OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Despite a number of rumored targets still available when the 29th pick of the 2012 NFL Draft came around, the Ravens elected to trade out of the first round entirely.
Baltimore traded its first-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for their second-rounder (35th overall) and a fourth-round selection (98th overall). It’s the second time in three years the Ravens have traded their first-round pick.
“We had a couple teams call us, and we had several players that we liked that are still available for us tomorrow,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said following the end of the first round. “To be able to pick up that 98th pick from Minnesota, we think is just going to be another good player or we can take that pick to move up in the second or the third to get another good player.”
The Vikings used the 29th pick to select Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith while the Ravens passed on such available names as Alabama defensive end Courtney Upshaw, Wisconsin center Peter Konz, Georgia guard Cordy Glenn, Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin, and Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill.
The good news for Baltimore is none of those names came off the board in the final four picks of the first round, meaning the Ravens will be guaranteed a choice of at least three of those five — assuming they don’t have their eyes on someone else — when they pick at No. 35 on Friday.
Baltimore discussed the possibility of trading up for a couple players, but the price proved too costly, according to Newsome. One of the Ravens’ top targets, Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower, was selected by the New England Patriots with the 25th overall pick after a trade with Denver.
“You can’t control what’s going to happen, and as long as I’m here, hopefully I’m picking 29, 30, 31, or 32,” Newsome said. “Then, when you watch the board come off the way it did today, to have the ability to go back and acquire another player and still get a player that you probably would have taken at your [original] pick is good business for us.”
The Ravens now have nine total picks in the final two days of the draft, including two in the second, fourth, and fifth rounds.
In 2010, Newsome traded the 25th overall pick to Denver in exchange for three draft picks that were used on linebacker Sergio Kindle and tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta. The Broncos used the first-round selection on quarterback Tim Tebow, who is now with the New York Jets.
The second and third rounds of the draft will be held on Friday night, beginning at 7 p.m.
Analysis: There are a couple basic ways of viewing the Ravens’ decision to move out of the first round. On one hand, director of player personnel Eric DeCosta described this as a “depth draft” earlier this month and the Ravens clearly haves several needs, both for 2012 and over the next few seasons. The trade adds a second fourth-round pick to the equation and another lottery ticket to hit in the middle rounds as Newsome did with Dickson and Pitta following the 2010 trade.
The five names mentioned about were all considered legitimate possibilities for the Ravens at the 29th pick, meaning they would get good value for any of those selections.
On the other hand, the skeptics can say Newsome and the front office didn’t think highly enough of any of the aforementioned names to fear the possibility of losing them, meaning they’re not really getting a “great” player. If you subscribe to the idea that the Ravens coveted Hightower or one of the other pass rushers such as Whitney Mercilus of Illinois, it’s fair to say they failed to secure one of “their guys” when they really wanted them.
As is always the case with the draft, we simply won’t know until all the picks are in and these players take the field for the 2012 season and beyond.