Though they're needier at running back and the undeniably brilliant Phillips was available, the Ravens rated Ogden as a better prospect.

As much as they surely were intimidated by the potential public relations disaster of drafting Phillips, who pleaded no contest to battering his former girlfriend last year, they thought Ogden was the better player.

Modell admitted he favored Phillips at first, but Ravens director of football operations Ozzie Newsome showed him some film that changed his mind.

In the days before the draft, Modell, Marchibroda and Newsome discussed all choices they might have to make with the fourth pick. Phillips or Hardy. Johnson or Phillips. Ogden or Rice. They raised some 15 possibilities, Modell said.

Then they decided which player they wanted in each choice. When it came down to Ogden and Phillips yesterday, their minds already were made up.

Did the Ravens favor any other player in a potential choice with Ogden?

"No," Modell said.

All of which made it easy for Modell to explain the choice yesterday after indicating last week that Phillips probably would be chosen if still available.

"We just didn't expect Ogden to be there," Modell said.

The fact that he was there makes the Ravens' lives easier. Now their first pick is just a football player, not a political football. Of course, Modell insisted yesterday that he was ready to draft Phillips, even after getting "some" anti-Phillips pressure from within the organization.

It's an easy thing to say after picking someone else.

We will never know just how much the Ravens were intimidated.

And we won't know for a few years whether they did the right thing.

It won't look good at first, you can count on that. Offensive linemen almost always struggle early in their careers, and Ogden is going to be asked to switch to guard after spending his whole career at tackle. He'll be in a spotlight, and it won't be fun at times.

If Phillips runs wild in St. Louis, Ogden will look like a bad pick.

But he isn't. He is a long-term investment who should play well in the NFL. He has the potential to be among the best offensive linemen in the league well into the next century.

Good teams are built on such foundations.

It's not an exciting pick.

It isn't the gutsy choice that stirs headlines.

But it makes sense.