Ravens hope one plus one will add up

April 18, 1999|By Ken Rosenthal

The last time the Ravens had two first-round picks in the same draft, they landed Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis. So, they didn't necessarily blow it yesterday by trading their second-round selection to Atlanta yesterday for a No. 1 choice next year.

There's ample precedent to justify the move. And there is ample reason to question it.

How valuable are two No. 1s?

Look how the Redskins parlayed them, acquiring quarterback Brad Johnson and eight picks from New Orleans, then using the picks to trade up for cornerback Champ Bailey, and trade up again in the second round while still retaining three No. 1s in 2000.

Look what Jacksonville did with two No. 1s last year, acquiring running back Fred Taylor and safety Donovin Darius. And look what happened two years ago, when the Ravens rejected a trade with San Diego comparable to the one they completed yesterday with Atlanta.

The Ravens chose incon sistent linebacker Jamie Sharper with their second-round selection in '97. The Chargers finished 4-12 the following year, wound up with the No. 3 pick and traded up to No. 2 for quarterback Ryan Leaf.

Never mind that Leaf had an awful rookie season. Never mind that Atlanta's first-rounder next year probably won't be as high as the third overall pick.

The Ravens are now in position to make some noise.

The problem is, they never take their hands off the mute button.

Just once, let's see them do something bold. Just once, let's see them shock the NFL. Just once, let's see them electrify the city.

They sure didn't yesterday, failing to add a collegian to the league's 26th-ranked offense when they held the 10th and 42nd overall picks in their first draft under a new offensive-minded head coach.

Oh, the Ravens hit another first-round winner, selecting Arizona cornerback Chris McAlister. They acquired St. Louis quarterback Tony Banks for their fifth-round choice and their seventh-rounder next year. And maybe the deal with Atlanta will turn out to be the best thing they've ever done, considering they weren't playoff-bound, anyway.

Banks, Scott Mitchell, Charles Evans, Harry Swayne, the cast of thousands at tight end -- it's not as if the Ravens have stood pat on offense. Still, it's not as if they've made dramatic improvement at the skill positions, either.

If they're so concerned about the future, why didn't they just draft quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who went to the Minnesota Vikings at No. 11?

The Ravens are only slightly better at quarterback. They've still got the AFC Central's fifth-best running back. And they still lack a big receiver to complement Jermaine Lewis.

Vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome said the additional No. 1 pick will give the Ravens "juice" for next year's draft, and perhaps even help them swing a deal that would benefit the club this season.

The Ravens don't lack for juice. They've got PSL juice. They've got PSINet juice. And they've got salary-cap juice after trading their second- and third-round picks.

Now, who are they going to put on the field next year?

Perhaps the Ravens will pluck the receiver they need from the June 1 scrap heap. Perhaps the players available at No. 42 yesterday were indeed incapable of improving a 6-10 team.

Still, Newsome said that seven teams expressed interest in the Ravens' second-rounder. Three of them -- Atlanta, Denver and Minnesota -- appeared in conference championship games last season.

Such teams were in better position to target one player than the Ravens, a franchise with multiple needs. And Newsome said the players the Ravens rated highly enough to draft at No. 42 were either gone or poor fits.

"It would have been easy to draft," Newsome said. "But if that player doesn't come in and contribute the way a second-round pick should contribute, why take him?"

Newsome experienced such disappointment with second-rounders Sharper and Deron Jenkins, for whom he traded three picks. If Jenkins had become a starter, the Ravens wouldn't have needed to take cornerbacks with the No. 10 pick two straight years.

Newsome said the Ravens could have traded down to a position later in the second round and added a late third-rounder to recoup the pick they traded for Mitchell. He also tried to acquire Atlanta's third-rounder, offering to exchange fourth-round positions. But clearly, he felt that a No. 1 next year held more value.

Only time will tell if he erred by declining the chance to pick running back Kevin Faulk (No. 46, New England), receiver Peerless Price (No. 53, Buffalo) and quarterbacks Shaun King (No. 50, Tampa Bay) and Brock Huard (No. 77, Seattle), among others.

The Ravens can explore numerous options with their two first-rounders in 2000. They can trade their second-rounder for more immediate help. They can even ponder a trade for Cincinnati receiver Carl Pickens, a franchise player demanding huge dollars -- the kind the Ravens rarely spend.

It's far too early to condemn them for drafting only one player yesterday, particularly when that one player might be a Pro Bowler, and so might the additional No. 1.

They've got juice.

One year from now, they had better bear fruit.

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