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'Masterful' First Round Highlights Ozzie Newsome's Final Draft

May 15, 2018
It probably isn't fair to say Ozzie Newsome saved his best for last -- because his best was actually first, when he picked future Hall of Famers Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis with the very first picks in Ravens history.

But in the first round of his final draft as Ravens general manager last month, Newsome was at his finest, demonstrating all the traits that have made him among the most widely respected and successful general managers in league history throughout the last quarter century.

Newsome was patient. He was calculating. He was calm, and then when opportunity came, he was well-positioned to strike, and he was decisive. As a result, the Ravens came away with a pair of first-round draft picks -- the presumptive starting tight end in Hayden Hurst and the quarterback of the future in Lamar Jackson.

"What happened in that draft room was a masterpiece," head coach John Harbaugh said after the opening night of the draft.

Granted, optimism always reigns in the hours after the draft, and even Newsome was quick to caution that no one yet knows how good this draft class will be.

"Ask me two years from now," Newsome said after the draft ended, "because now we have to get them in, we have to work with them, we have to develop them, and then two years from now we'll be able to determine what job we did this weekend."

Still, the fact that the Ravens were able to come away with Hurst and Jackson speaks to Newsome's war-room savvy. He obviously could have selected either player when the Ravens were initially on the clock at No. 16. But by demonstrating patience and making an educated guess as to how the draft would unfold, he was able to trade back, acquire additional picks, and get both of them. As has often been the case, his instinct was spot-on. 

The Ravens traded back twice -- bypassing some outstanding players in the process -- first to No. 22 and then again to No. 25, knowing that a number of players they coveted would still be there. Then, using the draft-pick capital gained from one of those deals, the Ravens jumped back into the first round and grabbed Jackson at No. 32, the final pick of the round.

There are major ramifications to that move as well; since Jackson was a first-round pick, the Ravens automatically have a fifth-year option on him, which would not be the case if he was selected one pick later. 

To hear Newsome and others talk of the moments leading up to the deal, it has all the earmarks of Newsome at his finest. The Ravens had already picked at No. 25, selecting Hurst. Their night could have ended right there -- and some in the draft room thought it had -- and the first round would have been deemed a success for having selected a top tight end that fit one of the team's most pressing needs. 

But, as everyone learned about 30 minutes later, Newsome wasn't done. 

The Ravens had previously had Jackson in for a workout. Their interest in the former Heisman Trophy winner from Louisville had been widely broadcast, which does not always translate to actual interest given pre-draft smokescreens.

But it's clear the Ravens were very interested, and that makes sense given how several members of the Ravens' offensive coaching staff -- especially Marty Mornhinweg, Greg Roman and James Urban -- had a long track record of success with dual-threat quarterbacks in the mold of Jackson, such as Michael Vick, Colin Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor.

Now it was a matter of getting him. 

Eric DeCosta, Newsome's longtime top lieutenant who will succeed him as general manager next season, and Newsome had already focused on the Eagles as a potential trade partner. Newsome was willing to part with second-round picks this year and next year, and they knew the Eagles were light on Day 2 picks.

The Ravens figured the Eagles weren't in the market for Jackson -- not with Carson Wentz and Super Bowl MVP and backup extraordinaire Nick Foles already on the roster.

So trade talk heated up -- and then stalled. When Newsome first got off the phone with Eagles executive vice president for football operations Howie Roseman, no deal was done. Then the Eagles were on the clock. Newsome, as he has done in the frenetic war room for 23 years, remained calm. They'll call back, he told people in the room. 

Sure enough, they did, and the deal was finalized, with the Ravens sending second-round picks in 2018 and 2019, along with a fourth-round pick, to the Eagles for the No. 32 overall pick and a fourth-rounder.

"It was masterful, the way it happened in the draft room tonight," Newsome said moments after Jackson had been selected. "The trades came to us, and we were able to acquire some picks in the third and fourth round, then having the ability to go back up and get the quarterback at the end of the round, it was unbelievable."

In drafting Jackson, Newsome not only supplied the organization with its quarterback of the future, but it sent a palpable jolt of energy through the fan base sorely in need of one. 

Ravens officials have acknowledged that they noticed the empty seats last year. They knew of the anger fans felt in light of the team's national anthem protest in London. They sensed fan apathy derived from three straight years without a playoff berth and a roster largely devoid of charismatic playmakers.

On the first night of his final draft, Newsome changed the narrative with a bold move to select one of the most charismatic playmakers in the entire draft, and the fan base took note.

Fan reaction on local sports talk radio was overwhelmingly positive, and Lamar Jackson's No. 8 jersey flew off the virtual shelves of the team's online store. 

As Newsome cautioned, Jackson's story is very much unwritten. Newsome and Harbaugh aren't about to anoint anyone who has yet to throw an NFL pass. In fact, both stressed that in 2018, the Ravens remain incumbent quarterback Joe Flacco's team. 

But make no mistake, Jackson was drafted to be the face of this franchise into the 2020s, and he is only wearing purple today because Ozzie Newsome, in the final draft of his remarkable GM career, was on the top of his game. 

THE RAVENS 2018 DRAFT CLASS
1st round - TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
1st round - QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
3rd round - T Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
3rd round - TE Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
4th round - CB Anthony Averett, Alabama
4th round - ILB Kenny Young, UCLA
4th round - WR Jaleel Scott, New Mexico State
5th round - WR Jordan Lasley, UCLA
6th round - S DeShon Elliott, Texas
6th round - OL Greg Senat, Wagner
6th round - C Bradley Bozeman, Alabama
7th round - DE Zach Sieler, Ferris State

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka    

Photo Credit: Kenya AllenPressBox

Issue 244: May 2018