Eisenberg: Ozzie's Last Draft Was a Drop-The-Mic Moment

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He wasn’t thinking along these lines, I’m sure, as he was more concerned about improving the Ravens’ roster than any personal considerations. So let me say this for him:

Ozzie Newsome’s last draft as the Ravens’ GM was a drop-the-mic rebuttal to his not-insignificant chorus of detractors who believe it’s time for him to go because the Ravens have missed the playoffs lately and whiffed on some high picks.

You simply can’t work the system any better than Newsome did over three days of whirlwind manipulations.

As always, it remains to be seen how many of his even-dozen selections become starters, contributors, etc., and that score won’t be known for a few years. But that’s really beside the point to knowing insiders who see the draft as a scientific process – the same insiders who just laugh, by the way, when they hear it proclaimed that the only GM in Ravens history may have “lost it.”

It’s true, as Newsome has readily acknowledged, that several of his recent drafts haven’t produced as desired and he “needs to do better.” But his job is to collate his scout’s judgments, consult his instincts and select the players whom he believes at the time are the best solutions for what the team needs. With outcomes for individual players impossible to predict, all he can do is try to put the Ravens in the best possible position to succeed.

Understanding all that, Newsome gave what amounted to a master class in draftology over these three days as he zoomed around the board trading back and trading up, fielding phone calls, weighing options, pulling the trigger on some deals, holding off on others, and eventually adding an entire generation of new blood to a roster that sorely needed it.

Like spectators at the opera, Baltimore fans alternately stood and cheered (when Newsome jumped back into the end of the first round and took Lamar Jackson), wanted to pull their hair out (when he kept trading back) and shed a tear (when he picked Orlando Brown Jr. Jr., son of one of the most popular early Ravens).

I’ve already weighed in on what will surely be seen as the defining moment, the Jackson pick. The franchise needed the jolt. The fans needed a reason to get excited about why lies ahead.

Other things I liked:

Newsome understood that the offense has suffered from a dearth of skill-position playmaking. Of the eight offensive guys he took (representing two-thirds of the class), five touch the ball.

There’s value everywhere. Brown’s original first-round projection holds up on tape; he only slipped to the third round because of a poor combine. Jordan Lasley, a wide receiver taken in the fourth round, is a first-round talent (according to Mel Kiper) who slipped due to character concerns. Deshon Elliott was a unanimous first-team All-American as a safety at Texas; the Ravens got him in the sixth round along with Alabama’s starting center, Bradley Bozeman.

If I have one grumble (you have to have one, right?), it would be with the second of Newsome’s two first-round trade-backs. It’s hard to argue with the player the Ravens ended up with, tight Hayden Hurst, but I would’ve been just as happy to see them trade back only once and take Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore at No. 22 overall.

No, Moore probably wouldn’t have started as a rookie, as Hurst figures to do, and that would have meant two first-round picks who didn’t start, Jackson being the other – a tough sell. But the Ravens are eternally looking for veteran receivers because they haven’t developed a young starter, and Moore fit the description.

In any case, the draft was so deep in receivers that the Ravens still came away with a couple of talented prospects. And given how Joe Flacco loves throwing to tight ends, Hurst and third-round pick Mark Andrews – a semi-wideout in the Dennis Pitta mold -- could help the offense right away.

Frankly, this class raises all sorts of interesting possibilities on both sides of the ball. But there’ll be time to dig deeper into all that. For now, the big story is how Newsome handled his last draft.

He started out with eight picks and added four more. He addressed the team’s top immediate need with new receiving targets. He identified a future starting quarterback, the cornerstone of the franchise’s future. And he still added the grunt-guy offensive linemen and defensive pieces he loves.

Leaving the stage, he reminded the rest of the pro football world why his “Wizard of Oz” nickname was -- and still is -- so appropriate.

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