Ravens Don't Buy Combine Hoopla

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The Ravens, who have already set their initial draft board, don't want to get caught up in the hoopla that will come out of this week's NFL Scouting Combine.

In compiling the book on each draftable prospect, the Combine is merely another chapter.

"It's another exposure to the players," general manager Ozzie Newsome has said.  "It's another set of notes to add to the overall picture."

Spanning six days in Indianapolis, approximately 330 of the NCAA's top talents will be poked, prodded and intensely scrutinized by scouts, coaches and medical staffs from all 32 NFL teams.  Essentially, it's the biggest job interview of each player's career.

Certainly, a lot will be learned at Lucas Oil Stadium, but Baltimore's front office understands it can't put too much weight into the highly-publicized event.

Every year, it seems that a few players rise up the ranks with a freakish Combine performance.

Last February, one of those players was Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey, whose 4.30-second time in the 40-yard dash (a Combine-best), sent him skyrocketing to the top of many draft boards.

The Oakland Raiders selected Heyward-Bey seventh overall, but he only posted a pedestrian nine receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown through 11 games.

"There are always going to be guys that come out of the Combine and basically get inflated artificially, value-wise, by the media, other people that push these guys up the boards," Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta said.  "I think the biggest thing is the tape.  No matter what else is out there, the biggest thing is the tape.  You have to study the tape and let the player come back to you."

"Ultimately, you watch that player in two, three, four, five, six games… Can he play for you?"

Still, the Combine is a helpful cattle call, where each position group completes a four-day cycle that ensures thorough inspection.

For example, Groups 1 (kickers, linemen), 2 (more linemen) and 3 (tight ends) arrive on Wednesday for registration and orientation.  They have a detailed medical exam, take the Wonderlic Personnel Test and meet with the media on Thursday.

A lengthy NFL Players Association meeting occurs on Friday.  And finally, each position goes through six workouts – the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone drill and shuttle run before breaking off into their position-specific drills and departure on Saturday.  Throughout, teams have the opportunity to interview the prospects face-to-face, as well.

That same routine starts for quarterbacks, wideouts and running backs on Thursday, defensive linemen and linebackers on Friday, and defensive backs on Saturday.

Because most of the Combine is covered ad nauseum by the public and media – especially when it is fully-televised on the NFL Network – DeCosta chuckles when there is a breathless reaction to something like a fast 40 time.

"The 40-yard dash is something that everybody points to, and we sit up there and watch.  Ozzie and I have been sitting together for years and bet on the 40s," DeCosta said with a laugh.  "[Cincinnati head coach] Marvin Lewis is up there with us, [Houston defensive assistant] Ray Rhodes is typically up there.  [Detroit senior personnel executive] James Harris, too.  There is a core group of guys that we sit with, and it's always fun to watch the guys run."

By the time the Ravens representatives return to Charm City, they will have additional – not drastically-altering – information to add to the board.

As venerable Sports Illustrated columnist Peter King warned in his most-recent "Monday Morning Quarterback," you can learn more at the Combine, but it is only part of the draft process.

 "I enjoy the combine. It gives me the chance to meet a lot of players I'll be covering in the future and to see people in the NFL and get team-by-team updates," he wrote.  "It's valuable. But it's way overrated in terms of deciding who should get picked where in the draft, and it always will be."

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