After Ray Rice, gambles in NFL draft have new risk

Ozzie Newsome, Steve Bisciotti and John Harbaugh must carefully consider character issues in the NFL draft.

The NFL draft is just a couple of days away, and the Ravens appear to be in good position. Despite having the 26th overall pick, the Ravens have 10 selections, which allows for multiple options.

They could trade up in the first round for a coveted player or move down to obtain more picks. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how much the fallout from Ray Rice's domestic-violence case will affect their 2015 draft.


The Ravens have to be careful, because they really don't want any more players with character issues. But at least two of the top 30 players, Washington cornerback Marcus Peters and Oklahoma wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, carry that baggage.

Two of the Ravens' top needs are cornerback and receiver. Can they afford to gamble on either player?


"I would hope that wouldn't happen again, but we will do any and everything that we can to make sure the 10, 11 or six, seven or eight players who we bring into Baltimore will hopefully stay out of trouble, and we'll probably do the extra work on that," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said recently.

"But there's not a guarantee that it's going to happen. It's just impossible for us to guarantee that."

There are few Boy Scouts in the NFL. If players weren't allowed to play because of their character, there wouldn't be much of a league. So nearly every pick is essentially a gamble.

Peters was dismissed from the Washington team on Nov. 6 after repeated clashes with the coaching staff. Green-Beckham has been arrested twice for marijuana possession, although one charge was later dropped. He was dismissed from Missouri after allegedly pushing a female down a flight of stairs. No charges were filed.

From a public-relations standpoint, the Ravens shouldn't have interest in either, but Newsome already has acknowledged that both have visited and been interviewed at the Ravens' training facility.

The team might have serious interest, or it might be a ploy to throw off the other 31 NFL teams. The visits, though, just make good business sense.

Because of their extensive background checks, the Ravens have been one of the NFL's best-drafting franchises. They also aren't afraid of drafting or signing players with troubled pasts. Remember, this is a team that signed tight end Eric Green and running back Byron "Bam" Morris as free agents.

Team officials have gambled and won on rookies who had problems in college, like running back Jamal Lewis, and lost on others, like linebacker Sergio Kindle. The latest success story is cornerback Jimmy Smith, whom they signed to a four-year, $48 million contract extension last week.


Art Modell

Wisdom prevailed, and Newsome selected offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden. Newsome, though, is much like Modell: another bleeding heart.

So it's really not all about winning.

"Everything matters. We scrutinize everything, every piece of information," Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. "Obviously, if a guy has a positive drug test, we talk about it. We don't do this in a vacuum. We consider everything, and we look at all the different facts of the matter. We talk to people, people who have spent time with [the players]. But again, we don't treat anybody exactly the same. We consider all the different situations and circumstances and we make a decision."

Green-Beckham and Peters could help the Ravens instantly. Green-Beckham is the type of receiver the Ravens haven't had since Michael Jackson, from when they first moved to Baltimore for the 1996 season.

Green-Beckham is 6 feet 5, weighs 225 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds. He has strong hands and can make catches with defensive backs draped all over him. Some scouting reports rate him as the best receiver to come into the league since A.J. Green, who went to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2011.


Green-Beckham's route running has been criticized, but with Torrey Smith gone, imagine him opposite veteran receiver Steve Smith.

Almost any cornerback worthy of a first-round selection would help the Ravens, but Peters might be considered a gift if he fell to No. 26.

At 6 feet and 197 pounds, he is big, physical and fast and has outstanding ball skills and quick feet. Peters on one corner and Jimmy Smith on the other would be imposing.

Newsome and DeCosta have gone over many draft scenarios since the end of the season. They won't stop until their pick Thursday night. Drafting a 20-something out of college and offering him millions of dollars is always a risk.

Some can handle it; a lot of them can't.

But more than at any other time in the team's 20-year history, the Ravens have to be public-relations-conscious. They can absorb the baggage of a Peters, but not what Green-Beckham brings to the table.