Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome is a football immortal. He is a Hall of Fame tight end and a drafting genius. As a 6'2", 232 pound tight end from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, he starred with the Cleveland Browns.
He caught 662 passes for 7980 yards and scored 47 touchdowns in 13 seasons, all with the Browns. In 1981, he had 1,002 receiving yards, which is exceptional for a tight end as it is—but even more impressive for his era. As one of the top executives in recent history, he has drafted many stars.
His first two picks were slam dunk Hall of Famers in 1996, when he got left tackle Jonathan Ogden with the fourth overall pick and linebacker Ray Lewis with the 26th overall.
Throughout the years, Newsome has drafted some players who have had brilliant careers such as Peter Boulware, Jamal Lewis, Adalius Thomas, Ed Reed, Todd Heap, Chris McAlister, Jamie Sharper, Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson. 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 were good drafts for Newsome, as he picked up Mark Clayton, Haloti Ngata, Le'Ron McClain, Joe Flacco, and Ray Rice.
But the draft picks you don't hear about: the offensive lineman Newsome has drafted in the last few seasons. In 2005, he drafted the center of the future, North Carolina Tar Heel Jason Brown. In 2006, "The Wizard Of Oz" used his supplemental pick on the left tackle of the future, Maryland Terrapin Jared Gaither. In 2007, the Ravens used their first round pick on Auburn Tiger Ben Grubbs. All three are starting and are a key component to the future of what the Ravens do offensively.
Jason Brown, a 6'3", 320 pound center, is 25 years old and one of the best young lineman. For two seasons, he has been snubbed of Pro Bowl appearances because of popularity. But don't take my word for it.
Last year, SI expert Paul Zimmerman (or as we know him, Dr. Z) put Brown on his All-Pro team. I'll let Dr. Z take it away: "A sleeper, Brown of the Ravens, ran away with my other position. A different type. He's a 6-3, 320-pound bowling ball, and when he hits 'em, they fly. If I needed any convincing at all on him, and I really didn't, it came against the Patriots, when he just about put a hole in Richard Seymour's chest."
Jared Gaither is a monster. A beast whose size barely allows me to think he's human. At 6'9", 330 pounds, most Ravens fans are drawing comparisons from Gaither to retired tackle Jonathan Ogden.
Will he ever amount to what Ogden amounted to for the Ravens? The Pro Bowl Appearances? The All Pro Teams? I doubt it.
But he is the left tackle of the future. He is a dominating presence and started 15 of 16 games this year and started two games in 2007. He provided consistency throughout the season and was a promising fill in for "J.O."
In the AFC Championship Game, Gaither would go against Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison. Gaither limited the star rather well, as Harrison racked up just five tackles and no sacks.
In 2007, rookie Ben Grubbs had a surprisingly good season. Drafted late in the first round by the Ravens, he started 12 games for the 5-11 squad after coming in late in the game for the first four ballgames.
Grubbs, 6'3", 315 pounds, is another huge presence on a big Ravens line that is, because of Newsome's inner drafting genius, becoming one of the brightest young O-lines in the league. In a week five matchup, Grubbs held one of the scariest defensive tackles in the league in check: Albert Haynesworth.
At 6'6", 320 pounds, Haynesworth is a scary man to face. In his first four games, he had 15 tackles and five sacks, an incredible amount for a tackle. When faced with Grubbs, he had just five solo tackles and no sacks. When he faced Grubbs again in the Divisional Playoffs, he had just two tackles and again—no sacks.
The Ravens have a very bright offensive line, and few know it. In the playoffs, quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked just three times in three games, which is incredible considering the Ravens boast a line in which everyone is 26 years old—or under.
Also, they faced the likes of Miami, Tennessee, and Pittsburgh, who boast Defensive Player of the Year candidates in Joey Porter, Albert Haynesworth, and the winner in James Harrison. Ozzie Newsome is building a team for the future and it starts with the offensive line and the blueprint has been laid out.
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