Ozzie Newsome will complete a terrific run as the Ravens’ general manager after the 2018 season, handing over the reins to chief lieutenant Eric DeCosta in an orderly transition for the two-time Super Bowl champions. But before departing, the Hall of Fame tight end did some extraordinary work in his final NFL Draft.
Newsome started off by filling a major need at No. 25 overall with South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst, a player who can be a reliable mid-range target for an offense in need of all the playmakers it can get. But what came next might impact the franchise for years to come.
With Joe Flacco still not playing at the level he was at in winning the team’s second Super Bowl championship after the 2012 season, Newsome traded up into the final pick of the first round on Thursday night and selected Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.
At the very least, it will provide competition and perhaps some additional motivation for Flacco, who returned last year from a torn ACL. Best-case scenario: Jackson, a versatile quarterback who has been likened to former Falcons and Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, can eventually become the Ravens’ long-term starter.
Newsome wasn’t done.
With the team needing help at tackle, Newsome was rewarded for his patience in the third round when Oklahoma’s Orlando Brown Jr. was there. Brown had been considered one of this draft’s top tackles immediately after the season, but his stock plummeted after a miserable performance at the scouting combine. His fall was a godsend for Newsome, who took Brown with the 83rd overall pick.
It was a circle-of-life moment for Newsome, who was a Browns’ front-office executive in 1993 when Cleveland signed Brown’s father — Orlando “Zeus” Brown — as an undrafted free agent. Brown, who died in 2011 from complications due to diabetes, was accidentally hit by a penalty flag in 1999 and missed three seasons after initially being blinded.
Brown’s son wrote a letter to Newsome before the draft, asking that the Ravens select him.
“I’m so incredibly blessed to have this opportunity,” Brown said.
Some other noteworthy developments from the draft:
• Credit the Cardinals for moving up from No. 15 to No. 10 to take UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, arguably the best pure passer in this year’s draft. The Cardinals signed Vikings free agent Sam Bradford, as well as former Bucs and Bears quarterback Mike Glennon, earlier in the off-season. But with a chance to get a franchise quarterback as a more permanent replacement for recently retired Carson Palmers, GM Steve Keim was smart to make a move to get Rosen.
• It will be fascinating to see whether Baker Mayfield has what it takes to win at the NFL level. We’ve seen plenty of talented college quarterbacks — even Heisman Trophy winners — bomb in the NFL, but the Browns are convinced Mayfield can be the answer. I remain skeptical about a quarterback who isn’t even 6-1, who dances too much in the pocket, and who has a hair-trigger temper. But if he can do for the Browns what no quarterback has done for them since the days of Bernie Kosar, I’ll stand corrected. Cleveland did well to take cornerback Denzel Ward at No. 4, and the selection of Georgia running back Nick Chubb in Round 2 was solid.
• It was a mixed bag for the “hometown team” of this year’s draft, which was staged at AT&T Stadium. Dallas got an excellent talent in Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch at 19 overall. But with longtime tight end Jason Witten headed for retirement, the Cowboys never got the chance to select his potential successor. Philadelphia moved ahead of the Cowboys at 49 overall to take South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert, leaving the Cowboys to draft Texas tackle/guard Connor Williams. Dallas did pull of a trade on Saturday to get former first-round wide receiver Tavon Austin from the Rams for little more than a ham-and-egg sandwich (a sixth-round pick). And the Cowboys also added third-round receiver Michael Gallup out of Colorado State, another move to make up for the release of veteran Dez Bryant.
• Broncos GM John Elway liked Mayfield a lot, and might have taken him at No. 5 overall. But with the Browns taking Mayfield first overall and then going cornerback at No. 4, it was a terrific move by Elway to take North Carolina State pass rusher Bradley Chubb. With Chubb on one side and Von Miller on the other, watch out.
• A very meh draft for the Lions, who get a quality center in Arkansas’ Frank Ragnow but not much else. They badly need a consistent running game and hope second-round tailback Kerryon Johnson of Auburn can help.
• Like what the Colts have done. With no need for a quarterback and the Jets trading up from No. 6, GM Chris Ballard wisely re-stocked an offensive line in desperate need of help. Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson one of the best prospects in the entire draft, and they also get Auburn guard Braden Smith at 37.
• As if the Jaguars’ defensive line isn’t good enough, VP of football operations Tom Coughlin took a page from the George Young/Ernie Accorsi school of drafting with the selection of first-round defensive lineman Taven Bryan of Florida. Coughlin himself benefited from a big supply of defensive linemen in his two Super Bowl titles as Giants’ coach.
• Plenty of misdirection from Bill Belichick in the run-up to the draft, and his two workouts of Lamar Jackson look more like smokescreens than legit interest. Belichick re-tooled the offensive line with Isaiah Wynn and also went with Georgia running back Sony Michel as his two first-round picks. Tom Brady’s replacement will have to wait. (Sorry, seventh-rounder Danny Etling of LSU is not their quarterback of the future.)
• The Saints got a terrific pass rusher in Marcus Davenport of UT-San Antonio, but it wasn’t without a heavy price. New Orleans gave up next year’s first-round pick to move up to get him.
• Good work by the Bucs, who traded out of the seventh spot but still landed highly-touted defensive tackle Vita Vea of Washington and then got uber-productive running back Ronald Jones of USC in the second round.