Five thoughts on what was said at the Ravens' pre-draft media session Wednesday at the Under Armour Performance Center:
- I will start with one thing I absolutely, positively didn't know, and I'm guessing, no one else did: The Ravens looked into trading up in the first round last year. "A player we liked was falling," GM Ozzie Newsome said. He didn't identify the player, but said he made calls about possibly moving up. It didn't happen, but the story got me thinking about whether it happens more than we think, and might this year. The chances probably are slim, but Newsome considers trading up more than you think and does pull the trigger sometimes. To be specific, he has traded up in the first round three times since 2006, coming away with Haloti Ngata in 2006, Joe Flacco in 2008 and Michael Oher in 2009. Asked directly if he could trade up again this year, Newsome said he doubted it would happen, mostly because he doesn't have enough ammunition. (Only four of his eight picks can be traded because the other four are compensatory picks, which can't be traded.) But Newsome did add that if a player the Ravens like is falling, "we will be clamoring" to move up. File that away.
- Many draft experts are calling the 2014 class unusually deep. Assistant GM Eric DeCosta actually provided some numbers. When asked how many players in the class the Ravens consider "draftable," DeCosta said, "Some years it's 140 or 150; this year, 180." What's the byproduct of having more players than usual that they like in a given year? I think it means we need to keep paying attention after the draft ends on Saturday, May 10. In the 24 hours after that, the Ravens, as usual, will sign a bunch of undrafted free agents. If they've done their job scouting, that group should include more guys than usual that they think could make it in the league. The largely unheralded process has produced Justin Tucker and Marlon Brown in the past two years. It's really worthy monitoring in 2014.
- Not surprisingly, the Ravens didn't reveal any big secrets. Asked for his opinion about positions of needs, Head Coach John Harbaugh wound up mentioning every position on the roster, drawing laughs in the room. But the front office braintrust did talk about their process, offering insights from which much could be gleaned. For instance, when asked about the Ravens' history of drafting players from smaller schools, DeCosta said, "We believe in it." He explained that teams across the league have become so adept at scouting, knowing talent, that you have no choice but to dig deeper to find undiscovered jewels such as Lardarius Webb. And for what it's worth, the name of one potential candidate did come up: Lorenzo Taliaferro, a running back from Coastal Carolina. He's probably a third-day pick, i.e., going no earlier than the fourth round, but he's a 230-pounder supposedly suited to a zone-stretch running game, which the Ravens are installing. Another thing to file away.
- Early in the offseason, it was considered highly possible that the Ravens would draft a wide receiver in the first round. The need was that glaring. But after they re-signed Jacoby Jones and Dennis Pitta, signed Steve Smith and added Owen Daniels, giving Flacco more targets, they suddenly had other needs that were more pressing, and the odds of them taking a receiver in the first round became smaller. When asked Wednesday about the chances of the Ravens still drafting a receiver, Newsome said, "If there's an opportunity for us to add another wide receiver, we'll do it." That sounds definitive, but it's actually not much of a commitment; he could always say after the fact that the "opportunity" never arose. But I think Newsome's comment is code for "We're interested in adding a young playmaker." In the first round? I don't think so. But I could see them spending one of their three second-day picks on that position.
- When asked about Johnny Manziel, Joe Hortiz, the Ravens' director of college scouting, broke into a sly grin and said, "He's a blast to watch." Hortiz added that Manziel might need seasoning, but it seemed obvious that Hortiz really likes the quarterback from Texas A&M, whose draft stock has fluctuated. I happen to agree with any positive takes on Manziel. He's had a few off-field issues, most of which can be chalked up to being 20 years old. Otherwise, he's one of the most entertaining, instinctive and resourceful college quarterbacks I've seen in a long time. I don't know how he will fare in the NFL, but I like his chances. It sounds as if the Ravens do, too.