Ravens' draft: More compelling than Royal Wedding

May 01, 2011|By Peter Schmuck

Who would have thought as the Ravens hunkered down for the 2011 NFL draft Thursday night that the long weekend at The Castle in Owings Mills would feature more interpersonal subplots and political intrigue than the royal wedding?

It's not often that the highly choreographed first round devolves into a mini-feud between two teams over telephone etiquette, and it's certainly not often that Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti gets so worked up about something that he dials up a Baltimore Sun reporter in the wee hours to publicly vent his frustration over the way the Chicago Bears accidentally reneged on a deal that would have given the Ravens one more draft choice.

I'm sure there were some tense moments for William and Kate on Friday, too, but both of them were able to turn in their vows on time.

The trade snafu didn't end up changing the outcome of the first round for either the Ravens or the Bears, but it may have altered their future trading relationship and it certainly got the Ravens' draft off to a rollicking start. It would only get more interesting as the weekend wore on.

The Ravens, after the clock ran out on the 26th pick, still drafted highly talented Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, who might have been a top10 pick if not for a few youthful indiscretions. The choice was controversial partly because general manager Ozzie Newsome had made the risky decision to use his first pick on linebacker Sergio Kindle last year and things turned out badly, at least over the short term.

Smith raised some eyebrows with his wardrobe choice on draft night -- a "Scarface" T-shirt -- but he showed up at the Ravens facility on Saturday looking like a Wall Street banker and made a great second impression during the introductory media conference for him and second-round pick Torrey Smith.

The news conference went very well and even included a bit of comic relief when both players revealed that their legal names are James Smith, which will be a break for Torrey if they ever get their paychecks mixed up.

(This is where I was going to include a birth certificate joke, but they were all used up at Saturday night's White House Correspondents Dinner.)

Jimmy Smith already had convinced the Ravens brass during interviews at the NFL Combine and in a pre-draft visit to the Ravens facility that his behavioral issues are well behind him, and he said all the right things during the news conference and some small-group conversations with the media Saturday. He seemed earnest and committed to validating the Ravens' confidence in his character.

Meanwhile, the front office was gearing up for the final day of the draft, during which the Ravens did another curious thing. They drafted Indiana wide receiver Tandon Doss at least partly based on the recommendation of quarterback Joe Flacco.

Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta had given Flacco a list of middle-round receivers to evaluate before the NFL lockout cut off communication between team officials and players. Flacco liked Doss and the Ravens picked him in the fourth round, which may or may not have been a not-so-subtle attempt to show Joe Cool that his opinion really is respected within the organization after he strongly disagreed with the decision to fire quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn.

Doss makes a lot of sense, especially in juxtaposition to Torrey Smith. He's an inside guy who finds ways to get open while Smith has the speed and explosiveness to stretch the field. Both are solid young men who have had to grow up in a hurry in difficult family circumstances.

In spite of all the intrigue, the Ravens came out of the draft with several important needs addressed and a much clearer picture of what they will need to do when the lockout ends and the free agent signing period begins. They did pick up defensive end Pernell McPhee with their second pick of the fifth round, but -- depending on Kindle's uncertain status -- may be in the market for more pass-rush help.

The Ravens also added more depth in the defensive backfield when they used a fifth-round pick to draft cornerback Chykie Brown – who, in another odd draft weekend twist, was Kindle's roommate at the University of Texas. Newsome apparently felt the need to stock up on corners with the free agent status of several Ravens veterans tied to the on-going labor dispute.

Of course, who knows when the NFL will be back on a normal labor footing. The on-again, off-again, on-again lockout even took center stage during the draft when the Eighth Circuit Court in St. Louis -- in a 2-1 decision -- granted a stay that allowed the NFL to reimpose it Friday.

Fortunately for the NFL owners, none of those judges were invited to the Royal Wedding.


Listen to Peter Schmuck on "The Week in Review" on Friday's at noon on WBAL (1090AM) and WBAL.com

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