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Will Drafting A Pro Bowl Receiver Be Ozzie Newsome's Last Hurrah?


It was the last question of Wednesday's pre-draft press conference.

How frustrating is it for General Manager Ozzie Newsome, one of the highest-regarded draft gurus in the NFL, to have not selected a No. 1 wide receiver?

The notion that wide receiver has been a smudge on The Wizard's draft record has circulated Baltimore for years.

Newsome and the Ravens may be able to get one this April, as Clemson's Mike Williams, Washington's John Ross and Eastern Michigan's Corey Davis could be available at pick No. 16.

But, to answer the question, no, it doesn't keep Newsome up at night.

"Does that drive me to want to draft a receiver and him go to the Pro Bowl?" he rhetorically asked. "Would that be the last hurrah? Once I do that, I can go off into the sunset and life would be good? No."

The Ravens have had some success drafting wide receivers.

Torrey Smith, a second-round pick in 2011, was a strong selection who posted 3,591 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns during his four years in Baltimore before getting paid like a No. 1 by the San Francisco 49ers.

The Ravens also found success with Brandon Stokley (fourth round, 1999) and Jermaine Lewis (fifth round, 1996). Stokley caught the Ravens' first touchdown in Super Bowl XXXV and played 15 years in the league. Lewis went to two Pro Bowls (1998, 2001), though it was as a returner.

However, there's no hiding that Baltimore's draft history also has misses, or at least players that didn't hit expectations, at the position.

They include Patrick Johnson (second round, 1998), Travis Taylor (first round, 2000), Davard Darling (third round, 2004), Mark Clayton (first round, 2005), Yamon Figurs (third round, 2007), Tandon Doss (fourth round, 2011) and other late-round fliers that didn't pan out.

The Ravens' 2015 first-round pick, Breshad Perriman, could be on his way to becoming a No. 1 wideout, but he's not there yet. Perriman is an example of how it can be tough to find that elite-level wideout in the draft.

Baltimore took Perriman with the No. 26 pick in the 2015 draft. The receiver that has had the most success out of that class, Amari Cooper, went to the Oakland Raiders at No. 4 overall. Often, the best of the best prospects at receiver are gone well before the Ravens come on the clock.

"The true franchise-type guys usually go very high in the draft and they usually have a unique skillset. The Calvin Johnsons, the Julio Jones's, those kind of guys are usually the biggest guys, the most explosive guys, they usually have very strong hands," Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said.

"We kind of know that, unless you have a bad team, you're probably not going to get that type of player in the draft. Those guys are rare. They're planet players; there are only a few of those guys on the planet."

With that said, DeCosta did concede that there are "elite-level" wide receivers that come later in the draft. The Pittsburgh Steelers' Antonio Brown was a sixth-round pick in 2010. The Indianapolis Colts' T.Y. Hilton was a third-round pick in 2012. They're exceptions, but they're out there.

"Those players exist," DeCosta said. "We have not had as much success finding those guys for various reasons."

But Newsome isn't beating himself up over it because top-notch wide receivers can be found in the draft, and they can be found via free agency. In the end, it doesn't matter how they get on the roster.

Newsome has found success with wide receiver signings of Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, Steve Smith Sr., Mike Wallace and more over the years.

"My job is to build the best 53-man squad and use all the resources, and the draft is just a part of it," Newsome said. "When you pick up other players like we have that have come in and contributed, I'm just as proud of those guys as I am the draft choices."

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