If you asked me to select 100 adjectives to describe Ozzie Newsome, self-centered and sentimental wouldn’t make the list.
The Ravens’ GM is the football version of a political policy wonk, at his happiest when immersed in the nuts and bolts of scouting – dissecting film, weighing prospects’ pros and cons – and the fine art of building a roster. Finding players is what excites him, not getting the credit for finding players.
You might see him get emotional when his puzzle pieces fit in a winning fashion, as has happened many times in his long tenure with the Ravens. But if you’re hoping to see him get emotional over his part of the process, you’re in for a long wait.
As we approach Newsome’s last draft in charge of the Ravens’ selections, though, I’m wondering if we might see a crack in the façade, however briefly. After he makes his last pick Saturday – his last pick as the Ravens’ GM after making them all since 1996 – it wouldn’t surprise me if the enormity of the moment hits him.
Reflecting on an era’s end is only human nature, right? Yes, Newsome will remain the Ravens’ GM through the 2018 season and plans to continue working in the organization after that, but the draft has been his specialty and Eric DeCosta will run it for the Ravens starting next year.
That pending transfer of power is bound to add an element of poignance to this year’s draft in Baltimore. But in a prioritization Newsome surely sees as appropriate, the emotion of the moment will be superseded by the importance of the moment.
This might be Newsome’s last draft, but regardless, the Ravens really need to nail it.
After missing the playoffs for three straight years and four of the past five, the pressure is on. The empty seats that became a common sight at M&T Bank Stadium in 2017 testify to the fact that the Ravens have slipped a bit and their public has noticed.
Newsome has agreed with the suggestion that several recent draft misses have contributed to the problem, conceding that the organization “needs to do better.”
In reality, he has scored with recent high picks such as C.J. Mosley, Ronnie Stanley and Marlon Humphrey, as well as a handful of lower-round selections such as Rick Wagner, Ryan Jensen, Matthew Judon and Alex Lewis.
But at the same time, the Ravens have spent millions to fill the lineup spots that were supposed to go to former first-rounders Matt Elam and Breshad Perriman; and the organization is still waiting for second-day picks such as Kamalei Correa, Bronson Kaufusi, Tyus Boswer, Chris Wormley and Tim Williams to bloom.
A handful of positional needs are obvious heading into the draft, starting with a pass-catching tight end now that wide receiver has been addressed with the additions of Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead. My prediction is the Ravens will take Dallas Goedert, a tight end from South Dakota State, with their first pick (after trading back from the No. 16 slot to later in the first round).
They also still need a young receiver who could develop into a starter, lessening what seems like a continual need to patch at that position. Offensive tackle and inside linebacker are other positions where the Ravens could plug in an immediate starter such as Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey or Alabama’s Rashaan Evans.
Quarterback? There’s been a lot of interesting talk, but in the end, my guess is the Ravens will want an immediate contributor with their first pick.
It’s asking a lot, but in light of their playoff drought, they really need to add not just one but a couple of difference-makers who play right away instead of languishing on the depth chart, as has happened lately with those relatively high picks mentioned above.
That’s what Newsome wants from his last draft, I’m sure: Not ceremonial recognition of a job well done over many years, but rather, a last burst of the kind of shrewd drafting that helped him become so respected.
The Ravens could use it, that’s for sure.