Since moving to Baltimore in 1996, the Ravens' guiding draft philosophy has been "stay true to the board."
That philosophy has served Ozzie Newsome well, starting with his debut draft in which he bypassed trouble-prone running back Lawrence Phillips -- over then-owner Art Modell's objections -- to select future Hall of Famers Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis with his two first-round picks.
Two decades later, Newsome enjoys a rare level of job security as perhaps the NFL's most respected general manager. Lately, however, Newsome acknowledges the Ravens' drafts have slipped from the halcyon days when he and assistant general manager Eric DeCosta were plucking Pro Bowlers and All-Pros in the early rounds.
Although the Ravens picked up Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosely and promising defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan with the first two picks in the 2014 draft, his early picks in 2013 (safety Matt Elam, linebacker Arthur Brown) and 2015 (wide receiver Breshad Perriman, tight end Maxx Williams) have yet to yield impact production.
That said, the roster has been strong enough to win the Super Bowl in 2013 and earn postseason appearances in six of the past eight seasons.
While Newsome concedes recent draft classes "didn't measure up" to the star-studded bumper crops from 1996 to 2004, DeCosta is "proud" of the starters and role players that have contributed to Baltimore's success over the past decade.
"You should research this," DeCosta explained. "No team has had more money spent on their players over the last seven years than us. To me, that's an indication that other teams value our players."
DeCosta raises a salient point. The Ravens lose quality players to free agency in large part because the other 31 teams respect their ability to identify and develop young talent.