Owings Mills, MD Not that he couldn’t have expected that the questions would come, but you could see the exact moment the frustration of answering non-football questions about the Ravens’ 2nd day NFL Draft picks set in for GM Ozzie Newsome.
When asked about reports that former Texas LB and 43rd overall pick Sergio Kindle suffered from narcolepsy, Newsome shook his head, allowed Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta to defend him, and then quipped “he’s a pretty good player on tape.”
The Baltimore Ravens walked away from Day 2 of the NFL Draft with plenty of talent in Texas LB Sergio Kindle, Alabama DT Terrence Cody and Oregon TE Ed Dickson. The haul is particularly impressive considering the first two players were each widely considered to be Top 30 talents available in the Draft, yet they were each acquired in the 2nd round.
Talent-wise, the Ravens pulled off a major heist.
However, it must be taken into consideration that when players assumed by scouts and analysts to be top-level talent end up being selected later than expected, there are immediate reasons for concern.
In the case of Kindle, the number of red flags rivals the number that will be assembled in the corners of every pitch at this summer’s World Cup.
There’s the DUI charges prior to his sophomore season in Austin that ultimately lead to a 3 game suspension.
There’s the multiple knee injuries that have lead to rumors that he will need microfracture surgery shortly into his NFL career.
There’s the consideration to leave the Longhorns following his junior season before ultimately deciding to return.
There’s the incident less than a year ago that saw him drive into a house and suffer a concussion while apparently sending a text message. To make the problem worse, Kindle left the scene of the accident.
There’s the reports that he suffers from narcolepsy and would doze off during team meetings at Texas.
There’s his over-the-top personality. He opened Friday night’s media conference call by exclaiming “It feels effin’ good (to be a Raven)!”
While Kindle appeared to have explanations for all of these things, ranging from “it was a dumb decision” regarding his 2009 accident to “I feel like I can go practice when the time comes” regarding his knee. Newsome & DeCosta also appeared to have the right answers, ranging from DeCosta saying “if it was a concern, we probably wouldn’t have taken him” regarding the narcolepsy reports, and Newsome saying “there is no need for any microfracture surgery” regarding the knee.
Whether the Ravens want to discuss it further or not, these are legitimate concerns.
Kindle was a spectacular player for Texas-posting 101 tackles and 16 sacks combined over the last two seasons. Newsome said that he would start behind Jarret Johnson on the depth chart at OLB, but given his unique mix of size (6’3″, 250 pounds) and speed (4.71 40 yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine); he appears to be a legitimate candidate to crack the starting lineup shortly into his career.
And this is where the word “but” comes into play.
But it cannot be ignored that if Kindle truly does struggle to stay awake during team meetings, or might not be 100% physically ready for Training Camp, or has further trouble with the combination of cell phones and driving; his selection could be troublesome for the team as early as this season.
There are questions about Terrence Cody as well.
The most obvious question is regarding his weight-as he has weighed as much as 400 pounds since leaving high school. While Cody reported that he currently sits at 350 and Ozzie Newsome confirmed that in an unscheduled meeting in Tuscaloosa last weekend Cody’s weight was “coming south”; it is hard to shake the troubling pictures of the monster DT that surfaced at the time of the Senior Bowl.
There’s a reason why a Google search of “Terrence Cody man boobs” returns over 10,000 results.
Aside from the weight issue, Cody appeared to be disinterested and even inconvenienced during his conference call with the Baltimore media, which did little to paint the picture that Cody was worth the risk the Ravens were taking.
However-Cody is also a tremendous talent, having totaled 51 tackles over his last 2 seasons with the Crimson Tide, and showing the ability to both clog space and flush a quarterback out of the pocket.
Even more remarkably about both Kindle and Cody is the fact that their tremendous individual success in college was bested only be the tremendous team success each had. Both Texas and Alabama finished the regular season undefeated last season, winning the Big 12 and SEC Championships respectively. Alabama would go on to defeat Texas for the BCS National Championship, but the teams were clearly the two best in the country.
Combine that with the Dickson’s background in the Pac 10, and the Ravens know that their three newest players have all faced extremely difficult competition already in their career.
There is PLENTY to like about the players the team added Friday.
There is also PLENTY to wonder about.
The issues facing the Ravens’ first two draft picks cannot simply be ignored. The argument that “Ray Lewis can take care of them” is a fun idea, but is not even a bit practical considering the difficulties the team has had with other defensive players under John Harbaugh (notably Chris McAlister and Terrell Suggs).
While Newsome, DeCosta and others in the organization bristled over questions regarding their picks Friday night; it struck me that perhaps the organization feels as though their recent successes have placed them beyond reproach. Not only does the team have an outstanding history in the NFL Draft, they have also won 3 playoff games over the last two seasons.
When the team announced that they had signed free agent WR Donte’ Stallworth this offseason, a member of the organization told me that they received only ONE angry message from a fan regarding the signing of a player who had plead guilty to DUI manslaughter. At no point were there threats or rallies from a group like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the team was not particularly criticized in the media or by callers to sports talk radio.
Perhaps those inside the organization have a reason to feel beyond reproach.
Should the players selected Friday go on to success both immediately (remember, Newsome has said the team “needs to win now”) and in the future, there may be no way to ever criticize the brain trust again.
Should the players selected Friday continue to deal with the same problems that have plagued them thus far in their football lives, the brain trust may be forced to this weekend as the exact moment that their pursuit of another Vince Lombardi Trophy took a wrong turn.
Decisions like these are exactly what makes the NFL Draft so exciting for football fans.
The exact same decisions that cause football executives to lose sleep at night.