Baltimore Sun

Ozzie can keep heat off with another strong draft

A week ago, Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome (left, photo by The Baltimore Sun) insisted he wasn't feeling the heat heading into the 2010 NFL draft, which kicks off Thursday night in primetime for the first time.

The Ravens have only five draft picks (and just two in the first four rounds), but they have flexibility this weekend after Newsome filled their biggest need early in March.

"I'm better off with Anquan Boldin than to be sitting here with six picks, you know?" Newsome said at the  Ravens' annual pre-draft luncheon. "Because you'd probably see some sweat on my brow."

As of now, the Ravens are the on-paper favorites to win the AFC North in 2010 after trading for their new No. 1 receiver, but Newsome still has work to do. The Ravens' aging defense is decaying, and though the overhauled offense has all the necessary I-beams, it's still a staircase and a stripper pole away from a full, flashy renovation.

And the work starts at pick No. 25 late Thursday.

Will Newsome fill an immediate need by selecting a solid defensive lineman such as Jared Odrick or Terrence Cody, or versatile tight end Jermaine Gresham?

Could he make a splash by drafting unpolished deep threat Demaryius Thomas, the kind of stripper pole addition — a luxury, but maybe not a need — I mentioned earlier?

Can he luck out again like he did a year ago with Michael Oher, and have a sliding stud such as Dez Bryant, Maurkice Pouncey or Dan Williams fall into his lap?

I've given myself headaches trying to guess who the Ravens will take in my meaningless mock drafts, and my job isn't on the line. If I were Ozzie right now, I'd be burning up like Ben Roethlisberger at a sorority rush party.

But Newsome is a cool customer when it comes to the draft, and his unwavering stance of selecting the best guy on the Ravens' draft board is the right way to tackle the most important weekend on the NFL calendar.

This draft is perfect for the Ravens — actually, it's perfect for most teams. There are plenty of talented meat-and-potatoes guys on both the offensive and defensive lines. There are some serious playmakers in the secondary and the receiver class is deep. Newsome said he thinks there probably will be good tight ends available in every round.

The Ravens have just five picks to target prospects on their radar, but Newsome has shown he's not afraid to move around to acquire additional assets. It sure worked out nicely two years ago when he traded out of the top 10 and wound up with Joe Flacco and Ray Rice, didn't it?

As Newsome pointed out, "you've got to have a trading partner," which won't be easy to find in this loaded draft. But you have to imagine the Ravens will do something to get the Ravens more picks, whether it's dealing away Jared Gaither or Willis McGahee or convincing a QB-needy team to trade up from early in the second round to take a college star such as Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy or Jimmy Clausen.   

Even if he isn't sweating the draft this weekend because of the Boldin trade, Newsome knows there is pressure to make the right moves now for the seasons beyond 2010.

"[We're] not only just trying to build it for September," he said. "But we're also trying to build it for the future."

Whether Newsome winds up with five picks in his draft arsenal or 15, it's a safe assumption that there will be more hits than misses. That's how he rolls.

If this draft somehow turns out to be a dud, though, he has still done enough to keep the Ravens in contention in 2010.

But this time next year? Newsome will be sweating.


Matt Vensel is a content creator for b. Follow him on Twitter, @mattvensel.