Baltimore Ravens look for difference-maker in NFL draft

The Associated Press
  • The Baltimore Ravens have the sixth overall pick in the NFL draft.
  • Baltimore is coming off a disappointing 5-11 record in 2015.
  • A pass rusher, a cornerback and a left tackle appear to be priorities with the No. 6 pick.

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens addressed several needs during the offseason by delving deep into the free agent market.

General manager Ozzie Newsome has now turned his attention toward the next phase in the rebuilding process: the NFL draft.

Newsome, assistant GM Eric DeCosta and the team's scouting department intend to get a difference-maker on April 28 with the sixth overall pick. There's much work to be done between now and then, including interviews with potential first and second-round selections.

"We've still got about 30 visits coming in," Newsome said Tuesday. "Then our scouts will be in on Sunday and we'll grind through the board with the scouts and coaches. By the time we get to next Friday, we'll probably be about 85 or 90 percent prepared. Then we'll have a couple more meetings and we'll be ready."

This is a unique offseason for the Ravens, a perennial contender that skidded to 5-11 in 2015. After reworking the contract of quarterback Joe Flacco to free up salary cap space, Newsome signed three notable free agents: tight end Benjamin Watson, safety Eric Weddle and wide receiver Mike Wallace.

"Anytime you can improve your football team before you get to the draft, it puts you in a better position to make better decisions," Newsome said.

Mike Wallace (11), seen here last year playing for the Minnesota Vikings, has signed a two-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens.

Before last season, the Ravens reached the playoffs in six of seven years. Newsome ended up drafting deep in each round, and several of those selections simply didn't pan out.

"If you at these drafts compared to '96 to 2004, I would say they didn't measure up," Newsome acknowledged. "But during that time, early on, when you're picking in the top 10 of the draft, you have a chance to be a lot more successful than when you're picking from 20 to 32.

"Unfortunately, we lost 11 games and now we're in the top 10 again. But I would say it was not up to my standards when you compare to what we did early on."

A pass rusher, a cornerback and a left tackle appear to be priorities with the No. 6 pick. But Newsome will likely stick to his philosophy and take the most talented player, regardless of position.

Or he just might make a trade.

"Before we pick, we'll have six players graded," Newsome said. "If the phone rings or doesn't ring, we'll be prepared to pick. Will we be open to listen? Yes. But you have to be prepared to pick, and we will be prepared to pick at No. 6."

The last time the Ravens had a top 10 pick, they snagged Terrell Suggs in 2003. They can only hope for similar success this time around.

"We're at a position at 6 where we think we're going to get a very, very good player," DeCosta said. "There are four or five guys on the defensive side we would feel comfortable taking."

PRESTON: Ravens are stuck with Suggs