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Ozzie maneuvers for a big finish

This is Ozzie Newsome's season, the time of year when the Ravens GM weaves a path of intrigue into the NFL draft. No one likes this time of year more. Very few have been as efficient at plumbing the depths of college talent for as long as he has, going on his 14th year in Baltimore.

More than that, he has a knack for deftly reinforcing the Ravens' roster. This offseason alone, Newsome brought in free agents Domonique Foxworth, Matt Birk, Chris Carr and L.J. Smith, canceling the loss of Jason Brown and, to an extent, Jim Leonhard (Carr will return kicks).

Some have even suggested that this is potentially Ozzie's finest moment. (Baltimore Beat Down said just that earlier this week.)

I disagree. Let me explain...

Good as it's been, you don't top what Newsome did in his very first draft. You can't beat the first two picks he ever made. In Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis, Newsome set the bar so high, it's unlikely he can ever top that. Two Hall of Famers, two cornerstones for a franchise that, once it got its head above water, has been swimming with the elite of the NFL.

Newsome rarely misses in the first round. There was Travis Taylor in 2000 and Kyle Boller in 2003. You can criticize him for Taylor if you like, but remember that Peter Warrick (fourth to the Bengals) and Plaxico Burress (eighth to the Steelers) were off the board, and Warrick bombed. As it turns out, Newsome had a shot at Burress with the fifth pick, but took Jamal Lewis, instead, who was the NFL's last single-season, 2,000-yard rusher. Can't criticize that. And after Taylor, the next two receivers taken were Sylvester Morris (21 to the Chiefs) and R. Jay Soward (29 to the Jaguars). Taylor looked like a Pro Bowl player next to those two.

What Newsome does at No. 26 this month will determine how much better the Ravens can be in 2009. The overwhelming need is for a speedy wide receiver to help Joe Flacco. Newsome says he doesn't draft for need. But he maneuvered twice in the first round last year to get Flacco and that was a glaring need. Might he maneuver again for his wide-out of choice?

Or will he go for the best player available? And if Rey Maualuga, a middle linebacker from USC, happens to be there at 26, how could he not leap at Maualuga? Same for tight end Brandon Pettigrew?

This year, a good player could easily drop. The question is, will that player hit the Ravens' laps?

Photo: Lloyd Fox / The Baltimore Sun

Comments

Ken, OF COURSE that player will hit the team's lap, and OF COURSE the Ravens will snap him up. The Wizard has positioned himself so that he doesn't need to fill a spot -- which allows him to take the best player on the board and let the coaches work that guy into the rotation.

Personally, I still think Ozzie will trade down and acquire more picks.

Best Player Available is the mantra of the Ravens and many other NFL teams. However, it's really BPA within reason. For example, there's no way the Ravens spend a high pick on a QB, no matter if he's the BPA by a mile. I also define "within reason" to include need as well, as long as selecting the need doesn't stray too far away from value.

Newsome was no doubt targeting a QB last year, but he wouldn't do it at all costs. That's why Matt Ryan isn't a Raven and why Joe Flacco wasn't selected with the 8th pick. In other words, he's looking for BPA even when he's targeting a guy.

I think the Ravens are targeting a WR, just as they were targeting a QB last year (albeit not as aggressively). Like last year, they will only select one if he fits in that section of their board. Luckily, pundits are predicting many WRs who have end-of-first-round value.

So, based on the Ravens' needs and value, I expect them to select a WR in the first two rounds. Who is the Non-WR player? BPA, within reason.

If we come away w/ one of the following at 26, we are in great shape for next year...

-Heyward-Bey
-Maualuga
-Pettigrew

Interestingly, both of the first round misses you mention came after Ozzie traded up to the positions used to draft Taylor in 2000 and Boller in 2003. Both of those were viewed as need picks deviating from Ozzie's normal "Best Player Available" mantra. In 2000, the Ravens had the 5th and 15th overall picks in the first round. Shortly before the draft, Ozzie traded the 15th overall pick plus the Ravens' second round pick to Denver to move up five slots to number 10 overall, which was used to draft Travis Taylor. The Ravens ended up with Taylor and took Chris Redman in the 3rd round that year as their presumptive "quarterback of the future." Had the trade with Denver not been made, the Ravens could have selected Chad Pennington (surely better than Redman) at pick 15 in the first round and still been able to address WR in the 2nd or 3rd round. Laveranues Coles, for one, was taken in the 3rd round that year and has had a much better career than Taylor. In 2003, Ozzie traded the club's 2003 second round pick and 2004 first round pick to New England to move back into the first round for Boller. The Patriots used the first round pick acquired from the Ravens to draft Vince Wilfork in 2004, and, well, we know how Boller turned out.

We need a WR!!! Then I would say DE, RT, then TE. We have plenty of linebackers & corners.

Good article.
In 2009 no need to mortgage the future with draft-day trades.
Lean more heavily on need than best-rated player, an get that WR for Joe Flacco; we can beat Pitts-puke with the offseason we had this year. ...What? Just as long as our OL doesn't take a step back.

When the squealers took plexiglass at 8, do you know who they passed on and went at 9? Brian Urlacher.

6 picks is more than enough to stay competitive, and remenber we always find one undrafted gem too...
and stop focusing on 1st roung WR, there's lots of good WR in this year's draft and some will still be available in later round. My favorite one: robiskie is a 2 or 3 rounder...
Oz will take the best player, even if its a RB! and i'm more than OK with that, we all know the importance of depth in NFL...

