In Ozzie We Trust

April 20, 2009 | Tom Clayton

“In Ozzie We Trust” these words should be put on every Ravens ticket sold. While the Ravens front office has lost major contributors such as Phil Savage and George Kokinos one constant has remained; General Manager Ozzie Newsome. Ozzie’s many different mantras such as “Right Player, Right Price” and “Best Player Available” have turned the Ravens into one of the most successful franchises over the last 12 years. While Ozzie has done great work in so many areas no other area shows Ozzie’s true genius like the NFL Draft. Few teams draft as well as the Ravens and our first round picks show a team that uses the draft to its advantage. While other teams such as the Redskins and Cowboys toss around money like Tom Selleck at a gun show, the Ravens have built its team the right way through the NFL Draft. When you look objectively at the Ravens draft history how could you have anything but complete faith in Ozzie when it comes to the NFL Draft?

The excellent draft history began with the franchise’s first pick in 1996. With the fourth selection overall, many people inside the front office believed the Ravens had to make a big splash in the draft by taking a talented, but troubled running back out of Nebraska named Lawrence Phillips. But as we would see for years to come Ozzie stuck to his guns and drafted an offensive tackle from UCLA named Jonathan Ogden. J.O. would go on to play 12 seasons and be an 11 time Pro-Bowler while Lawrence Phillips ended his NFL career with just 1,453 yards and 14 touchdowns. In the same draft, with the 26th pick, Ozzie took an undersized linebacker out of “The U” named Ray Lewis. As everyone knows, “God’s Linebacker” has gone on to play in 10 Pro Bowls, win NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice and was named Super Bowl XLIII MVP.

The next year with the Ravens picking 4th overall Ozzie took Peter Boulware, a pass rushing Linebacker out of Florida State. Boulware went on to play in 4 Pro Bowls and is currently the Ravens all-time sack leader with 70. And with the 10th overall selection in the next two drafts, Ozzie locked up the team’s secondary by taking cornerbacks Duane Starks and Chris McAllister. These two players allowed the Ravens to play the attacking style of defense that is now the team’s trademark; both were also major contributors to the Raven’s Super Bowl victory.

In 2000 Ozzie took a big, bruising back out of the University of Tennessee named Jamal Lewis with the fifth overall pick. In his rookie year J-Lew rushed for 1,327 yards and helped lead an anemic Ravens offense to a Super Bowl victory. In his historic 2003 season, Lewis rushed for 2,066 yards leaving him just 39 yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record. Coming off a Super Bowl championship with the Ravens picking 31st overall Ozzie took a tight end out of Arizona State. Todd Heap remains the Ravens all-time reception leader with 374 in his 8 seasons with the Ravens.

In 2002 with 24th overall pick the Ravens took a ball hawking safety out of “The U”; Ed Reed would go on to be named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004. He has also made 5 Pro Bowls in his seven year career and is widely considered the best defensive playmaker in the NFL. During the 2003 draft the Ravens were high on quarterback Byron Leftwich but after Jacksonville selected him three picks ahead of the Ravens, the team used another one of Ozzie’s mantras: “Best player available”. The Ravens selected Defensive End Terrell Suggs out of Arizona State; Suggs would be named NFL Defensive Rookie of the year amassing 12 sacks and 1 interception. During the same draft Ozzie traded his 2004 first round pick to draft Kyle Boller with the 19th overall pick. The strong arm quarterback from California became one of the most antagonized and debated players in Ravens history until his exit to St. Louis this past off-season.

Over the past three seasons Ozzie and the Ravens have had solid drafts. In 2005 they took Mark Clayton, a wide receiver out of Oklahoma with the 22nd pick in the draft. While the jury is still out on Clayton, most would agree that he has been a far more productive player then other receivers taken ahead of him including Troy Williamson, Mike Williams, and Matt Jones. In 2006 after an off-season where Ray Lewis complained about not having any protection in front of him the Raven took Haloti Ngata with the 12th overall pick. Haloti came in and immediately paid dividends leading Ray Lewis to have some of his most productive seasons of his career behind the quiet 355 pound defensive lineman. After a 13-3 season and with the 29th pick rather than taking the 3rd best quarterback or 5th best Offensive Tackle the Ravens took Ben Grubbs the #1 rated guard in the 2007 draft.

In 2008 after years of watching Quarterbacks such as Chris Redman, Stoney Case, and Tony Banks line up under center, not only Ozzie, but the entire city of Baltimore knew the Ravens had to solidify the position. After a dismal 5-11 season the Ravens selected 8th overall and instead of trading up to get top prospect Matt Ryan, we traded the pick to Jacksonville and received four picks in return; including the 26th pick as well as two third round picks and a fourth. After getting a feeling teams were going to trade up and select Joe Flacco, the Ravens beat them all to the punch by trading up and selecting the strong armed quarterback out of Delaware with the 18th pick. Flacco did in his rookie season was lead his team to an 11-5 record and take them to the AFC Championship Game.

Going into the 2009 Draft a lot of people have asked me who I think the Ravens will select and my response is almost always the same “I don’t care”. I give this response not because I have no interest but because I trust Ozzie and company to make the right pick. Ozzie has many mantras but as a Ravens fan I live by one when it comes to the NFL Draft: “In Ozzie I Trust”.