Eisenberg: Ozzie Newsome's Last Trip Through the First Round Was Flipping Unbelievable


In his last trip through the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night, Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome gave a performance that stretched the limits of one's vocabulary.

"It was masterful, the way it happened in that draft room tonight," said Newsome, who is usually not given to overstatement.

"What happened tonight in that draft room was a masterpiece," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh added, echoing the theme.

Masterful. Masterpiece. Let me add a slightly less highfaluting description: It was flipping unbelievable.

In the span of 32 picks lasting slightly more than three hours, Newsome traded back twice, traded up once, filled the Ravens' biggest immediate need, landed the franchise's quarterback of the future, and in the end, no doubt, lit a fire under a fan base that's been sulking through the offseason.

So, is that enough for you?

Wow. That's my reaction. Honestly, just … wow.

Newsome and the rest of the team's decision-makers have insisted for months that they understood that finding more offensive playmakers needed to be their No. 1 goal this offseason.

Thursday night's events offered the ultimate proof that they've gotten religion on the subject.

When they were on the clock with their original pick, the No. 16 overall selection, they had the option of taking Derwin James, a safety from Florida State widely regarded as a top-10 prospect and difference-making, plug-and-play starter. It was a surprise that James had slipped to the middle of the first round.

Adding James at that point would have been exactly the kind of pick Newsome has made for years – a "value" choice that bolsters the defense. But this time, he passed. And that's when things started getting crazy.

When Newsome traded back once, then traded back again, it was clear he had his mind set on bolstering the offense this year, and no, not with a guard or tackle.

Ending up with the No. 25 overall pick, he selected Hayden Hurst, a tight end from South Carolina who could become an immediate contributor in 2018 with his ability to get downfield and catch the ball.

"He just doesn't drop the ball," said Joe Hortiz, the Ravens' director of college scouting.

A tight end who can stretch the field had emerged as the Ravens' biggest need leading up to the draft after the front office added wide receivers Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead and watched last year's starting tight end, Benjamin Watson, depart via free agency.

But of course, with all due respect to Hurst, it was the Ravens' subsequent selection of Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson with the No. 32 overall pick that turned the evening into an electric event that might echo for years around here.

When the evening began, I don't think the Ravens saw themselves as having enough draft capital to make such a dramatic move. But in trading back twice, they picked up two extra quality picks, including the first selection in the third round. That gave them the latitude to make a substantial offer to the Philadelphia Eagles for the No. 32 overall section.

Basically, because they were able to trade back twice, the Ravens were able to trade up into the first round and get a player, in Jackson, whom many analysts regard as the best athlete and most explosive playmaker in the entire class.

When they met with the press minutes later, Newsome, Harbaugh, Hortiz and Assistant GM Eric DeCosta seemed almost stunned by how well things had worked out. When Newsome was asked if he saw any of this coming, he just laughed.

The Jackson selection has enormous implications for the franchise. You don't draft a quarterback in the first round unless you expect him to take over your offense at some point.

It's not going to happen in 2018. Everyone needs to understand that from the get-go. Jackson needs time to develop. As Newsome said Thursday night, the Ravens are trying to win now, with Joe Flacco as their quarterback. That's WHY they're adding so many new targets.

But with Jackson's selection, a succession plan at quarterback is officially underway. It will be fascinating to see how Flacco reacts, how things play out.

The Ravens' present and future just got a whole lot more interesting, courtesy of a draft night for the ages.

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