Sports columnist Mike Preston gives his take of the State of the Ravens press conference with owner Steve Bisciotti, Ozzie Newsomes, Dick Cass and John Harbaugh. (Kevin Richardson/Baltmore Sun video)
Any time the Ravens fall short of their goals, one of the most common refrains from fans involves criticizing general manager Ozzie Newsome's track record in recent drafts. For every Joe Flacco, Jimmy Smith and C.J. Mosley the organization has scooped up, there's a Sergio Kindle, Terrence Cody or Matt Elam that have flopped.
Meanwhile, other franchises have found impact players in late rounds. Famous late picks include the New England Patriots taking quarterback Tom Brady in the sixth round in 2000, the Seattle Seahawks picking up safety Kam Chancellor and cornerback Richard Sherman in the fifth round in 2010 and 2011, respectively, and the Pittsburgh Steelers selecting wide receiver Antonio Brown in the sixth in 2010.
The Ravens have not unearthed a Pro Bowl player in a late round since punter Sam Koch in the sixth in 2006 and before him, outside linebacker Adalius Thomas in the sixth in 2000. But owner Steve Bisciotti declined to castigate the team's recent draft history.
"That's really not fair for me to judge whether we had an Antonio Brown and didn't develop him," he said during Tuesday's "State of the Ravens" news conference. "If you let me go through the league and pick out 10 fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-round [choices] and undrafted free agents, I could build a team better than anybody else in the league.
"We've always said if New England thought Tom was so good, they wouldn't have waited until the sixth round, and if Pittsburgh thought Antonio was so good, they wouldn't have waited until the sixth round. A lot of that is luck when you get to that level. We're more focused on finding fits in those first few rounds that we can plug in and play. I think we did a little better job of that this year, but it's a crapshoot."
Bisciotti expressed initial satisfaction with the 2016 draft class, singling out left tackle Ronnie Stanley, guard Alex Lewis and running back Kenneth Dixon. But he did acknowledge that some misses in the early rounds of drafts have put the team in a position where it has missed the playoffs for two consecutive seasons and three times in four years.
"I think it's significant," Bisciotti said of high draft picks not contributing as much. "I went back to ESPN – [Todd] McShay and all of those guys. I watched the films of the [NFL Network's Charley] Casserly's and all of those people when we drafted Matt Elam. There wasn't a one that questioned him being great. When we traded up for [linebacker] Arthur Brown [in the second round in 2013], they said we had two of the best players in the draft: fast, hard-hitting, fly-to-the-football kind of guys. That happens. You miss players. I look around the league and see plenty of missed players. It's not just us."