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Ravens fail to make splash on first day of draft

The NFL draft has become as staged as a headlining event in World Wrestling Entertainment. WrestleMania and the annual draft have become equals.

The similarities are stunning, even hilarious at times. Both have a lot of buildup and showmanship. Both are highly predictable but have enough unpredictability to hold your interest. There is drama and suspense, and both events are choreographed well enough to make the networks pay out millions of dollars.

As famed boxing promoter Don King would say, "Only in America."

The NFL draft went prime time Thursday night, trotting out legendary former greats like Jim Brown and Dan Marino. And the Ravens left their fans filled with disappointment, anxiety and eagerness heading into the second day of the draft.

The Ravens had the No. 25 overall pick but traded it to the Denver Broncos, who selected Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. The Ravens are believed to have picked up second- (No. 43 overall) and third-round (No. 70) picks from Denver for the second day Friday, as well as a fourth-round pick (No. 114). They also still have their original No. 57 overall pick in the second round.

It looked like the Ravens might get a standout player like Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant, Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham or Georgia Tech wide-out Demaryius Thomas, but all three were taken ahead of the Ravens.

"As it stands right now, that offer was so good that if Dez Bryant didn't get picked in front of us, we probably still would have made that trade," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said.

That's when the Ravens decided to move down. They had better come up with some good picks Friday because they have lost out on Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams, Penn State defensive tackle Jared Odrick, Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson and Texas Christian outside linebacker Jerry Hughes, all taken in the first round after the Ravens moved out of the No. 25 position. It's not time to panic because the Ravens could still find good players like Illinois receiver Arrelious Benn, Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap or Alabama defensive tackle Terrence Cody. There are still players that can help this team.

"There are certainly some guys we really like, or we would have stayed there and picked," said Eric DeCosta, Ravens director of player personnel. "We've done this before where we traded back and got the guys we liked. You need to have some luck, but this wasn't that hard of a decision based on the players available. Draft picks are a little bit like currency. Now we have more money to play."

This was first time the event was being shown on a weeknight in league history. If you could get by all the pre-draft babbling by the draft nuts on ESPN, it was pretty predictable until the Oakland Raiders made the No. 8 overall pick.

But until then, it was boring, yet entertaining. The biggest shock of the night was the St. Louis Rams selecting Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford with the No. 1 overall pick. Yeah, right. We've only heard about that one for months.

And the next two that followed, Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to the Detroit Lions and Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, were also expected and anticlimactic. But it was interesting trying to figure out why McCoy was crying. Were those tears of joy or tears of sorrow for having to play for the Bucs?

To keep it interesting in between picks, ESPN showed highlights. There were times when McCoy was dancing and shadow boxing. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hugged a lot of the draft picks as if they were his long-lost sons. They also had commentary from Tom Jackson, Chris Berman, Mel Kiper Jr. and Jon Gruden. Of the first 15 picks, Gruden gushed over every one of them as if they were the next Lawrence Taylor, or maybe the next Hulk Hogan. It was irritating as Gruden, once one of the most foul-mouthed head coaches in the NFL, became a cheerleader for the NFL.

It was also fun watching some of the agents, like Drew Rosenhaus and Tom Condon, getting as much mug time with their clients as old wrestling managers Lou Albano and Freddie Blassie. You throw in a couple of pretty girls and play some modern hip-hop music, and it was enough to keep your interest at least through the first 20 picks.

But if you needed some shock therapy to hold your interest, it came when the Raiders selected Alabama inside linebacker Rolando McClain. Now, McClain is a great player and deserved to go high in the draft, but the selection wasn't Oakland owner Al Davis' style.

Big Al likes fluff and puff. He likes pretty-boy quarterbacks from the West Coast or receivers who can run but can't catch. Hell, Davis has even been known to take a punter in the draft, but a rough-and-tumble linebacker? No way.

Whenever the Raiders draft, the board always goes whacky for the next couple of picks. The Jacksonville Jaguars surprised a lot of people by taking California defensive tackle Tyson Alualu at No. 10, ahead of other top-rated tackles like Williams and Odrick.

The trend followed for another five or six picks until the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Florida center Maurkice Pouncey at No. 18. In the Ravens' draft room, they had to be laughing, yet at the same time holding their breath. Besides Williams, Wilson was still around along with Gresham and Bryant.

The cards were coming in wild and furious, and this might have been the fastest first round in NFL history. It makes you wonder whether Goodell didn't send out a memo to all 32 teams to make their picks quickly so they could get the first round done in 3 1/2 hours, or by 11 p.m.

It fit the format, just like wrestling, which is usually over just in time for the news. But the news is now the Ravens, who have to make a splash the second day after failing to make a selection the first.

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