Ravens score a few points on offense

April 16, 2000|By KEN ROSENTHAL

A running back. A wide receiver. A quarterback.

April 15, 2000, might be remembered in Baltimore not just for Cal Ripken's 3,000th hit, but also as the day the Ravens hit the jackpot.

After drafting running back Jamal Lewis at No. 5 and wide receiver Travis Taylor at No. 10, the Ravens grabbed a potential quarterback of the future -- Louisville's Chris Redman -- in the third round.

Lewis, Taylor and free-agent tight end Shannon Sharpe give coach Brian Billick three exciting new toys on offense.

Redman, incumbent Tony Banks and backup Trent Dilfer give the coach three quarterbacks under 30, and alternate solutions in the event of ineffectiveness or injury.

All things considered, the Ravens probably couldn't have asked for more.

Less than 24 hours before the NFL draft, Ravens owner Art Modell said that selecting Lewis at No. 5 would be "a stretch."

But the more the Ravens studied their mock drafts, the more they realized that by drafting Lewis at five yesterday, they likely would get wide receiver Travis Taylor at 10.

So, rather than outsmart themselves by trading down, they got the two players they wanted, only in the reverse order that most draft analysts would have predicted.

Goodbye, trash heap.

Hello, $25 million in signing bonuses -- the likely cost for two No. 1 picks and a new deal for offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden.

The Ravens still play in the same division as Jacksonville and Tennessee. They suddenly must contend with Peter Warrick in Cincinnati and Plaxico Burress in Pittsburgh.

But with his mission accomplished, vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome joked, "I'm going to turn this over to the owner so he can put the pressure on the head coach."

Modell immediately responded to Newsome's challenge, proclaiming that "anything short" of the playoffs would be a disappointment.

"How long is my contract?" Billick asked.

"Look at it carefully this afternoon," Modell deadpanned.

Oh, there were smiles all around at the Ravens' training complex yesterday. Even though they traded away their second-round pick, they might have gotten a bargain with Redman at 75th overall.

Redman isn't mobile. He took a horrific beating at Louisville. But he throws well, possesses the toughness of Phil Simms and could thrive under Billick's long-term tutelage.

If Lewis indeed proves the combination of speed and power that team officials envision, the 2000 draft could go down as a terrific coup.

If Lewis is a bust, the entire plan was flawed to begin with.

The Ravens' refusal to trade down -- and willingness to pay two top-10 picks -- indicates that Modell is gearing up for a Super Bowl push before minority owner Steve Bisciotti gains the right to purchase total control in 2004.

That said, these things are never as simple as they appear.

Phil Savage, the Ravens' director of college scouting, said the team had "every intention" of trading down from No. 5 after acquiring the No. 10 choice from Denver. But as it turned out, Newsome never received a substantial enough offer.

Once the Ravens signed defensive tackle Sam Adams, they no longer needed to consider Corey Simon. And once they rejected a final offer from Green Bay while on the clock, they put their plan into effect, selecting Lewis.

As long as no trades were made, the Ravens projected that Simon would go to Philadelphia at six, running back Thomas Jones to Arizona at seven and Burress or quarterback Chad Pennington to Pittsburgh at eight.

The team that made them nervous was Chicago at nine.

The Bears had the potential to trade up or down. The Ravens feared that a team moving into Chicago's slot -- maybe the Eagles trading down from six, maybe the Jets trading up from 12 -- would grab Taylor.

Savage knew the Bears wanted linebacker Brian Urlacher. And Urlacher likely would have been available at 12 with the Ravens picking at 10 and the New York Giants planning to take running back Ron Dayne at 11.

"That was the sweat for me," Savage said.

The backup plan to Taylor at 10 was tight end Bubba Franks, but the Ravens would have had difficulty justifying such a move after signing Sharpe.

At that point, they might have regretted not staying with their original picks at five, 15 and 45 -- or drafting Taylor at five and using the 10th pick to trade for Corey Dillon.

Still, Billick said he would have been comfortable with Franks. If nothing else, the Ravens could have presented a formidable two tight-end set.

The issue never came to pass, but the question now is whether Lewis and Taylor will make a greater impact than the Ravens would have received from one of them, the No. 15 choice and a second-round pick.

Newsome said that the quality of player dropped off between 10 and 15. He also said that teams "take a flyer" in the second round, and noted that Patrick Johnson, Jamie Sharper, DeRon Jenkins took longer to develop than first-round picks.

Again, it all hinges on Lewis.

If he develops into a star, no one will remember that the Ravens sacrificed their second-rounder. But if he is unable to regain the elusiveness he displayed before undergoing knee surgery in 1998, the mistake could haunt the franchise for a decade.

For now, the Ravens deserve the benefit of the doubt. They selected the first-rounders they wanted, just as they did in their previous four drafts. Then they took Redman, who some believed would go in the second round.

All in one day. All on April 15, 2000.

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