Ravens will stick to tried, true philosophy

Baltimore Ravens general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome walks off the field after an NFL football practice in Owings Mills.
Baltimore Ravens general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome walks off the field after an NFL football practice in Owings Mills.(Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

There might not be a more important time of the season to use the term "play like a Raven."

Ever since the Ravens were bold in trading for a second No. 1 pick and drafting University of California quarterback Kyle Boller in 2003, they have backed off in attempts to make a big splash, and instead have gone with solid and consistent players.


That philosophy won't change Thursday night in the opening round of the draft. It makes sense because the Ravens have consistently picked in the second half of the first round since 2003, when they selected linebacker Terrell Suggs with the 10th overall pick, and then selected Boller at No. 19 after trading second (2003) and first-round (2004) selections to New England in order to take Boller.

That pick, and Boller's lack of success, set the Ravens back a couple of years. The team, though, has learned from that mistake. If you look at some of the team's former first-round picks since the Boller fiasco like Haloti Ngata, Ben Grubbs, Joe Flacco, Michael Oher and Jimmy Smith, they didn't have a lot of pizazz coming out of college.


But most of them had strong work ethics and all were considered tough guys.

"Coach Harbaugh has a tough team — tough-minded, we handle adversity, we play physical on the field and we're good in December and the playoffs; all that goes into it," Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. "You look for a lot of different things on tape. You look at guys that are playing just as hard in the fourth quarter of a blowout game as they would be in the first quarter of a tight game.

"You're looking for guys that tackle consistently on defense. You're looking for guys that play through pain, durable players that don't miss games because of injuries that practice all the time even if they are banged up."

It is highly unlikely the Ravens will make a big splash Thursday night. Finding a big, fast receiver is a top priority, but by the time the Ravens draft at No. 26 in the first round, most of the big names like Alabama's Amari Cooper and West Virginia's Kevin White will be gone. If Louisville's DeVante Parker is still on the board, the Ravens might select him, but he will probably be drafted by then.

The same is true for cornerback, where Michigan State's Trae Waynes will be gone. But the Ravens will probably have options in possibly selecting Washington's Marcus Peters, Miami of Ohio's Quinten Rollins and Florida State's P.J. Williams.

If the Ravens are feeling a little bold, they might select Peters and all the behavioral problems that come with him, but they've been conservative in recent years. Smith was a gamble, but Grubbs (Auburn), Flacco (Delaware) and C.J. Mosley (Alabama) were considered safe picks coming out of their respective colleges.

Oher received a lot of criticism here for his numerous illegal procedure penalties, and some even labeled him a bust, but that's far from the truth. Oher was selected at No. 23 overall in the first round of the 2009 draft and was a consistent starter at either right or left tackle during his six seasons in Baltimore.

Was he great? No. Was he even the best lineman on the team? No. But he was steady and few players worked harder than Oher. And he was one tough guy.

When a team is successful and drafts consistently at the end of every round, they don't have to make big splashes. They have to "hit" with early-round picks and they can gamble with the late-round selections.

At this time of year, there is always a lot of bantering going on among the teams and their officials about picks, but Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is being straight when he says the Ravens won't trade up in the first round unless they can get a player they covet. Instead, he might be better off trading down and still getting a top tight end like Minnesota's Maxx Williams or Miami's Clive Walford.

The second and third rounds could be treasure for the Ravens as far as selecting players.

"You want your early picks to be really high-character guys and guys who are going to be leaders," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "That's important that we try to find those guys, and then once you draft him, to get to know him and spend time building relationships with him and get inside his head a little bit to see what makes him tick and try to influence him a little bit, try to point him in the [right] direction as much as you can."


The Ravens have had some first-round disappointments since Boller. In 2005, the Ravens took receiver Mark Clayton out of Oklahoma with the No. 22 overall pick, and safety Matt Elam has struggled since the Ravens selected him with the No. 32 pick overall in 2013. With Elam, the Ravens relied too much on inside contacts instead of staying with the reports from their own scouts.

But the philosophy remains the same and won't change Thursday. They've won too many games to move in a different direction now.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun