Merry Christmas, Ravens fans!

April 25, 2009 | Luke Jones

The NFL Draft feels a little bit like Christmas for football fans.  By the end of the weekend, the Ravens will have unwrapped five or six new players that can make an impact in 2009.  Many teams will not be able to say this, but the outstanding work of Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta, and the scouting department makes this possible.

Whether it’s a Brandon Pettigrew in the first round or a surprise in the fourth or fifth round, the Ravens are certain to grab a few players that were higher on their board than where they actually select them.  It seems to happen every year.

Not counting weekends in the fall, this is easily the best sports weekend of the year with the draft, NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs, and baseball.  The Terps also play their spring football game today.  Here are some other random thoughts on this action-filled sports weekend:

- The Orioles’ 5-4 loss was a tough one to swallow last night.  George Sherrill should ideally be a left-handed specialist rather than the closer, but what other option do they really have?  Chris Ray hasn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire, and Jim Johnson doesn’t miss enough bats to be a reliable closer. Dave Trembley should really use all three relievers to close games and allow the situation to dictate who pitches in the ninth inning.

The first four batters of the ninth inning last night hit from the right side (Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a switch hitter).  This is not the ideal situation for Sherrill—especially if he’s only going to throw fastballs to Ian Kinsler and Michael Young.

Unless your team has a dynamic closer like a Mariano Rivera or a Francisco Rodriguez, the choice to designate one person as the closer continues to baffle me.  But it’s all around baseball—not just the Orioles.

- While admittedly preferring college basketball to the NBA, it’s hard to ignore the excitement of the NBA playoffs.  For the first time since Michael Jordan walked away from the game for good, the league has legitimate star power with the trio of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Dwyane Wade.

Take notice how often you see these three in the commercials over the weekend.  The NBA and NFL do an outstanding job marketing its players—Major League Baseball should take notes, as their marketing efforts are abysmal.

- Though often overlooked for some of the bigger stars in the league, Baltimore’s Carmelo Anthony is still one of the best players in the NBA.

His scoring was down this season (22.8 from 25.7 in 2007-2008), but the Nuggets are the No. 2 seed in the West and have a chance to win their first playoff series since 1994.  It’s no surprise that Anthony has largely been ignored playing in Denver.

If Anthony and Chauncey Billups can lead the Nuggets to finally break the five-year first-round losing streak and move to the Western Conference semifinals, Anthony will get the recognition he deserves.

- Though it probably won’t be Anquan Boldin, don’t be surprised to see the Ravens make a trade to acquire a veteran this weekend.  Ozzie Newsome surrendered a fourth-round pick to acquire Fabian Washington last season and another for Kevin Johnson in 2004.

The chance of a trade probably diminishes with only having six picks, but Newsome could dangle next year’s third- or fourth-round selection if an appealing veteran receiver would become available.

- Even though no one really knows what’s going to happen today (including Newsome and DeCosta), I’ll go on record to say the Ravens trade down into the first few picks of the second round and select wide receiver Hakeem Nicks from North Carolina, who surprisingly falls into the second round.

Of course, this pretty much confirms that it won’t happen, so if you were coveting Nicks for the Ravens, my sincere apologies.

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Enjoy the afternoon.  I’ll be checking in later in the day.

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