Who knows whether Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti was throwing smokescreen after smokescreen, but he was pretty explicit about his hopes for this year's draft.
In a nutshell, Bisciotti is hoping for a cornerback in the first round, a pass rusher early, a tight end in the third or fourth rounds and a wide receiver somewhere in those middle rounds, too.
Approximately 5,000 PSL holders took a poll on the conference call with Bisciotti, asking which position fans wanted to see the Ravens draft at in the first round.
Fans' answer – not surprisingly – was a pass catcher and help in the secondary. The wide receiver/tight end option got 42 percent of the votes while cornerback/safety received 41 percent.
"I'm going to throw you a curve ball and I'm going to tell you pass rusher [in addition to a corner]," Bisciotti said.
Cue the raised eyebrows.
The Ravens lost Pernell McPhee in free agency to the Chicago Bears this season, which isn't a surprise because they couldn't afford to keep him. But Baltimore highly valued the trio he formed with Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. Baltimore pestered quarterbacks all year long to the tune of 49 sacks, tied for second-most in the NFL.
Bisciotti wants to recreate some of that magic through the draft. The Ravens found McPhee in the fifth round and Dumervil is a former fourth-round pick, but Bisciotti felt pass rushing may be of such high importance that Baltimore could pounce on falling talent in the first round.
"I would be just as pleased with a pass rusher [as a cornerback]," Bisciotti said. "I think it's probably the quietest need that we have if we're going to get there. If we can take half a second of [a quarterback's] available time to throw, then we will find some corners in the second, third or fourth round that can play up to that."
Cornerback is a need, but perhaps not as big of one as it's made out to seem.
Bisciotti and the Ravens are counting on a resurgent year from Lardarius Webb as he's finally not rehabbing any injury and appeared to be back in a strong, healthy form at the end of last season. The other starter, Jimmy Smith, is returning from a season-ending foot injury and could be one of the top talents in the game.
Still, those are two injury question marks and Smith is heading into the final year of his rookie contract. The Ravens saw last year what can happen if too many injuries strike at that key position. Thus, Bisciotti is hoping a talented corner falls to the Ravens in the first round.
There are several first-round cornerback possibilities with Michigan State's Trae Waynes, Washington's Marcus Peters, Wake Forest's Kevin Johnson and LSU's Jalen Collins.
"The highest-rated player is the guy we're going to take," Bisciotti said. "I'm with you all, I hope it's a corner. But I wouldn't be too upset if it's a pass rusher."
As for wide receiver and tight end – Ravens fans' top choice – don't hold your breath. Judging from Bisciotti, it seems those spots may be targeted in the third and fourth rounds.
"We absolutely need a tight end. We do not* * absolutely need a wide receiver," Bisciotti said.
Bisciotti likes what he's seen from Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro and Kamar Aiken in terms of being able to step in for departed starter Torrey Smith (San Francisco).
"I've got my guys very high on our wide receivers," he said. "As you saw when Marlon was pressed into action two years ago as a rookie, he got 50 balls and 700 yards. And he just kind of got pushed out of the back of the rotation when Steve Smith came in. We have a lot of confidence that Campanaro can take the next step and Marlon can drop back into that position and he's going to have a lot of competition with Kamar Aiken and Campanaro wanting more in that three-receiver stuff. We need a wide receiver, but I think we can possibly get a pretty good wide receiver [later]."
Biscoitti pointed to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers as proof that teams can wait to find talented speed merchants in the middle rounds. That's when Pittsburgh took Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant in recent years.
"They might not be perfectly well-rounded wide receivers, but you can get some fliers in the third round, guys that can take the top off a defense," Bisciotti said. "We've got a lot of really good possession receivers in Camp, Steve Smith, Aiken and Marlon. So I'm not desperate for a wideout."
Tight end might be an area the Ravens would look at in the first couple rounds, but Bisciotti said he doesn't see value at that position at those spots. The draft class is not top-heavy, but Bisciotti said they could move up to get Minnesota's Maxx Williams (the widely-considered top talent) if he slips into the second round.
After expressing confidence in rising sophomore Crockett Gillmore to catch 30 to 40 passes next year, Bisciotti said he's praying for Dennis Pitta to return, but looking for another pass-catching tight end in the same mold to step in for him.
"There's a guy from the University of Miami [Clive Walford] and a couple others that would benefit us," Bisciotti said. "I think there's a real good chance we'll get one, and if we get Dennis Pitta back, then we are set."
With all that said, Bisciotti still lets Newsome handle his business. And the Ravens won't draft according to position needs or wants – not even the owner's.
"I don't sway Ozzie because Ozzie takes the best available player," Bisciotti said.
"If we have them as the 15th best player and that's a running back, then I'm just going to tip my hat to Ozzie as he calls that kid and tells him he's being drafted. We've had success doing that in the past."