Ozzie Newsome has plenty holes to fill in last draft with Ravens
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — For more than two decades, Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has stressed the importance of using the team's first pick in the NFL draft to snag the most talented player available, regardless of whether there's a pressing need at that position.
"From the very beginning, we've been a big believer in just taking the best player," Newsome said. "That was from the very start, when we took Jonathan (Ogden in 1996)."
It is a process that completely made sense when the Ravens were Super Bowl contenders. Unfortunately, after missing the postseason for three straight years, it is a luxury Baltimore can no longer afford.
There are holes to fill, most notably at receiver, the offensive line and tight end. The Ravens are also in search of someone to lighten the load on the team's career sack leader, 35-year-old Terrell Suggs.
"There's a strong chance that if we do pick at 16, we'll find a guy that fills a specific need for this team that helps us win games early on," assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said.
This will be the last time Newsome oversees the draft. His contract expires after this season, and DeCosta will take over in 2018.
Newsome's crafty dealings in free agency and the draft helped Baltimore win two Super Bowls and reach the playoffs 10 times since 2000. There have been some misfires, however, especially picking a receiver out of college.
Travis Taylor, Mark Clayton and Breshad Perriman failed to fulfill the expectations of a first-round selection. So does Newsome risk it again, perhaps with Alabama wideout Calvin Ridley or DJ Moore of Maryland?
Though Newsome has already added free agent receivers Michael Crabtree and John Brown and Willie Snead, the Ravens could still use some speed on the outside.
Then again, Newsome might just take Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey, putting him on the opposite end of the line from former Irish standout Ronnie Stanley.
There is no shortage of options.
"We have a very good understanding of the needs of our football team," Newsome said. "What we try to do is to match that with the players."
Some things to know about the Ravens' draft:
TIGHT END NEEDED
The leading receiver on the team last season was tight end Benjamin Watson, who joined the Saints as a free agent.
A replacement is sorely needed, and after failing to secure one through free agency, the Ravens will look to snag one in the draft.
"There are some pretty good ones out there. And they're of the athletic variety, pass-catching tight ends that certainly could help impact our offense," said Joe Horitz, director of college scouting.
One of Newsome's best picks was tight end Todd Heap, selected in the first round in 2001 even though the Ravens already had future Hall of Fame star Shannon Sharpe.
TRADE OR NOT?
Newsome cryptically mentioned the possibility of trading the No. 16 pick, but DeCosta likes the idea of drafting in the middle of the round.
"We're in a good spot for a lot of different reasons," DeCosta said. "I think 16 is a good spot to be in this draft. It plays well to our needs and different strategies."
Coach John Harbaugh has been in the Ravens draft room since 2008, and when it comes time for Baltimore to make a pick, he just gets out of the way.
"I'll tell you, it's like a volcano, kind of. It's festering, like, 'Is this thing going to blow?' It never quite blows, but there's so much tension," Harbaugh said.
In the end, though, it's Newsome's call.
"Ozzie pulls the trigger and makes a decision," Harbaugh said, "and we all feel good about it."
HITS, MISSES AND BARGAINS
Perriman missed the entire 2015 season with a knee injury, caught 33 passes in 2016 and last season had a mere 10 catches for the league's 29th-ranked passing attack.
Newsome also struck out with safety Matt Elam at No. 32 overall in 2013. But he recently found two fourth-round gems: Defensive end Brent Urban in 2014 and offensive lineman Alex Lewis in 2016.
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