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Ravens hope to make the most of 12 picks in draft

April 23, 2013

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens intend to turn quantity into quality in the NFL draft.

Since winning the Super Bowl, the Ravens have undergone a dramatic transformation. Linebacker Ray Lewis and center Matt Birk retired, wide receiver Anquan Boldin was traded, and free safety Ed Reed, inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, sack specialist Paul Kruger and strong safety Bernard Pollard signed elsewhere or were released.

General manager Ozzie Newsome subsequently signed a handful of free agents, most notably linebacker Elvis Dumervil, safety Michael Huff and defensive tackle Marcus Spears.

Newsome hopes to fill out the roster this week by making the most of 12 draft picks — including four compensatory selections and the sixth-rounder obtained from San Francisco for Boldin. The compensatory picks, rewarded for players who defected as free agents, are all in the fourth round or later and cannot be traded.

But Newsome can do whatever he likes with the other eight selections.

“Having the additional picks allows you to move up, move back, to do some things if we feel the need to do it,” Newsome said.

Or, the Ravens can add a dozen players to the roster.

“I hope we had 15 picks,” assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. “You’ve got to make sure to approach the draft like every pick is the only pick you have. It’s easy when you have so many picks to just throw some away and deal and do all these different things. I want to make sure that each pick that we have is gold. It’s like a lottery ticket, a scratch-off ticket. You have to nail that pick.”

It doesn’t matter to Newsome that he’s got the final selection of the opening round. The last time that happened, he snagged tight end Todd Heap in 2001 even though future Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe was already on the roster.

That says a lot about Newsome, who almost always will pick the best player on the board — regardless of his position. Heap became a star with Baltimore and is one of many jewels plucked in the late rounds by Baltimore’s draft wizard.

Lewis was selected 26th overall in the 1996 draft, Reed was 24th overall in 2002, offensive tackle Michael Oher came in at No. 23 in 2009 and cornerback Jimmy Smith, one of many Baltimore heroes in the Super Bowl, was 27th overall in 2011.

The Ravens enter the draft needing help on the back end of the defense after losing Reed and Pollard. Newsome said the only sure thing about the draft is that the Ravens will get a safety. Baltimore also needs an offensive tackle, inside linebackers and someone to help Dumervil and Terrell Suggs (Baltimore’s first pick in 2003) rush the passer.

Newsome has spent the past three months shoring up a defense that struggled at times in 2012 and got even thinner through free agent defections, but that won’t influence his draft board.

“What we’ve done in the offseason thus far in free agency will have very little impact on how we have approached the draft, how we’ve stacked the board, and how we will take players off the board,” Newsome said. “We feel like if there are quality players on the defensive line, at linebacker or at safety, we feel like we still can add more of those players to our team.”

Sometimes, though, the best player on the board isn’t always the best pick.

“I think you always look at need,” DeCosta said. “We say best player available, but you have to factor need into the equation. If the best player available is a quarterback in the first round, we’re not going to take him. So you have to look at the best player available based on need.”

Assuming the Ravens don’t trade into the second round — as they did last year — there are several interesting possibilities. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o could be an option, although several mock drafts have him going before Baltimore picks at No. 32.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations with him,” DeCosta said. “I personally have a great comfort level with him. I think he’s a quality kid. I think he’s very, very intelligent. I think he’s a heck of a football player and I think he’s going to make some team extremely happy.”

There’s a good chance the Ravens could select inside linebacker Kevin Minter of LSU, or perhaps Florida free safety Matt Elam. It’s even more difficult to guess what will occur in the later rounds.

“I think there are players in every round that we like, that are slotted very well,” DeCosta said.

And that’s a good thing, because the Ravens have holes to fill.

“With some of the guys that we’re talking about that aren’t here and the transition of our football team,” coach John Harbaugh said, “it’s going to be very important to get the right guys.”

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