco. Oz got that done. Before he pulled the trigger on the trade with Houston, which had the 18th pick, the Ravens' GM was also negotiating with 3 other teams to move up.
In the end, Ozzie was able to move up 8 spaces in the 1st round by giving up a 6th round choice. How do I figure that? Well, to get the 18th pick, we gave up our 1st pick (26), a 3rd-rounder (89) and a 6th (173). In the 2nd round, Ozzie and the gang targeted Rutgers outstanding running back Ray Rice. We had the 38th spot. Knowing that there was a likelihood that Rice would still be there later in the 2nd round, Oz swapped 2nd rounders with Seattle, giving us the 55th selection in the draft. Low and behold, Rice was still there and we grabbed him.
And, what did Seattle give us to swap 2nd-round choices – a 3rd-rounder, the 86th selection, which is 3 spots better than our original 89th – the one we gave up to make the move in the 1st round.
POSTED SATURDAY – 6:24 PM
When it became apparent that the Ravens were not going to get one of the 3 players they targeted for the 8th spot in the 1st round, Ozzie began fielding calls to move out of the 8th spot. That was part of the Ravens' brain trust strategy entering the draft. The feeling among the Ravens' scouts is that this is a talented and deep draft, especially through the first three rounds. In the end, Ozzie had four teams making offers, and he played one off the other with help from a number of people in our draft room, especially DeCosta and Steve Bisciotti.
John Harbaugh was impressed with the action. "It was something to see the way Ozzie, Eric and Steve worked together. The give and take. They were working at a number of different levels, making sure we got the best deal, and we did."
Once Ozzie completed the trade with Jacksonville, that gave the Ravens two more 3rd-round and one 4th round choice from the Jaguars, along with, of course, Jacksonville's 1st choice (#26), the others in the draft room gave Oz a standing ovation. Harbaugh exclaimed: "Oz just made a touchdown catch." Bisciotti, who was exchanging high fives with DeCosta, laughed and said: "Pretty good for a 52-year-old receiver." Defensive coordinator/Assistant Head Coach Rex Ryan smiled: "That was fun to watch – 4 phones going at once, people talking in his other ear. Good focus by the Hall of Famer (Newsome)."
The world now knows that we were targeting Delaware QB Joe Flacco as our quarterback of the future. As Ozzie and the others in the room began reviewing the teams that would pick before our selection at 26, it became apparent that we would have to move up higher to make sure we got Flacco.
Newsome started making calls, including with Houston, which had the 18th selection. Ozzie almost had a deal completed with a team below Houston, when the rep from the Texans called Ozzie back. "He told me he had 2 teams wanting their pick, and even mentioned that he thought both teams were targeting Flacco. He might have been playing poker and bluffing me, but we didn't want to risk losing Joe, so we made the deal."
The happiest man in the draft room when we selected Joe seemed to be offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Cameron had spent a lot of time studying Flacco, plus spending time with him. "Cam really likes this kid, and thinks he has a chance to be special," Harbaugh said.
Coming into the draft room right after the selection was QB coach Hue Jackson. "We got him," Jackson said. "Thanks Ozzie. Way to go Eric."
POSTED SATURDAY – 3:49 PM
A LITTLE TOO BLATANT
I had just spent time with Ozzie, Eric and owner Steve Bisciotti – and thought I was all caught up with the possibilities – when I snuck down to the weight room to get some time on the stairmaster and lift my little weights. It was about 2 p.m. I had both ESPN and the NFL Network on monitors in front of the stair machine. Almost as soon as I started my climb, NFL Network reported that the Ravens were making a serious run at the Rams' 2nd pick. A few minutes later, ESPN reported the same thing.
I started thinking: Am I out of the loop on my team? I just left my guys and there was no indication this was happening. The reality: St. Louis was leaking info that the Ravens wanted the 2nd pick to select Matt Ryan. Why? They wanted the Falcons to react and give them a draft choice to move one space to make sure they got Ryan. Ah, the games continue.
One thought: there is no doubt that we think highly of Ryan. We have not denied that. But, what people outside the circle don't know is how highly we have other QBs rated in this draft.
POSTED SATURDAY – 1:38 PM
The draft is as exciting as anything we do. The truth is that only a select few internally have an idea of what the Ravens are planning to do with this draft, and most of us are like you fans – trying to find out as much as possible before the Ravens select. That guessing game is fun. In fact, it's exciting. The search for more inside information drives a good portion of the U.S. sports world in the months leading up to today and tomorrow.
Our general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome leads our player selection, and Oz is secretive. He believes that the fewer people who know what our hopes are, the better. Information is power when it comes to the draft, and Oz doesn't want anyone in the Ravens' organization to have too much power, i.e. too much information. If you don't have the information, you can't be tempted to share with the all those putting together mock drafts.
Every team is trying to figure out what other teams are doing. We have the 8th pick in the 1st round today. If we could figure out what those 7 teams in front of us are going to do, it would sure help our strategy. With that in mind, Ozzie keeps the Ravens' draft-insider circle small, so that fewer people have the chance to "leak" information to the outside world.
And, man, the people from the outside world are knocking on the door to get information. Just like we knock on every door trying to discover what others are doing. Every coach and every scout in our organization is trying to help Ozzie and Eric DeCosta, our director of college scouting, get more information from other teams. For example, one of our coaches could call his counterpart from the Falcons and tell him how much we love quarterback Joe Flacco. Our guy explains that Flacco wowed us with his Ravens workout, stunned us with his demeanor in a visit to Owings Mills and that we have the Delaware product number one in our quarterback evaluation.
