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'Significant' Draft Misses Have Set Ravens Back, But Steve Bisciotti Still Confident


It's impossible to start any better than Ozzie Newsome did with his first two picks as the Ravens* *general manager.

Hall of Fame tackle Jonathan Ogden was his first pick in 1996. Future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis was his second pick.

But more recently, the Ravens' top picks haven't been nearly as productive. It's still too early to judge on some, but other high draft picks haven't had the best starts.

Some of the names on the list include safety Matt Elam (first round, 2013), linebacker Arthur Brown (second round, 2013), wide receiver Breshad Perriman (first round, 2015) and tight end Maxx Williams (second round, 2015).

On Tuesday, Owner Steve Bisciotti was asked to what extent he thinks some of those picks have led the Ravens to missing the playoffs three times in the past four years.

"I think it's significant," Bisciotti said.

With that said, the Ravens owner defended Newsome and his personnel department.

"It's just he [Newsome] has had such a stellar reputation, that the expectations are so high, that he doesn't get much leeway when it comes to making 'misses' like that," Bisciotti said.

"It just shined a negative light on Ozzie. But if you think it shook my confidence in Ozzie and [Assistant General Manager] Eric [DeCosta], it didn't. Those things happen, and they happen all across the league."

The Ravens have drafted two Pro Bowlers since their Super Bowl season in 2012: linebacker C.J. Mosley (first round, 2014) and fullback Kyle Juszczyk (fourth round, 2013). They drafted 16 Pro Bowlers in the 16 years prior. Here's the team's full draft history.

The Elam-Brown combination at the top of the 2013 draft is the lightning rod.

Elam struggled as a starter, then lost his job and has since battled injuries. The Ravens didn't pick up his fifth-year option and he's slated for free agency in March. Brown never became a starter in his three years in Baltimore and was cut at the end of this year's training camp.

Bisciotti said he went back and looked at the opinions of some leading media draft pundits such as ESPN's Todd McShay and NFL Network's Charley Casserly.

"There wasn't a one that questioned [Elam] being great," Bisciotti said. "When we traded up for Arthur Brown, they said we had two of the best players in the draft – fast, hard-hitting, fly-to-the-football kind of guys. So, that happens. You 'miss' players. I look around the league and see plenty of 'missed' players."

Bisciotti urged those criticizing the picks, or Newsome, to take a deeper look at that 2013 draft class. The Ravens found a gem in small-school nose tackle Brandon Williams in the third round, Pro Bowler Juszczyk in the fourth and starting right tackle Rick Wagner in the fifth.

"If you've got one of the best nose tackles in football and one of the fullback/H-backs in football and one of the better right tackles in football in a draft, you'd say, 'OK, they were good,'" Bisciotti said. "If you had flipped them … nobody would have complained about Elam and Arthur Brown."

Meanwhile, the Ravens are going to need more from their 2015 class, as Maxx Williams, third-round defensive tackle Carl Davis, fourth-round outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith and fourth-round running back Javorius Allen all took steps backwards as sophomores. There's still time for them to develop.

Thus far, Baltimore is quite pleased with its 2016 class. First-round pick Ronnie Stanley excelled as a starting left tackle and the Ravens found promising talent with five picks in the fourth round. Cornerback Tavon Young was one of the best rookies in the league and an 11-game starter, guard Alex Lewis was an eight-game starter and running back Kenneth Dixon flashed his potential at the end of the season.

Bisciotti said he hopes Lewis can turn into a player as good as 2012 second-round pick Kelechi Osemele, who is going to the Pro Bowl this year as an Oakland Raider. The owner, who put pressure on his personnel department to find starters with five fourth-round picks, was happy with the results.

"I think that we handled the draft really well last year," Bisciotti said. "I think we are going to find some really good players there. I hope one of them turns out to be elite."

That's been the problem in recent years, particularly on offense. While the Steelers, for example, have loaded their roster with star offensive weapons such as wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le'Veon Bell, the Ravens haven't drafted that kind of elite player.

"If Pittsburgh thought Antonio Brown was so good, they would not have waited until the sixth round [to draft him]," Bisciotti said. "A lot of that is luck when you get to that level.

"We are more focused on finding fits in those first few rounds that we can plug in and play. I think we did a little better job of that this year, but it is a crapshoot."

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