Ozzie Newsome's Feelings as He Approaches His Final Draft as GM


For the past 22 years, Ozzie Newsome has gotten the same butterflies in his stomach each time he's preparing to make the Ravens' first-round pick.

It's the same feeling, he said, that he got when he was running out of the tunnel for the first time as an NFL tight end in 1978.

Now, as Newsome approaches his 23rd and final draft as general manager of the Baltimore Ravens, he doesn't expect anything different.

"What's going to occur a year from now is not in my thought process," Newsome said Wednesday. "It's just making this the best draft this year; that's been my focus."

Really, no different emotions?

"No, no, no," he said. "It's all about the preparation."

Newsome has been the final decision-maker in Baltimore since the franchise's birth in 1996. As Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta (the man who will take over next year) said, Newsome is now widely considered one of the NFL's best general managers of all-time.

Newsome kicked off his record by selecting a pair of Hall of Famers, Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis. He likely has two more in the pipeline with Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs. Newsome has drafted 23 players that went to a Pro Bowl and added more as undrafted free agents.

He said the strategy hasn't changed all that much since the beginning. The Ravens still stand by their best-player-available approach, especially in the first round, and eschew picking players based on need. Newsome's strengths of patience, listening and building consensus among scouts and coaches will always be the pillars he stands on.

What will change next year is who makes the final decision. That's what Newsome said has been the most exciting part of the job, ever since the beginning.

"All the work is done and then you have this moment when you have to pull the trigger. You have to go and perform. I enjoy that aspect of it just like I enjoyed competing on the field," Newsome said.

"You're still competing with 31 other clubs on getting it right. The same enthusiasm, the same fear that I had coming out of that tunnel, I have it on Thursday nights [during the first round of the draft]."

Who gets the credit for "getting it right" doesn't matter all that much to Newsome. What he does care about, is that the Ravens haven't gotten it right often enough in recent years. That is what Newsome is focused on right now.

The Ravens have drafted just one player since 2009 (linebacker C.J. Mosley in 2014) that has gone to a Pro Bowl while wearing purple and black. Baltimore didn't get or hasn't gotten much out of its top picks in 2010 (Sergio Kindle), 2013 (Matt Elam) and 2015 (Breshad Perriman). There have been a fair number of Day 2 draft misses as well.

Newsome said there's "no doubt" misses have played a role in why Baltimore hasn't reached the playoffs in three straight years and advanced once since winning the franchise's second Super Bowl five years ago.

"When we were having success, we were getting all the credit," Newsome said. "Then we haven't had success, I need to take all the blame. It falls right on me.

"John and his staff do an unbelievable job, but we have to do a better job of bringing in players. Whether that's through the draft, free agency or trades, we have to do better and that will help them to do better."

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