Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome's success in the first round is well-documented. Boil it down to his efforts in the top 10 picks, and the results are even more impressive.
Five of the Ravens' seven top 10 draft picks have earned Pro Bowl recognition, an NFL-best since 1996.
And while they may not live up to the likes of Jonathan Ogden (4th overall in the 1996 draft), Peter Boulware (4th, 1997), Chris McAlister (10th, 1999), Jamal Lewis (5th, 2000), or Terrell Suggs (10th, 2003), Duane Starks (10th, 1998) was a key cog on Baltimore's Super Bowl team, and Travis Taylor (10th, 2000) led the Ravens in receiving two of his five seasons.
Newsome will look to continue his trend of excellence Saturday when the Ravens select eighth in the NFL Draft.
With the Miami Dolphins locking up tackle Jake Long five days before the selection meeting, Newsome will also have a close eye on what teams 2-7 are doing behind the scenes this week.
"We can't control what seven other people do in front of us," Newsome stated. "Everybody can speculate, but nobody else has had the opportunity to sit with Eric, John [Harbaugh], Rex [Ryan], Cam [Cameron] and myself and assess this football team.
"I don't get into speculating what the Rams are going to do or what Kansas City is going to do. I just have to be prepared for what Baltimore can do at 8. I can't control those other things."
What he can control is the way Baltimore's draft board is stacked. Using input from the coaches and personnel department, Newsome and director of college scouting Eric DeCosta plan to put the finishing touches on their rankings by Thursday. Taking Long off the list early is only a small step towards the Ravens' turn to pick.
In a time filled with double-talk and "leaked" information meant to throw other teams off-track, one thing is evident: Newsome is comfortable at No. 8 - or below. It would take an extraordinary circumstance to trade up in the draft.
"I think the biggest obstacle for people trading up is what they have to give up to move up into that top five," he said. "It's not easy to move up into the top five [or] to the top six without basically giving up the majority of your draft. If you have a board that you've spent basically 11 months getting yourself prepared for and all of a sudden you want to give it up to get one player? Or, do you want to stay there and take the opportunity to take three or four players?
"So, I think the price of moving up is what keeps people from [being] willing to move up into that top five or the top six, because who wants to give up [so much]?"
Aside from the Ravens' hits within the top 10, history shows that other teams have found gems with the eighth spot.
Since 2002, Pro Bowlers Roy Williams (Dallas Cowboys, 2002), Jordan Gross (Carolina Panthers, 2003) and DeAngelo Hall (Atlanta Falcons, 2004) were snapped up at No. 8, while Buffalo's Donte Whitner (2006) and Atlanta's Jamaal Anderson (2007) became instant starters their rookie years.
The Bills were criticized for seemingly reaching for Whitner, but DeCosta understood why they chose the talented safety from Ohio State. DeCosta is adamant about believing his own evaluations and not listening to the perceived draft experts weighing in on picks immediately following their submission.
Whitner went on to post 193 tackles and two interceptions in two seasons as one of Buffalo's defensive standouts.
"I always believe my eyes. When I watch a player, I know how good I think he is," DeCosta noted. "We really liked Donte Whitner. You heard, 'Well, the Bills might take him at 8.' I believed it, because I watched him on tape. I knew he was a good player, so I felt like that was valid. Sometimes you hear crazy things, but you tend not to believe it because the guy is not very good."
Just who will be deemed valid for the Ravens remains to be seen. Newsome has said that he will take one of the top eight players on his board, regardless of necessity.
In light of Long's recent signature on a five-year Miami contract, it seems Newsome now only has to deal with seven.
|2007||Jamaal Anderson||DT||Arkansas||Atlanta Falcons|
|2006||Donte Whitner||S||Ohio State||Buffalo Bills|
|2005||Antrel Rolle||DB||Miami||Arizona Cardinals|
|2004||DeAngelo Hall||CB||Virginia Tech||Atlanta Falcons|
|2003||Jordan Gross||OT||Utah||Carolina Panthers|
|2002||Roy Williams||S||Oklahoma||Dallas Cowboys|
|2001||David Terrell||WR||Michigan||Chicago Bears|
|2000||Plaxico Burress||WR||Michigan State||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|1999||David Boston||WR||Ohio State||Arizona Cardinals|
|1998||Greg Ellis||DE||North Carolina||Dallas Cowboys|