Work in Sports
The fifth element
Ravens holding all the cards with draft's No. 5 pick
Posted: Friday April 14, 2000 08:10 AM
By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
After dealing their No. 15 pick (and a second-round draft choice) to the Denver Broncos on Wednesday for the 10th selection in the first round of the NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens still hold the No. 5 overall pick.
But the Ravens are expected to shop that pick in trade talks by the time the draft opens in New York City at noon on Saturday.
The Ravens, it is believed, would like to make two picks in the 10 to 18 range of the first round.
With the fifth pick in what is considered a collegiate talent pool that goes four deep in premier players, the Ravens sit in the most interesting and potentially eventful position.
Finishing just out of the money in the Courtney Brown, LaVar Arrington, Chris Samuels and Peter Warrick sweepstakes, the Ravens rule the roost in terms of where the real action begins.
"There's going to be some rocking and rolling and the numbers are flying everywhere with this situation," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Don't write your draft order and who's going to get what in ink."
Baltimore is looking to acquire a running back or a wide receiver with its two first-round selections, but the Ravens believe they can fill both of those spots by selecting players who will fall to the middle of the first round. Or by concluding ongoing trade talks by dealing one of those picks for the proven but disgruntled Cincinnati Bengals running back Corey Dillon.
By trading down out of the five spot, the Ravens would save money, too. They would get the players they are looking for and avoid overspending at either receiver or running back, because they're confident that both of their top choices likely would be available at a slightly lower and more affordable draft slot.
The Ravens' thinking? Why pay a player $8 million in the No. 5 spot when you probably could get the same guy at No. 10 and pay him about half that?
While the potential for smokescreen is at its heaviest this week, Baltimore is believed to have its eyes set on Florida receiver Travis Taylor and Tennessee running back Jamal Lewis. Baltimore is also high on Jackson State receiver Sylvester Morris as a fallback in case Taylor is gone.
Thus, Baltimore's calculated two-step depends on its confidence in its backup choices, as well as on whether any team is willing to pay the necessary price for the Ravens' No. 5 selection.
If not, the Ravens are prepared to select Florida State defensive tackle Corey Simon with that pick. If the team chooses Simon, it would be filling a need created by the possible suspension of Ravens defensive tackle Larry Webster, who has reportedly failed a league drug test. The Ravens are also bringing in Seattle's free-agent defensive tackle Sam Adams for a visit on Thursday.
"We're in an interesting spot," Billick said. "Because from No. 5 on, people can pretty much take need, rather than the best athlete available. The athletes are in such a jumble starting with No. 5 that there's no dominant player from five to 15.
"Last year you knew what was going to happen the first 10 picks, until Minnesota took Daunte Culpepper at 11. In this draft, you can kind of address need and not get beat up for it."
The Ravens have no plans to select Virginia running back Thomas Jones, Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington or New Mexico linebacker Brian Urlacher with their No. 5 pick, but are expecting teams who have targeted those players to be in contact about a possible trade.
The Ravens, who are convinced they can get their top choice -- probably Taylor -- at 10, want to come out of the first round with a running back and a receiver to show for their two No. 1's.
The team continues to furiously shop its No. 5 pick to the highest bidder, with the goal of amassing as many picks as possible without falling below the No. 18 pick.
The New York Jets, with their gaudy array of four No. 1 picks, might be the most willing candidate to assemble a package for the Ravens' No. 5 spot. In addition to the Jets, Green Bay, which has the 14th choice, may be Baltimore's other prime target in those trade talks. Both teams might have their eye on the same prize at No. 5: Simon.
It would probably cost the Jets two of their first-rounders, say No's. 18 and 27, or a first, second and third-round package to land the Ravens' No. 5 slot. The Packers, who don't have multiple No. 1s but do own a league-high tying 14 picks (Cleveland also has 14), would probably have to toss in a second and fourth rounder.
Another key trade scenario involves Baltimore and Cincinnati's Dillon, who the Ravens considered signing to a restricted offer sheet. Baltimore's draft-day plans could hinge on a deal for Dillon, thereby filling the team's need for a running back.
Bengals President Mike Brown has been in contact with Baltimore's Director of Player Personnel Ozzie Newsome, and potential trade talks have restarted. Brown is more willing to listen to the Ravens after Dillon made it known this week that he plans on sitting out the season's first 10 games, then playing the final six in order to earn his unrestricted free agency next spring.
If they can trade their five pick for a lower first-round choice and a package of other picks, the Ravens believe they can not only take Taylor at No. 10 , but still potentially trade for Dilllon with their lower first-round pick. While the groundwork for that trade would have been completed earlier, the deal would likely not be executed until after the Ravens make their selection at No. 10.
Since this year's draft is deep in running backs and receivers, one league source calls the Ravens lucky. "There's a lot of latitude in this draft," the source said.