Dealing picks to move up could be in Ravens' cards

It's a first-round option if a coveted player slips

NFL Draft

Saturday-Sunday * TV: ESPN, ESPN2 * Ravens' first pick 22nd

April 21, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

If the Ravens give up their first- and second-round picks, they could jump up nine spots to No. 13. If they part with their first- and third-rounders, they could move to No. 17.

That's according to the Jimmy Johnson chart, a grading system used throughout the NFL that assigns a point value for every draft pick. Named after the wheeling-and-dealing former Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins coach, it helps teams gauge whether trading multiple lower choices for one higher pick is equitable or not.

But when it comes to draft day, dealing picks is truly a calculation of desire rather than numbers.

"You can look at the charts and get an approximation of what a move is worth," said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of college scouting. "But ultimately, what really matters is, how badly do you want to make the move?"

That's a question the Ravens might be asking themselves Saturday.

If Southern California receiver Mike Williams or West Virginia cornerback Adam Jones slips into the middle of the first round, the Ravens might have to consider making a move. Another scenario would be to inch up in the first round to select Oklahoma offensive tackle Jammal Brown before the St. Louis Rams have a shot at him at No. 19.

Based on the Johnson chart, the Ravens' 22nd overall pick (780 points) and 53rd (370) would equate to the No. 13 spot, which is held by the Houston Texans. The Ravens' selections in the first and third rounds (170 points) would be the same value as the Cincinnati Bengals' No. 17 overall pick.

"Whether or not the chart says it's fair, the team that is trying to make the move is doing it for a player, and they're always going to overpay," DeCosta said. "That's always going to figure in, and it's going to cost you."

Sometimes it takes an additional lower-round pick to seal the deal.

"Anytime you give up picks to go get a certain player, it's a scary thing, especially for the Ravens because we've done so well picking players," DeCosta said. "To say we'll throw a sixth-round pick in there, that might be Chester Taylor or Adalius Thomas. You better make sure the guy you get is the guy you want and plays like that."

Even when all the haggling of a deal is done, it's still not final. The Ravens learned that in 2003, when they wanted quarterback Byron Leftwich and worked the phones with Minnesota to acquire the Vikings' pick.

With about 1 minute, 20 seconds left on the Vikings' clock, the Ravens had trouble getting through to Minnesota because the Jacksonville Jaguars, who had the next pick, were calling the Vikings just to tie up the lines. Once the Ravens and Minnesota agreed on a trade, neither could reach the league office before time had expired to make the pick.

"There is definitely some gamesmanship involved," DeCosta said.

Whether it's gamesmanship or not, several teams drafting in the top half of the first round have talked about trading down because this draft is deep but lacks elite players. If that's the case, teams near the bottom of the first round, like the Ravens, could have ample opportunity to leap forward.

"There's always the speculation of what's going to happen on draft day," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "This might end up being like the '98 draft, where there was some smoke going on about people making trades, and once the draft started, nobody got any phone calls and everyone had to pick. That could happen."

The Ravens have been among those teams suggesting it could be more beneficial to fall back and acquire more picks than to stay at their first-round spot.

Before the draft, the Ravens set a plan on what it would take for them to move down, splitting prospects into three groups.

For instance, they might have decided to take anyone in their top 12 with the 22nd overall pick. If anyone in the second level, perhaps the next five, is still available, the Ravens would prefer to move back but would be content on making the pick. But if no one drops, the Ravens then would try hard to get out of that spot.

"Where you get into trouble is when you can't make the pick," DeCosta said. "Then you feel like you really have to make the trade, and usually teams get fleeced in that situation."

NOTE: The Ravens have added their second former Maryland high school player in a week, agreeing on a one-year deal yesterday with veteran backup linebacker Jim Nelson. A graduate of McDonough High School in Charles County, Nelson has played seven years for Green Bay, Minnesota and Indianapolis. The Ravens recently signed former Dunbar standout Tommy Polley to a one-year, $800,000 contract to be their starting outside linebacker.

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