Baltimore Ravens

Preston: Ravens' risk-averse draft shows how Ozzie Newsome has lost his nerve

Baltimore Ravens general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome walks off the field after an NFL football practice, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015, in Owings Mills, Md.

The Ravens have a new philosophy when it comes to the NFL draft. Instead of selecting the best player available, they now take quantity over quality.

In other words, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has lost his nerve to be daring with the team's selections.


As the third day of the draft came to a close Saturday night, there was no buzz surrounding the Ravens draft (aside from them drafting a local hero in Navy's Keenan Reynolds). It was as exciting as watching another rerun of "I Love Lucy." They got a lot of specialty players in the fourth round on the final day but they still lack playmakers.

They got their left offensive tackle of the future in the first round with Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley, but there is uncertainty about filling other holes with their other picks in the second and third rounds.


Boise State outside linebacker Kamalei Correa (second round) and Brigham Young defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (third round) might become good pass rushers, but they are projects.

There would have been much more optimism and confidence if the Ravens selected UCLA linebacker Myles Jack or Eastern Kentucky's Noah Spence in the second round. Jack is a top talent who dropped because of injury concerns and Spence slipped due to character issues. The Ravens had a chance to get one early in that round, but opted to trade back not once, but twice, to gain more picks.

They should have been bold and rolled the dice on Jack or Spence.

It was a second-round pick, and the Ravens had plenty more picks left. If this one didn't eventually work out, it wouldn't be a big deal.  Instead of having players like Arthur Brown or Zachary Orr possibly starting next to middle linebacker C.J. Mosley, they could have had Jack at weak side, or Spence coming off the corner.

They had a shot at a possible big time player, a steal in the draft, but Newsome couldn't pull the trigger.

Spence is intriguing. I am willing to give him a second chance from those failed drug tests at Ohio State because a lot of players make mistakes in their early years in college, just like running back Jamal Lewis, whom the Ravens drafted in the first round out of Tennessee in 2000.

Also, this is the NFL. There are no Boy Scouts here. But the Ravens played it safe this weekend, which is why they came away with Stanley. But they also played it like they were 13-3 instead of 5-11.

This was a year they could have had impact players, but they didn't pull it off.


Instead, they were giddy because they had five picks in the fourth round Saturday. They were content to mull over specialty players and they found a couple of good ones in Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon and Cincinnati receiver Chris Moore.

But what happened to finding a cornerback?

The Ravens haven't drafted one in the first three rounds since they took Jimmy Smith 27th overall out of Colorado in 2011. The Ravens have drafted 47 players since 2012 and only four have been cornerbacks. Three of those are no longer on the roster.

The Ravens drafted Temple cornerback Tavon Young in the fourth round Saturday and he might get some playing time at nickel back. But why didn't they take a shot at a cornerback in the third round, which increases the chances of him making the roster?

We all know the draft is a guessing game and teams spend thousands of dollars a year scouting and evaluating players, but you also have to take a chance.

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Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta described the team's first three picks as "red star" players, guys who are smart, have strong work ethic and are relentless on the playing field.


It appears to me that with the exception of Stanley, the Ravens drafted a bunch of Jarret Johnsons and Paul Krugers. It's good to have those types of high-effort players because they are the foundation for most teams, but playmakers win games.

Sometimes, you have to take risk to find them. The Ravens were reluctant possibly because they have failed with previous second round picks like linebackers Sergio Kindle and Brown and defensive tackle Terrence Cody.

They might have been hesitant about Jack because receiver Breshad Perriman missed all of his rookie season last year with a knee injury. But the Ravens can't be cautious.

The Ravens backed away from Mississippi offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil shortly before the draft began Thursday because of his off-the-field troubles. That was understandable, though I still would have chosen Tunsil, once presumed to be the top overall pick.

The trend continued throughout the weekend. When it came to taking the best player available they chose quantity over quality.

Newsome lost his nerve.