Over the course of the last 4 days or so, it seems that we’ve beaten up and dissected every match-up, angle and storyline that could decide Sunday’s outcome between the Ravens and Patriots. To some degree though, the game has already been won or lost, in the draft rooms of the respective wizards at the helms of these two clubs New England Head Coach Bill Belichick and Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome.
Their draft histories are both highly respected and incestuously intertwined. It was, after all, the Ravens (then Browns) front office that cut Belichick loose from his first head coaching post, and Belichick’s first round pick in 2003 that the Ravens acquired to get Kyle Boller. In return the Patriots got a pair of picks from Baltimore, one of which they used to select defensive stalwart Vincent Wilfork and the other which in a roundabout way led them to the pick that they used to acquire Asante Samuel. Add to that the Ravens decision to let go of Adalius Thomas before the 2007 season and Patriots subsequent acquisition of the linebacker and Ozzie and the Ravens had to be feeling as responsible as any party in football for the Patriots run at near perfection in the 2007 season.
Sunday’s match-up, no matter the outcome will absolutely serve as an early referendum on the 2010 drafts of both of these teams.
Despite their well-deserved draft prowess, both Ozzie and Belichick have plenty of picks and possibly entire drafts that they’d rather have back. In the Ravens case 2010 might be that draft.
In 2010 the Ravens traded out of their first round pick (25th overall) to the Broncos and current Patriots offensive coordinator in waiting Josh McDaniels who used the selection on Tim Tebow, the Patriots playoff opponent from last week. In return the Ravens got picks in the second round (43rd overall), third round (70th overall) and fourth round (114th overall) from Denver.
Patriots all-world tight end Rob Gronkowski was selected by New England 42nd overall, just one pick ahead of Baltimore who spent their 43rd pick on Sergio Kindle, a first round talent with the dreaded question marks that tend to scare NFL teams away and one who has failed to pay any dividends for the team in the two seasons since his acquisition.
With the 70th pick, the Ravens took their own tight end Ed Dickson, a full 25 picks before Jimmy Graham went off the board to the Saints at #95. The Ravens also traded out of their own second round pick at 88th overall, still 7 spots ahead of the Graham selection and 5 spots ahead of the Chiefs selection of Tony Moeaki.