By Mike Preston
The Baltimore Sun
April 21, 1996
The Baltimore Ravens had mapped out their NFL draft strategy a day in advance, and University of Illinois defensive end Simeon Rice was the wild card.
Southern California wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, Illinois linebacker Kevin Hardy, UCLA offensive lineman Jonathan Ogden and Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips were projected to be the first four picks.
If Rice was the third player chosen in the draft, then Baltimore had a decision to make.
Did it take Phillips, perhaps the best athlete in the draft, who filled a pressing need but was a public relations risk? Or Ogden, who had a squeaky-clean image, but would not plug any major team weakness?
After the Arizona Cardinals did take Rice with the third pick, the Ravens made their choice -- Ogden.
The 6-foot-8, 318-pound tackle was the fourth player chosen and the Ravens' No. 1 pick yesterday.
All around the Owings Mills complex there were smiles on the faces of the Baltimore front office staff as the Ravens landed the most coveted lineman in college football, and the city's first No. 1 pick since the Baltimore Colts selected quarterback John Elway in 1983.
But as Ogden was preparing to fly to Baltimore, Ravens starting left tackle Tony Jones, one of the team's most recognizable players, said he wanted to be traded.
The Ravens believe Jones will back off his demand because they are projecting Ogden as the starting left guard, which might give Baltimore one of the strongest interior lines in the NFL if Ogden can adjust.
"We were ecstatic when Arizona passed him up and we still had a shot at him," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' director of football operations. "I think his biggest asset is his ability to run and make blocks in the open field. I think he is going to be an anchor for us for a long time to come."
Ravens owner Art Modell denied speculation that he chose Ogden over Phillips because of Phillips' off-the-field problems. Phillips was charged last fall with assaulting his ex-girlfriend.
He pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor and has gone to counseling, paid for his victim's counseling and publicly apologized.
"I had no qualms about taking him, because I felt, based on our investigation, that he was subject to quick and complete rehabilitation and that he would have been a class-A citizen and a man the city of Baltimore would have been proud of," Modell said.
"There was no doubt that we were going to take Ogden if he was there, but we didn't think he would be in the fourth slot. The thing that threw everything out of kilter was Rice going early."
Only in the last 10 days did Rice's stock start to rise.
On Friday, Newsome, Modell, executive vice-president Jim Bailey and director of college scouting Phil Savage worked out 15 possible combinations of the two possible remaining players if Rice was chosen in the top three.
One scenario was Ogden vs. Phillips.
It wasn't an easy decision. Modell wanted Phillips. Newsome preferred Ogden. Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda liked any of the top four, so he deferred to the remaining staffers.
Ogden won out.
"There was Phillips vs. Johnson, Phillips against Hardy, and Hardy against Johnson," Modell said. "Hardy and Phillips would have been a tough call."
Newsome agreed. Finding a linebacker was one of the Ravens' biggest needs.
"Hardy and Phillips? That was a real tough one," said Newsome. "It would have been Hardy."
The Ravens didn't have to make that choice, but they had some tempting offers to trade up before their pick.
Each team is allowed 15 minutes to make its choice in the first round, and while Jacksonville was debating its No. 2 pick, the Jaguars kept phoning the Ravens about trading up to Jacksonville's slot.
Arizona had similar thoughts. The Cardinals called Baltimore about swapping the third and fourth picks, and reportedly offered the Ravens two mid- to late-round picks. The Ravens declined, but Arizona was not finished.
Newsome said the Cardinals' table was next to Baltimore's at the draft headquarters in New York. The Cardinals wrote Phillips' name on their selection card and announced it loud enough for the Baltimore contingent to hear.
The Ravens didn't fall for the bluff.
Once the Cardinals chose Rice, Baltimore did some bluffing of its own. The Ravens waited until two minutes were left before announcing they were choosing Ogden.
"No one called us during our time, and we didn't call out," said Modell. "Every team uses their 15 minutes in the hopes they think some team will call up and offer their piggy bank [a better deal]. No piggy bank."
The Ravens chose to invest in Ogden, who some experts compare to former Cincinnati Bengals tackle Anthony Munoz.
"He was the cleanest of all the guys on the board," said Newsome in a rare slip.
Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said: "We think Ogden is very rare. As big as he is, he can run. This is the finest lineman I've seen block down field, especially for his size."
The addition of Ogden gives the Ravens one the biggest offensive lines in football. Jones weighs 295, center Steve Everitt is 290, right guard Jeff Blackshear at 323 and right tackle Orlando Brown is 340.
"If they want to spend the fourth pick on me being a guard, I don't care as long as I'm playing," said Ogden. "I've been a tackle my entire life, but I know the line is solid right now, and I'm sure they have plans to move me to tackle eventually."
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