Three months after winning their first Super Bowl in 1983, the Washington Redskins received another reward. With the 28th and final selection in the first round of the 1983 NFL draft, and one pick after the Miami Dolphins grabbed a strong-armed quarterback from Pittsburgh named Dan Marino, the Redskins settled on an undersized but lightning-quick cornerback out of Texas A&M-Kingsville.
Darrell Green played 20 seasons with the Redskins, earned two Super Bowl rings, appeared in seven Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008. Now 53, Green is proof that even the last pick of the first round can carry immense value.
The Ravens are the owners of that final first-round pick this year. They always think big at this time of year, but their focus is not on finding the next Darrell Green. It's on restocking a roster that lost a number of key players from the team that beat the San Francisco 49ers 21/2 months ago to win Super Bowl XLVII.
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The Ravens will have 12 picks in the 2013 NFL draft, and they are expected to be on the clock for the first time just after 11p.m. Thursday, when they either make the 32nd overall selection or trade it to accumulate more picks in rounds two through seven.
"This is an interesting draft from the standpoint of the quality of player is really good where we're picking, so I have a comfort level," said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' assistant general manager. "Where I sweat year-to-year, and as an organization where we worry, is when we don't have enough players to pick, [like if] you're picking 25th and you only like seven, eight or nine players. There are 32 players that we love, so it's easy for us to go home at night, get some sleep and wake up the next morning because we know we're going to get a player who can come in and help this football team."
The Ravens' needs are clear. On offense, they are unsettled at left tackle with Bryant McKinnie still a free agent and they are looking for a wide receiver to replace Anquan Boldin, who was traded to the 49ers. On defense, retirements, releases and free-agent defections left the Ravens thin at inside linebacker and safety and they're still looking to improve their depth along the defensive line.
What's not as clear is just how many holes they'll be able to fill when they pick last in each of the first two rounds and fourth from the bottom in the third round.
Charley Casserly, a 24-year NFL executive who was the Redskins' assistant general manager when they nabbed Green in 1983, knows the feeling and thinks the Ravens are in a good position.
"It's always a good spot because you got there by winning the Super Bowl, so you enjoy that part. But if you can avoid having to draft for a need, and you stay away from that mentality, you're going to get a first-round player," said Casserly, now an analyst for NFL Network. "My last draft in Houston [in 2006], we had the first pick in the second round and we got DeMeco Ryans. We had him rated as a first rounder. That's what the Ravens are going to find. They're going to have a good player fall to them."
The Ravens usually do, even when consistently picking late in the first round. General manager Ozzie Newsome and DeCosta head a front office that has made 17 first-round selections and 10 of them have made at least one Pro Bowl. The group, headed by a current Hall of Famer (Jonathan Ogden) and two all-but-certain future ones (Ray Lewis and Ed Reed), has combined to earn 53 Pro Bowl nods. That does not include 2008 first-round pick Joe Flacco, who was named Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player after concluding one of the best postseasons ever for a quarterback. In 2001, the Ravens held the 31st and final pick of the first round and they selected Arizona State tight end Todd Heap, who made two Pro Bowls.
"If you've been at it awhile and you're disciplined like the Ravens are and you've filled your immediate needs like the Ravens have in free agency, then you can afford to be patient," Casserly said. "You look at guys like Todd Heap, [Ben] Grubbs. Those were highly rated players that slipped where they ended up taking them."
Gil Brandt, the vice president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys for nearly three decades, doesn't necessarily see a Pro Bowl-caliber player falling to the Ravens at 32. However, he has little doubt that the Ravens will have their choice of players they covet.
"The player that you'll get there is probably as good as the 17th pick in the draft," said Brandt, a SiriusXM NFL Radio host and a contributor to NFL.com. "The last two drafts, we've had five Pro Bowlers in each rookie year. I don't think we have that type of player in this draft. I don't think those players are available. But I do think the quality of player that they are going to get is going to be a lot like the guy they got last year [Courtney Upshaw] from Alabama.
"You can refer to this as a second-round draft. By that I mean, there are a lot of good players there that are going to be complementary players to your football team. But I don't know how many great Pro Bowlers come out of this draft."
The Patriots drafted offensive lineman Logan Mankins with the last pick of the first round in 2005 and he has made five Pro Bowl teams, but selections in that spot have mostly proved more solid than spectacular. Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka (New York Giants), defensive tackle Ziggy Hood (Pittsburgh Steelers) and defensive backs Patrick Robinson (New Orleans Saints) and Kenny Phillips (Giants) have never made Pro Bowl teams, but they all have been contributors to their respective teams.
The pool of players the Ravens are expected to consider Thursday includes wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson), middle linebacker Kevin Minter (LSU), defensive end Damontre Moore (Texas A&M) and safeties Matt Elam (Florida) and Jonathan Cyprien (Florida International).
But as always with the Ravens, there is a chance that they trade out of the first round altogether, as they did last year when they sent their 29th overall pick to the Minnesota Vikings for the 36th overall pick (second round) and an extra fourth-rounder. It was the second time in three years that the Ravens traded their first-round pick, and it would surprise no one if that happened again this year.
As it is, the Ravens have one pick in each of the first three rounds, two picks in the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds and three selections in the sixth round. And DeCosta joked last week that he wished the Ravens had 15 selections.
"I think our options are always open," DeCosta said. "What we try to do is come up with a bunch of different scenarios based on all the different things that could happen so that we're ready to make a pick or trade if that happens. The phone lines are open. I think we're in good shape."