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General manager Ozzie Newsome's farewell draft produces 12 new Ravens, fills numerous holes

General manager Ozzie Newsome insisted that this draft, the last of his 23 in a distinguished run at the helm of the Ravens’ front office, wasn’t about him. There was nothing that made Newsome more uncomfortable than the storyline that the 2018 draft is the start of one long victory lap before he steps aside for Eric DeCosta following the season.

By the time the Ravens finished an exhausting Saturday by selecting eight more players — their 12-player haul tying for the biggest in franchise history — all the hallmarks of a Newsome draft were in place.

“I really feel very good about this class and how it came to be,” Newsome said. “Twelve picks, we made six trades, we addressed a lot of areas on the football team. I think after today, when we finish with the undrafted college free agents, that the Baltimore Ravens are no doubt in my mind, a better football team.”

The final of the Ravens’ eight picks, and the last of Newsome’s 190 picks in running the draft, was made shortly after 6 p.m. The team selected Ferris State seventh-round defensive end Zach Sieler, continuing the organization’s streak of 10 consecutive years drafting a defensive lineman. The small-school prospect told Newsome that he was going to make him proud.

A number of Ravens employees then walked into the draft room and gave Newsome an ovation.

“It was emotional,” said Newsome, clearly choked up. “… But still a lot of picks, a lot of wins, a lot of losses. But even though there’s finality with that, there’s not finality with what I’m going to continue to do for the Baltimore Ravens.”

During the draft, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti did a ceremonial switching of the seats between Newsome and DeCosta, his long-time lieutenant. Newsome still plans to stay in the organization beyond 2018 in an undefined role.

The Ravens’ top decision markers seemed uncharacteristically giddy Thursday night after they pulled off a trade that allowed them to exit the draft with both South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst and Louisville Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson. Newsome’s landmark first draft in 1996 featured two first-round picks, Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis, and now his last one did as well.

Newsome brought in two tight ends in Hurst and Oklahoma third-rounder Mark Andrews, stocking a position that he excelled at during a Hall of Fame playing career. As always, he tapped his alma matter, drafting two Alabama players Saturday, fourth-round cornerback Anthony Averett and sixth-round center Bradley Bozeman, for the second straight year. The Ravens have taken 11 Crimson Tide players in team history, the most of any school.

Beyond that familiarity, Newsome brought in the son of one of his former players, taking Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who had written the Ravens general manager a letter in the pre-draft process to tell him how much it would mean to him to be selected by the former team of his late father.

Known for rigidly sticking to his draft board and moving up and down in a round to maximize value, Newsome was never more active than he was the past three days, making six different deals. He moved back five times and came forward once to grab Jackson with the final pick of the first round Thursday night.

Ultimately, the success of this draft class, the team’s biggest since the Peter Boulware-headlined 1997 group, will likely be defined by Jackson’s development. If he becomes a worthy successor to Joe Flacco, Newsome’s final draft will almost certainly be a home run. His legacy will be further enhanced by leaving DeCosta and the Ravens with a nice present in the form of a franchise quarterback.

“Yes, we did address a lot of areas, but ask me two years from now,” Newsome said when asked about the strength of the draft class. “In two years from now, we’ll be able to tell what kind of job we did this weekend.”

On the surface, the Ravens added some help at just about every one of their perceived needs, along with strengthening their depth at other positions. The only thing they really didn’t do is add a pass-catching running back and that, according to DeCosta, was because a couple of teams grabbed guys they wanted shortly before they were about to pick. DeCosta expects the Ravens to sign two or three running backs in the undrafted free-agent process.

Otherwise, the Ravens got their potential quarterback of the future in Jackson. They continued to diversify their receiving corps with Saturday’s addition of fourth-round pick Jaleel Scott out of New Mexico State and fifth-round pick Jordan Lasley out of UCLA.

At 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, Scott is a big and physical target who had 14 touchdown receptions in 23 college games. Lasley is more of a deep threat, racking up 1,264 receiving yards and nine touchdown receptions and averaging 18.3 yards per reception last season. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. called him first-round talent, but Lasley bring some off-the-field baggage.

A pass-catching tight end was viewed as one of the Ravens’ biggest needs heading into the week and they came away from it with two of the best in the draft. Hurst and Andrews should be nice complements to veterans Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams.

The Ravens also added some needed offensive line depth. Brown, a third-round pick, will compete with James Hurst to start at right tackle. Bozeman could battle Matt Skura for the starting center job, left vacated when Ryan Jensen departed in free agency to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Wagner offensive tackle Greg Senat, a former college basketball player, was taken in the sixth round and he’s considered a developmental prospect.

“We added a lot of competition everywhere,” Harbaugh said. “Every coach loves competition.”

The Ravens’ defense will return mostly intact, but day three brought new coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale some reinforcements. Averett gives the Ravens yet another young and talented cornerback. Fellow fourth-round pick Kenny Young from UCLA will likely compete with Patrick Onwuasor and Kamalei Correa for the starting weak-side linebacker job. Sixth-round safety DeShon Elliott and Sieler also will have good opportunities to make the team and contribute.

 

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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