Newsome: Free-agent moves won't change how Ravens approach draft

OWINGS MILLS - According to general manager Ozzie Newsome, the Baltimore Ravens' recent moves in free agency won't change what the team is planning on doing in the NFL draft, which is just more than a week away.

"It will not," Newsome said Tuesday during the Ravens' annual pre-draft luncheon. "What we've done in the offseason thus far in free agency will have very little impact on how we have approached the draft, how we've stacked the board and how we will take players off the board. We feel like if there are quality players on the defensive line, at linebacker or at safety, we feel like we still can add more of those players to our team."

Newsome, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, coach John Harbaugh and director of college scouting Joe Hortiz all took part in the Ravens' annual pre-draft luncheon Tuesday, answering a wide-range of draft- and team-related questions for nearly an hour inside the auditorium at the team's training facility.

Newsome, DeCosta, Harbaugh and Hortiz also discussed position changes, gave encouraging updates on the medical status of starting cornerback Lardarius Webb and starting inside linebacker Jameel McClain and even joked about wide receiver Jacoby Jones' most recent showing on "Dancing With the Stars."

But, more so than anything else, Tuesday's news conference centered around the draft.

DeCosta in particular acknowledged the depth of this year's draft, offered analysis on various position groups and players, as did Hortiz, and talked with confidence that the Ravens will be able to find a player with the No. 32 pick in the first round "who will be able to come in and help this football team."

"I think this is an interesting draft from the standpoint of the quality of player is really good where we're picking," DeCosta said. "So I have a comfort level. Where I sweat year-to-year, and I think as an organization where we worry is when we don't have enough players to pick, so you're picking say 25 and you only like seven players or eight players or nine players.

"I've got 32 players that we love, so it's easy for us to go home at night and 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."

So who and at what position?

Wide receiver, inside linebacker and safety are thought by most to be the Ravens' most pressing needs going into the draft - three positions this draft class is considered to be both strong and deep at.

Newsome said Tuesday that there's a safety he expects to be available in each of the draft's seven rounds that Baltimore could take.

Harbaugh also said at the NFL's annual league meetings in March that the Ravens will "probably" select a wide receiver at some point during the draft.

Nose guard and left tackle are also thought to be areas of need for Baltimore heading into the draft and DeCosta mentioned highly-rated players at each position that he likes - John Jenkins (Georgia) and Jonathan Hankins (Ohio State) at nose guard and Menelik Watson (Florida State), Justin Pugh (Syracuse) and Brian Winters (Kent State) at left tackle. Jenkins, Hankins, Watson, Pugh and Winters are all projected as likely second-round picks.

"I think you always look at need," DeCosta said. "We say best player available, but you have to factor need into the equation. If the best player available is a quarterback in the first round, we're not going to take him. So you have to look at the best player available based on need. Obviously, if you have three players that are next to each other in your sequence and one player is a big need and the other players aren't needs, even if the other players maybe are ahead of the one player that is a need, you're going to switch your list because they are all close. What you are not going to do is draft a 6.3 if there is a 6.7 on the board regardless of the position."

Fortunately for the Ravens, the draft is considered to be deep at their primary areas of need, making it possible the team could select one of several different positions when it's on the clock with its first pick - whether it's an inside linebacker such as Manti Te'o (Notre Dame) or Kevin Minter (LSU), a wide receiver such as De'Andre Hopkins (Clemson), Keenan Allen (California) or Robert Woods (USC), a pass rusher such as Bjoern Warner (Florida State) or Damontre Moore (Texas A&M) or even a safety such as Matt Elam (Florida) or Jonathan Cyprien (FIU).

"I think the pool of player between [picks] 15 and 45 is excellent," DeCosta said. "I think there are players in every round we like, slotted very well. Defensively, it's a very, very strong draft. Offensively, [it's] pretty good, too. Up front on the defensive and offensive lines, we see a lot of really good players."

Reach staff writer Matt Zenitz at 410-857-7896 or matt.zenitz@carrollcountytimes.com.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun