|NFL DRAFT: Ravens to employ tested formula with first-round pick|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 25 April 2007 11:10|
There should be several standout centers, guards and tackles available Saturday when it comes time for general manager Ozzie Newsome to use the 29th overall pick in the NFL draft. If the Ravens made a habit of using their first-round selection to fill the most gaping holes on the roster, they would already be searching for a pair of oversized shoulder pads for someone like tackle Joe Staley of Central Michigan, tackle Justin Blalock of Texas, Auburn guard Ben Grubbs or center Ryan Kalil of Southern California.
That, however, is not how Newsome operates.
``We do not - especially on the first day of the draft or the top four picks - factor in need,'' he said. ``We factor in who's the best player. There have been some occasions where we took a player knowing that we had needs at other positions.''
The process began during the Ravens' first year of existence, when Newsome picked offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden over running back Lawrence Phillips, even though Baltimore desperately needed a ball carrier.
Ogden became a perennial Pro Bowl starter and Phillips was a major bust.
Newsome's other first-round picks include Ray Lewis, Jamal Lewis, Chris McAlister, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Mark Clayton and Haloti Ngata - all of whom last season helped the Ravens win the AFC North with a 13-3 record.
Then there was the 2001 draft, the last time the Ravens selected this low in the first round. Baltimore was three months removed from a Super Bowl victory over the New York Giants when Newsome took tight end Todd Heap with the 31st overall pick. The Ravens already had standout Shannon Sharpe at the position, but Heap was the highest-rated player on Newsome's list when the Ravens were put on the clock.
Heap had only 16 catches in his first season with Baltimore, but he evolved into a two-time Pro Bowler and one of the Ravens' most dependable receivers.
So there's really no way to determine for sure which way Newsome will go when it comes time for Baltimore to make its first selection Saturday. Heck, he might even go for a quarterback, even though Steve McNair has an ample backup in former first-round pick Kyle Boller.
``Could there be a quarterback that we take at 29? Yes, there could be,'' Newsome said.
Newsome and director of college scouting Eric DeCosta have a wide list of players they hope are available at No. 29. Some are offensive linemen. The Ravens sure could use one or two, because Ogden is contemplating retirement, Edwin Mulitalo and Tony Pashos left as free agents and center Mike Flynn has plenty of gray in his beard.
``Typically the left tackle gets taken high in the first round; the guards and centers have typically been there toward the end,'' DeCosta said. ``I think this year's crop of offensive linemen is pretty strong.''
If the Ravens don't take a lineman with the first pick, they will certainly address the need later in the draft. Baltimore also needs a fullback to replace the departed Ovie Mughelli, who signed with Atlanta, and an outside linebacker to fill the void left by the exit of Adalius Thomas, who joined New England.
Baltimore's second-round choice is 61st overall; after that, the Ravens must wait until No. 134 because Newsome dealt his third and seventh-round picks to Buffalo for running back Willis McGahee.
If Newsome gets impatient, he might make a trade to be part of the third round. A year ago, the Ravens didn't have a third-round pick, so they gave the 44th overall selection to the New York Giants for the 56th pick and a third-rounder.
``We weighed the value of the board in the second round and the players that were available, and the opportunity came that allowed us to move back, still get one of the players that we coveted and pick up a third,'' Newsome said. ``That could potentially happen again.''
Newsome has built a reputation on the strength of his first-round picks, but he's also done remarkably well in the latter rounds. A year ago, his fifth-round selection was safety Dawan Landry, who played in all 16 games (starting 14), picked off five passes and ranked fifth on the team with 89 tackles.