Ravens trade their way to 'productive' NFL draft
Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has a name for the way he works the NFL draft: The Process.
When it comes time for the Ravens to choose, Newsome takes the best player on his board - even if Baltimore is severely lacking at another position. It is a procedure that has netted an assortment of sensational first-round picks, including Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Todd Heap and Haloti Ngata.
Newsome abandoned protocol in the 2010 draft by trading the 25th overall selection to the Denver Broncos, who handed over three picks before taking Florida quarterback Tim Tebow during Baltimore's time on the clock.
That left Newsome without a first-round selection for the first time since 2004. But he still managed to add depth to a team coming off two straight playoff appearances.
Newsome secured a much-needed pass rusher by selecting Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle in the second round. Then he fortified the defensive line with 350-pound Terrence Cody of Alabama. And to make sure Heap didn't get overworked again in 2010, Newsome picked two tight ends in succession, using his third- and fourth-round choices on Ed Dickson of Oregon and Dennis Pitta of Brigham Young.
After taking Pitta in the fourth round, Baltimore used two fifth-round picks to take wide receiver David Reed of Utah and defensive tackle Arthur Jones of Syracuse. Reed set school records for catches (81) and yards receiving (1,888) last year, and Jones started nine games in 2009 before missing the final three with a knee injury.
The Ravens then wrapped up their draft by selecting 360-pound offensive tackle Ramon Harewood in the sixth round with the 194th overall pick.
``I think this has been a very productive three days for the Baltimore Ravens,'' Newsome said late Saturday afternoon.
Because they gave up two picks to get wide receiver Anquan Boldin from Arizona, the Ravens entered the draft with only five selections. So Newsome resisted the temptation of taking Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams in the first round in favor of getting the 43rd, 70th and 114th picks from Denver.
``It was an uneasy feeling,'' Newsome acknowledged.
Those selections netted Kindle, Dickson and Pitta. Although it made for a skittish first day of the draft, Newsome had no regrets when it came time to assess his decision to dump Baltimore's first-round pick.
``It's one thing to have the picks. But then when you can match the players to the pick, it changes your outlook,'' Newsome said. ``Sitting here today, if someone was to ask me if you would make that trade again, I would say, 'Yes, I would.'''
Eric DeCosta, the Ravens director of player personnel, said, ``That trade was mentally challenging, but it ended up being the beginning of a great draft. Without that trade, we're sort of handicapped.''
Only time will tell if Newsome made the right choice, but if two of those three newcomers stick around, the trade with Denver will probably be deemed a success.
``We'll find out three or four years down the road how good these guys are,'' coach John Harbaugh said of the trio. ``But we got players we're excited about as a coaching staff to have. Guys we targeted and wanted.''
Although the Ravens didn't fill their need for a cornerback or safety, Newsome said that deficiency will be addressed in the weeks ahead. He also pointed out that the addition of Kindle, Cody and Jones will improve Baltimore's pass coverage.
``If you can hit the quarterback, and you hit him enough times, then you don't have to be as good in the secondary,'' Newsome said.
Pitta was miffed about dropping into the fourth round, a fall he attributed to his age (24). He started his career at Utah after taking a two-year Mormon mission to the Dominican Republic.
``I definitely think I have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder,'' he said. ``When you see guys get picked before you, you always want to measure yourself to them. And I feel like some teams missed out on a great opportunity to draft me. But I think the Ravens made a smart move.''
Dickson and Pitta will enable the 30-year-old Heap to take an occasional rest in 2010. Heap was used excessively last season while backup L.J. Smith fought hamstring and ankle injuries.
``Todd Heap is our tight end,'' Harbaugh declared. ``We expect a great year from Todd Heap.''