To Head Coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens’ historic fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft was reminiscent of the scene above.
Baltimore had five picks in the fourth round. It was the most picks in one round among the first five rounds in NFL draft history, per ESPN Stats & Information.
“To me, we were in battle with the Klingons! It was hot and heavy!” Harbaugh said with a laugh.
First of all, who knew Harbaugh was such a Trekkie? Second, it sounds like a story that could go down in Baltimore lore one day.
General Manager Ozzie Newsome was Jean Luc Picard, “just sitting there in the captain’s chair, directing things very calmly and under control,” Harbaugh said.
Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta was Spock, “because he had all the analytics down. He told us two or three times exactly who was going to get picked by whatever team. He talked us into being patient; talked me into being patient a time or two, which is just great.”
Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz was Scotty manning the controls. “’Scotty, I need more power!’ ‘I’ve got nothing for you, Captain!’ Then he would find the power,” Harbaugh said.
Senior Vice President of Football Administration Pat Moriarty was the Doctor mashing away at his calculator trying to figure out different trade scenarios, saying, “’Captain, I am a doctor, not a magician!’”
The Ravens knew the pressure was on to nail the fourth round. DeCosta said well in advance of the draft that the fourth round would “make or break” the draft class. Owner Steve Bisciotti (no word on which Star Trek character he played) said he wanted starters with each of those picks.
The Ravens went into the round thinking they would like to flip any of their three tradeable picks into selections for next year, but never got a good enough offer. So they just picked in a flurry of activity.
The Ravens began the round by selecting cornerback Tavon Young at 104 overall. The 5-foot-9 Temple product is a scrappy nickel corner who could contribute immediately.
Baltimore had another pick three slots later and grabbed wide receiver Chris Moore out of Cincinnati. Moore is a proven big-play threat who can maximize Joe Flacco’s big arm.
Up next was three picks in the span of five selections. That’s when it got really crazy.
First was Nebraska offensive tackle Alex Lewis, a big guy who offensive line coaches loved in part because of his position flexibility. Next up was defensive tackle Willie Henry, a powerful interior rusher who Harbaugh’s brother and Wolverines head coach recommended. Lastly was running back Kenneth Dixon, who was considered one of the top backs in the draft and briefly held the NCAA scoring record (87 touchdowns) before Ravens sixth-round pick Keenan Reynolds one-upped him.
Pick after pick rolled in, and the Ravens came away with five very talented players.
“Just watching these men, and the way they work in the heat of battle, under fire, was really something to behold," Harbaugh said.
“To be able to have the five picks, the phones ringing, and for us to just stay focused and come up with the players [was special],” Newsome added.
DeCosta said he had the team’s analytics experts look at the fourth round in depth. They looked at what positions could be there and what value those positions offered around that time frame. DeCosta then took that and tried to project which players would be left on the board.
They formed a game plan, just like the coaches would for a Sunday in the fall.
“It became a mission for all of us to do the best we could and get the best players we could. It fell that way today,” DeCosta said.
“We had a bunch of players and we had a sense of who might be there in different spots. The players that we targeted, they were there. We’d go back down and wait on a guy, and he’d be there. Then we’d go back down and wait on a guy, and he’d be there. It just came out the right way for us.”
The national pundits agree. ESPN’s Todd McShay posted his favorite pick from each team. For 31 of 32 teams, he was able to tab one prospect. For the Ravens, he picked the entire fourth round.
“Seriously. This might be the best fourth round I've ever seen from a team,” McShay wrote. “General Manager Ozzie Newsome killed it on Saturday.”
The Ravens have had mixed success in the fourth round over the years. The last full-time starter they picked in the fourth round was center Jason Brown (2005). The only fourth-round pick since Jarret Johnson (2003) to get a second contract in Baltimore has been tight end Dennis Pitta (2010).
Baltimore is hoping this class breaks that trend.
So back to Harbaugh’s Star Trek adventures. Who is he in this battle?
“Oh, I’m James Kirk, man! I’m in there battling it out, fighting and duking it out!” he said, sending the press conference into laughter. “So that’s what I do during the draft. I think about these things.”