Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome has seen all the Combine auditions in Indianapolis for 2011…now it’s up to him to score yet another Draft Day symphony…
“I don’t think you get locked in. It allows you to be able to evaluate the draft, and to understand the type of players that can come in and be productive players for the Ravens. You don’t get locked in and say, ‘I need this.’ Because if you lock yourself into the needs, you may be getting a lesser player. ” — Ozzie Newsome
That is the essential draft mantra of Ozzie Newsome. He’s absorbed everything the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine had to offer. Now he has to figure out the best way to spend his draft picks wisely.
This year may be different for Ozzie. If there is a lockout by the owners, then free agency is cancelled. That means the draft could be Ozzie’s only hope of filling “needs”…
Ozzie says he doesn’t draft to fill “needs”…
But what other hedge do you have against gaping holes in your roster if the NFL owners take away free agency in 2011?
This may be the one time in Ozzie’s outstanding management career when he’s got to change philosophy… and draft to fill needs.
Exactly what are these “needs” ?
According to Sports Illustrated’s expert NFL analyst Peter King, the Ravens have acknowledged they could bolster various areas of need – receiver, corner, pass rush and offensive line – but King believes the team must focus on the secondary first:
“Safety Ed Reed’s age (32) and injury history leave his long-term future uncertain, while the Ravens have several cornerbacks (Chris Carr, Fabian Washington, Josh Wilson) scheduled to become free agents.”
“If I were looking at them, secondary would be No. 1, both at corner and safety,” said King on Saturday. “Ed Reed’s getting up there, and you have no idea how much longer he’s going to last.”
King then looked toward the offensive line, where there could be a lot of upheaval, considering Jared Gaither’s tenuous status while he returns from a back injury, and free agent-to-be Marshal Yanda’s vacillation between tackle and guard, depending on the situation. Said King, “Even though their offensive line is OK, I think with the uncertainty surrounding Jared Gaither and not knowing whether Yanda is a guard or a tackle right now, if I were to pinpoint two spots, I would say secondary and offensive line.”
So, working along with Peter King, I would say Ozzie’s draft should be:
1. CB or OLB (best avaiable)
2. OL or WR (best available)
3. OL or S ( I would say ILB, but no one in 3rd round will have more upside than guys we already have)
4. S or OL
5-7. add depth
Many local Ravens fans dismiss King as just another New York outsider looking in….and discount him when he says “not knowing whether Yanda is a guard or a tackle right now”… Clearly Marshal Yanda is a guard and we want him to play right guard… We should look at offensive tackles, CB’s, strong safeties, centers, WR’s, OLB’s, and DE’s throughout the draft. I am certain Ozzie knows this and will proceed in that direction.
As for Ed Reed’s advancing age, I think Ozzie is more concerned about drafting a strong safety that can take over the field while Reed is still playing. Dawan Landry is a good strong safety yet has occasional setbacks. But as usual, Ozzie will not be worried about drafting one specific position. He’d just like to pick the best player on the board. But that task becomes trickier if free agency is ruled out by lockout, since Ozzie for the first time in his GM career cannot buy insurance on the FA market for his draft picks.
Ozzie’s best move to lessen the probability of having to draft for “needs” may be to make sure he re-signs CB Chris Carr and S Josh Wilson. Those signings alone would give Ozzie a greater freedom from the chains of “need” as he sifts through the post-Combine data and prepares for the 2011 Draft.