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Leadership is a theme in Ravens' 2013 draft class

I couldn’t help but notice a trend with Baltimore’s 2013 draft class, especially because Ravens officials made a point to mention to reporters that both of their second-day picks were “red-star” players on their draft board.

The Ravens, as much as ever, seemed to put a premium on character when deciding whom to pick this year.

“The biggest thing is we have a great understanding of the type of football players that [coach John Harbaugh] wants in his locker room, that he and his coaching staff want to work with,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said Saturday. “And I think when we come together, the four of us, with all those things in mind, that we’re able to put together a draft class just as we have done over the past three days that we feel very good about.”

Why were the Ravens looking for leaders? I’m sure there are theories out there. The Ravens did lose veteran leaders in Ray Lewis, Matt Birk and Ed Reed. It has also been suggested, by my colleague Mike Preston and others in the media, that the Ravens let players such as Reed and fellow safety Bernard Pollard go this offseason because they were too outspoken in the locker room.

I don’t know if any of that was a factor, but the Ravens did draft four players, all of them defenders, who were team captains in 2012: Matt Elam, Arthur Brown, John Simon and Kapron Lewis-Moore.

Kyle Juszczyk was not a captain at Harvard, but his former coach raved about the fullback after the Ravens drafted him.

Brandon Williams was not a captain at Missouri Southern State, but the Ravens identified him (and Brown) as red-star players.

What are red-star players? The Ravens give this honorable distinction to prospects when their scouts all agree that the player has high character and leadership abilities. Ray Rice, Marshal Yanda and Torrey Smith are examples of past red-star prospects.

There is an old saying that you can’t win with a team of 53 Boy Scouts -- as a former Boy Scout, I take no offense that, as I’m not sure that knowing how to tie a square knot would come in handy on the football field -- and the Ravens haven’t shied away from taking players with character concerns or off-the-field issues.

There were questions about 2011 first-round pick Jimmy Smith, but he has stayed out of trouble during his two years in Baltimore. On the other side of the coin is Rolando McClain, who got arrested 11 days after the Ravens gave him a second chance in the NFL.

But it is interesting the Ravens seemed to really be searching for squeaky-clean characters and, if at all possible, former captains.

“It’s been a focus for us. That’s something that is a priority. We talk about that," Harbaugh said on Saturday evening. "Team captain always comes up in the draft conversations. If a guy is not a team captain, we try to find out why. Yes, it’s very important. I’d say no more so than ever; it’s always very important.”

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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