The Ravens are on the short list of the best teams in the NFL over the last four years, and a good part of that is because general manager Ozzie Newsome is on the short list of the best war room generals in the league.
He painted another masterpiece this year. Let's take a closer look at his brush strokes:
Newsome can see the future
After all, why else would he take a pass-rusher with the team's first pick a mere week before their premier sack artist, Terrell Suggs, tears his Achilles? How did he know to spend a third-round pick on a running back during the offseason that has now seen stud running back Ray Rice's holdout stretch into the summer?
OK, maybe it was just the team's need at outside linebacker after Jarret Johnson left and the need at running back after Ricky Williams retired. Still, Newsome's skill of anticipation has to be commended.
Courtney Upshaw will help replace some of the punch lost during Suggs' likely prolonged absence, and he was one of the best values of the draft in a fall that screams teams over-thinking a la Michael Oher's fall in 2009.
Newsome also addressed the departure of Ben Grubbs in free agency and the aging of center Matt Birk with the value picks of Kelechi Osemele in the second round and Gino Gradkowski in the third.
Newsome doesn't have a crystal ball, but he does have a knack for addressing needs while staying true to his board.
The Ravens love small-school defensive backs
And why shouldn't they after how good Lardarius Webb turned out? Fourth-round safety Christian Thompson out of South Carolina State ran a 4.46 at 6'0", 211 pounds during the combine. Fifth-round cornerback Asa Jackson from Cal Poly is an explosive return man, like Webb.
It bears noting that Gradkowski was also a small-school pick from the same college (Delaware) as the Ravens' other huge small-school success story, Joe Flacco.
Newsome is still the master of the first-round trade
2012 made five straight years that Newsome has either traded up or traded down in the first round (both in 2008), if you count last year's deal with Chicago that the Bears never phoned into the league.
They got a player at No. 35 in Courtney Upshaw who was already a value at No. 29 and a perfect fit for their aggressive defense, while adding the pick later used to take Gradkowski.
Newsome takes risks, but doesn't bet big stakes
Sure, Upshaw has a character risk stemming from a domestic violence incident in college and Osemele is making a switch from tackle to guard, but they are both safe players with a long track record and high floor on the field.
The biggest risk of the Ravens' draft class was Tommy Streeter, a sixth-round receiver who is a discount version of Jets second-round size/speed receiver Stephen Hill. Newsome took a risk when the payout was big and the price was low.
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