The guy from Atlanta might come back and say something like, "You're not alone. We love Flacco as much as Matt Ryan, but I think our GM will take Ryan with our 1st choice." Now, when that information is passed along to Ozzie, our GM doesn't take that as gospel, but it will certainly be put into the information index as we try to discover what everyone is trying to do in front of us. In fact, multiply information like that from 20 coaches and 17 people from our scouting department and you get a little idea of the information that floats out there.
And, we do look to the media for information, and reporters are scouted. For example, when we read a reporter from ESPN.com or see someone on TV from ESPN who is giving a nugget about the Patriots likely 1st choice, Ozzie might say, "That guy talks with (Bill) Belichick all the time. That's good information." That info then gets filed.
And reporters will offer teams information in hopes of getting some nugget that will make them appear brighter. But, this is how confusing it gets. Late yesterday afternoon, one of the best known national reporters texted me that he knew "almost for a certainty that St. Louis would take Virginia's Chris Long with the 2nd pick in the 1st round, and that Atlanta would take Ryan. Less than a half hour later, a reporter known to all sports fans called Oz to say, "You can book this: the Rams are taking Long and the Falcons are jumping up and down because they're getting Glenn Dorsey (LSU defensive tackle)."
Now, the 2 reporters who gave us this information are sharing with us in hopes we give some info back that might make them look smarter when they are called upon to talk about the Ravens' pick. For Ozzie, what does the information mean? These are 2 well-connected reporters, and they're giving conflicting information less than 24 hours before the draft. What does Oz do with the info? "In the end, there is information overload. It's conflicting. It can discourage you and it can give you false hopes. We always go back to our board and take the next best player when it is our turn," Newsome explained.
The "board"…the Ravens stay true to the board. Yes, we do. When we had Pro Bowl left tackle Tony Jones, we took Jonathan Ogden. When we had young Priest Holmes, we took Jamal Lewis. And, when we won a Super Bowl with TE Shannon Sharpe making most of the big plays in that championship run, we grabbed Todd Heap a few months later. Yes, we stay true to the board. We take the best player available. "You spend all this time and money to put your board together, you can't leave that based on what other teams are doing, or what you think they might do," Newsome added.
Ozzie is one of 17 Ravens employees who work full-time evaluating players who could come onto our team. In the last 10 weeks or so, our coaches have also leaped into our draft evaluation process. The investment financially in this comprehensive study is in the millions. I couldn't count the "man-hours" invested in the process. Clearly, it's not guess work. And, the Ravens are known for being pretty good at it. Sure, mistakes are made. But every team has that.
What I know is that we're ready to go today. And, who knows? Maybe our first pick will be our next Ed Reed, Ray Lewis or Heap. Maybe our 2nd-rounder will be a player as good as Jamie Sharper. We have two 4th-rounders. Could they turn out as good as Edwin Mulitalo, Jarret Johnson, Jason Brown or Demetrius Williams – all players we took in the 4th round? Can we find a 5th-rounder like Jermaine Lewis, who was grabbed in that round in 1996; or, how about a Pro Bowler like Adalius Thomas, a standout we discovered in the 6th-round in 2000?
So, as you watch what unfolds today, know that we have a lot at stake, but that we are well prepared…and that everything you see and hear through the media may not only be somewhat confusing or contradictory, it might not be correct. Ozzie's not the only one in the league keeping secrets.
A FINAL GATHERING
For a couple of hours last night, Ozzie hosted a reception for all the scouts and coaches, and a number of others from the Ravens who will work long hours this weekend as we draft 9 new Ravens (unless we make some trades.) The gathering was held at a local country club. Being the competitors we are, we all ended up on the putting green in our bare feet for a "putt-off". Head coach John Harbaugh, Newsome, team president Dick Cass and national scout Joe Hortiz each offered a couple of dollars to the 1st person who could make a long putt.
After about 40 of us missed the first putt, a second shot was designated. And, just to show that our staff has been working hard and not playing golf, all of us missed the second long putt – until the last contestant stepped up. Defensive backs coach Mark Carrier, once the 1st-round choice of the Chicago Bears after an All-American career at Southern Cal, made the shot. Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan shouted: "Oz, that means we have to take a defensive player with the 1st pick." Ozzie just laughed.
STARTING THE DAY
With the draft starting at 3 today, most of us didn't know what time to come to work. In the past, the draft started at 12 and most of the staff was here by 7 a.m. Today, Newsome was here before 8 and on the treadmill by 9. Ozzie will go back to the treadmill one more time before 3. (That's where Oz goes to sort everything else – no phones, no interruptions when you're on the treadmill.) DeCosta was here at 8:30 and continued a draft-day tradition by jogging with Pat Moriarty, our vice president of football administration.
Clearly, there's a lot of nervous energy here today. Most of the scouts and coaches have spent time working out trying to relieve some of the pressure.
I like what Coach Harbaugh said to me at about 1 p.m.: "We're going to get better today. You gotta love this." I do! Stay tuned for more later today.
Kevin Byrne is the Ravens' Senior Vice President – Public and Community Relations. He has worked in the NFL since 1977, when he was the then-youngest public relations director in the league (for the then-St. Louis Cardinals), except for the two years he was the Director of Public Affairs for TWA (Trans World Airlines). He has been with the Ravens since they began, and before that was a vice president with the Cleveland Browns. He has won a Super Bowl ring with the 2000 Ravens and an NCAA basketball championship with Al McGuire's Marquette team in '77. He was on the losing end of historic games known for the "Drive" and the "Fumble." He has worked closely and is friends with some of the best in the game: Ozzie Newsome, Brian Billick, Ray Lewis, Bill Cowher, Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, Marty Schottenheimer and Shannon Sharpe to name a few.