RELAX RAVENS FANS. You know The Wiz will take care of our needs. Its going to be Xmas in April for the Ravens. For any naysayers out there who think The Wiz doesn't know what he's doing you surely dont understand what a great evaluator of talent he realy is. Our draft picks speak for themselves and the players know this. If you get drafted by the Ravens in the early rounds you have the potential to be a good NFL player and knowing that the Wiz and the coaches believe in you is enough to help these young players reach their full potential. Thats what its all about.

How lucky are we to have the OZ? I'm not sure if general managers are inducted in the hall of fame but if they are OZ is a shoe in. Can someone be inducted to Canton twice?

Best wide receiver available. I wouldnt trade down for more picks. I would seriously consider trading up (one of next years picks) to walk away with Heyward-Bey and Laurinaitis or Maualuga. We already may have the best team in the NFL. Lets go for it.

The Ravens need more than one speedy wide receiver. Mark Clayton has never really played up to his draft position, and neither he nor Derrick Mason stretch the field. Demetrius Williams appears to be a bust due to injuries. My guess is that the Ravens will take up to three wideouts, since this draft is deep with receivers. I just hope we have better luck drafting them than we have had so far in the hstory of the franchise.

Ozzie is a very good GM, many are worse but he still makes mistakes. The 2000 draft is a good example the Ravens had the 5th and 15th picks. Ozzie traded up giving up a 2nd to move up to 10 before draft day, why? Everyone should remember the Ravens already had P. Holmes, so how bad was the need for a RB at 5? There was a much greater need at WR and Plaxico was a stud and has helped teams win SB. He should have been the pick at 5. Now if you still wanted a RB there was Lewis, Alexander, Dayne and Jones ( I believe) at 15 the Ravens could have still drafted Lewis or Alexander. But, as one person pointed out Pennington might have been an even better option. For some people this is hindsight, but it wasn't for me. For yrs Ozzie has been unable to fill the WR need and the lack of offense has wasted one of the best defenses for yrs. Its time for Harbaugh and Cam to pressure Ozzie into solving the WR position and take this team back to the next level. I think Ozzie has positioned the team to fill that one glaring need in this draft, even with only 6 picks do what ever it takes, how many roster spots are actually open anyhow?

I believe Holt is still available too. So taking the TE or LB at 26, trying to sign a DHB in the second round and sign Holt as a FA may be a consideration. Trading down may also work to give us an addl 3rd or 4th round pick....maybe a second late 2nd rounder.

I agree....no worries with Ozzie at the helm...(and Brian gone!)

The Ravens need to come out of this draft with 2 WR's... cause history shows 1 likely will be able to contribute and 1 will have to develop. I'm liking Ramses Barden 6'6" 225lbs 4.51 40 our of Cal Poly... he's ready to go. Kenny Britt, DHB, or Hakeem Nicks at 26 or trade down some and get another 2nd or 3rd round pick. We gotta come out of this draft with a RT, a pass rusher, and LB help.. possibly a project TE for the future....

And don't forget the Ravens past success in undrafted free agents..

Why are all of you guys pressed on drafting a TE of the future?? LJ Smith has only been in the league for 4 years, and Todd Heap, while injury prone, is still a top 5 TE when healthy. He had to block most of the year last year to keep the pressure off of Joe. Not to mention, Quinn. Very underrated #2 TE. So... even if Pettigrew is there, we skip on him.

With the 26th pick, we need to take a nice DE/LB hybrid type, I would LOVE to see Laurinaitis there. This years draft is WR friendly. My favorite receiver in this class is Brian Robiskie outta Ohio St. and I believe we can get him in the 2nd round. There are a lot of people that like Brandon Tate, #2 WR outta UNC better than Nix. Unfortunately, DHB is getting a whole lot of hype, and he will not be there at 26. To me, there are only 4 WRs in the draft that may deserve to go in the first round; Crabtree, Maclin, DHB and Harvin. Harvin isn't the type of WR we need and he will probably be the only one left when we pick at 26.

The needs we have, we know. LB/DE...O-Line, preferably RT... and WR.

With the 26th pick in the 2009 NFL draft, the Baltimore Ravens select, James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio St.

With the 57th pick in the 2009 NFL draft, the Baltimore Ravens select, Brian Robiskie, WR, Ohio St.

No, I'm not an Ohio St. fan, but I must say, I would be completely happy if this is the way the 1st day of the draft went for the Ravens.

Not buying into the bad hype of Ozzie drafting an LB? or a TE? I look for Ozzie to address the coming gap at DE and OT. Suggs is likely to go elsewhere in an uncapped 2010 and Pryce isn't getting any younger. Also, at 26, there may still be an impact RT still on the board.

Ozzie is so great that he's built a team that has made 5 playoff appearances since 1996 and won one Super Bowl. That success is equal to that of St. Louis and worse than Tampa Bay (7 post-season berths) during the same period. So while you guys are campaigning for Ozzie to go to the Hall of Fame as a GM, better include the leader of the Rams' and Bucs' front offices in the same H.O.F. class.

Mason and Clayton are possession receivers. Clayton pretty good and Mason great. With one speedy receiver to draw a corner and attention from a safety opens up your possession receivers. No one can cover Mason man to man and all of a sudden Clayton will click when he can run free. Spreading the field like this will really open up the running lanes and make the offensive line that much better. All this takes the pressure off of Flacco...Can't wait for the season to begin.

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