By the time the Ravens were on the clock with the sixth overall pick of the NFL draft Thursday night, the phones in their draft room had stopped ringing.
They had failed to complete a trade with the Dallas Cowboys to move up to the fourth spot to take Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, who instead went to the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 5. Other potential targets, including Ohio State teammates Joey Bosa and Ezekiel Elliott, were both gone, too.
So Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome stuck to his best-player-available philosophy and selected Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley. It was an anticlimactic ending to the team’s earliest participation in the first round since 2000. It’s also possibly the end of Eugene Monroe’s tenure in Baltimore.
“We value the board,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said. “We got to that pick and we got the highest-rated guy that was there. It just so happened that he potentially could fill a need for us.”
The Ravens, who got trade offers for their pick before the first round started but none while they were on the clock, chose Stanley over Mississippi offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner, Georgia pass rusher Leonard Floyd and Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.
The selection of the 6-foot-5, 312-pound tackle comes 20 years after the Ravens used their first ever draft pick — No.4 overall in 1996 — on mammoth UCLA offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden. Stanley is the fourth offensive lineman the Ravens have taken in the first round, following Ogden, guard Ben Grubbs (29th overall in 2007) and tackle Michael Oher (23rd, 2009).
“When the phone rang, it was just pure joy,” Stanley said over the phone from Chicago, where the draft is located this year. “I was just very excited. I was talking to everyone on the phone. They were just passing the phone around the room.”
Stanley, 22, visited the Ravens during the pre-draft process and was connected to them often in mock drafts. Still, his selection was a minor surprise, given the belief that the Ravens were targeting a defensive addition. Some of the decision got taken out of their hands.
After the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles took quarterbacks with the first two picks, the Chargers selected Bosa, the highest-rated pass rusher in the draft. After declining to trade the fourth pick to the Ravens, the Cowboys selected Elliott, the prolific Buckeyes running back. The Jaguars then predictably nabbed Ramsey, who would have been an ideal fit for the Ravens in their effort to become more athletic and versatile on defense.
“We knew there was certainly a chance that it would play out that way,” Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. “I think the biggest things for all of us, we went to bed [Wednesday] night very confident and comfortable that we were going to get an outstanding football player. We knew the two quarterbacks were going to go and we had four outstanding players behind them that we knew would be great players, not just good players, great choices for us. That’s a good feeling.”
Newsome said the Ravens had Stanley ranked ahead of Tunsil all along, but the general manager acknowledged the team was aware of the video released and quickly deleted from Tunsil’s Twitter account that showed what appeared to be the left tackle smoking out of a bong.
“The thing that I’m so proud of … our scouts get a lot of information,” Newsome said. “When things happen, a lot of the times we’re not surprised. We took the best player, the player that was rated the highest on the board at that point. I cannot neglect the importance of the work that our scouts do in the fall and in the spring getting information for us.”
With Stanley on board, the Ravens are now in position to either trade or release Monroe, the injury-plagued veteran who started and finished only three games last season. Monroe, 29, has missed 15 total regular-season games over the past two seasons and didn’t start the team’s two playoff contests in 2014.
Monroe is entering the third year of a five-year, $37.5 million pact that he signed in 2015. Making him a post-June 1 release would create $6.5 million of salary cap room. Releasing him immediately would open up $2 million of space.
Newsome was noncommittal about what Stanley’s addition means for the future of Monroe. Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn’t rule out having Stanley play left guard in 2015. That, however, seems unlikely.
“I think it will pan out the way it pans out,” Harbaugh said. “As coaches, we love competition. I say we throw them all in there, let them compete and may the best man win. We’ll see who that is.”
Stanley, a Las Vegas native and a consensus All-American in 2015, has all the physical attributes, including quickness and athleticism, to become a good fit in the Ravens’ zone blocking schemes. Evaluators believe he’s more advanced as a pass blocker than in the run game, but he’s known as a technician and a quick learner, traits that should endear the offensive tackle to new position coach Juan Castillo.
Stanley worked hard at the NFL combine to convince teams he loves football, which is one of the questions he consistently faced in the lead-up to the draft. The Ravens did extensive work on him and are seemingly convinced he could be the answer in protecting quarterback Joe Flacco’s blindside for years to come.
“We just invested a lot in Joe for the next six years,” Newsome said. “We feel like that Ronnie comes in with an opportunity to compete and at some point, he’ll be a starter and a starter for a long time for the Baltimore Ravens.”
The Ravens have eight more selections in the three-day draft, which resumes with the second round at 7 p.m. Friday night. The Ravens have one pick in the second (36th overall), and third rounds (70th), four in the fourth round (104, 130, 132 and 134), and two in the sixth round (182 and 209).
They figure to invest heavily in their defensive over the next two days as they are looking to add a pass rusher, inside linebacker and cornerback, and add depth to their defensive lines and secondary.
“We know that we’re going to get some great players at 36 and 70,” DeCosta said.