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Baltimore Ravens Team Store Pressbox

Ravens draft press conference 4/15/2000

Art Modell, Ozzie Newsome, Brian Billick and Phil Savage

Art Modell: I am going to let Ozzie start it off and then Phil and Brian. I will fill in any holes if there are any to be filled.

Ozzie Newsome: There is a lot of work that goes into this draft preparation. It is even tougher when you have the juniors who come out in January and you have to catch up on them to properly have guys rated on the board. We started the off-season with our press conference with Shannon Sharpe. Our main goal was to improve our skill positions on our offense. With the addition of Shannon Sharpe in free agency, Jamal Lewis, with the fifth pick and Travis Taylor at 10, the skill of our offense has been upgraded. We are in a position; hopefully, that will help us win games 10-6 instead of losing them 6-3. We have been dealing with that. We had Jamal in here three or four weeks ago. We gave him a physical. You have heard the stories about his medical condition. There were some concerns, but once Bill Tessendorf's medical staff was able to do the work that they did and he was cleared physically, he became a factor for us in the draft. Similarly, we brought Travis Taylor in, who is a very solid guy (married), who suffered through a high ankle sprain in his senior year. We brought him in and had the opportunity to sit down with him and we came away feeling that these were two guys that would definitely upgrade our football team. I am very proud to talk to you about having Jamal Lewis and Travis Taylor as our two picks in the year 2000.

Phil Savage: We are really excited about these two players. January 10th is the first time that you get to zero in and start to analyze juniors to see what they could do for your team. Across the board, every one of our scouts saw these two players, and there was no deviation from these two players. We were solid on both of them. We had good grades on both of them. Generally speaking, in our draft room, when one scout sees a player lower than another, you will see tendencies of a good player and bad player when that player hits the field. That was not the case at all with these two players. We were strong across the board with our staff on these two players.

Brian Billick: As I view this process after the season and watch the interaction between coaches, scouts and Ozzie, and after identifying our needs, I thought we would probably get one out of the three positions we needed (tight end, wide receiver, and running back.). My thinking was never that we would get all three. That is where my excitement comes from. These are two excellent young men and they are excellent players. They are young and there will be a transition for them. But I think at those positions the effects of that youth can be minimized. I think you will see their impact on the field very early.

Was there a temptation to move down in the draft?

Billick: We moved ourselves to 10 for a specific reason. We wanted this bracketing. We were prepared to move down based on the offers, but we weren't putting ourselves in a position where we had to go back and just take the best offer. It had to be a certain combination. Ozzie, Phil and their group did a great job of determining what that value was and we set the game plan and stuck to it. Nobody was willing to step up with what we wanted, so we were more than happy with making those two picks.

Ozzie, how many phone calls did you get?

: We did get a call for the 5th pick while we were on the clock.

Did that surprise you?

: No

Was Thomas Jones ever a consideration?

Savage: Thomas Jones was definitely apart of this process. Coming out of the fall he was considered the top back, before the juniors declared. I think when we broke it down, and in the final analysis of it, we felt Jamal was the bigger, stronger, powerful and more explosive player. Thomas Jones was right up there at the top of our draft board. I think we would have definitely considered him had an emergency happened and we got to 10 without a running back. He is a great player in his own right. Brian's word is explosion and we felt like Jamal brought a little bit more of that than Thomas Jones.

Ozzie, are these guys a little more "cable ready" because they are from big time conferences?

Ozzie: Yes, both of those guys have had the opportunity to play in front of big crowds, prepare themselves for national championship, been in big time programs and competed against other great athletes while in college. These guys will be ready to come in and compete at this level because they have competed with similar guys at their Universities.

Were you concerned that those guys would not be there?.

We always get nervous when we get involved in waiting for our pick to get there. But we were prepared. If Taylor would have went, we had another player we would have taken and we would have moved right on. We work the phones just like you guys do. We were in other war rooms right up until Brian Urlacher (LB) was picked


: It was interesting because there were a lot of teams without a first round pick. So we had a chance to talk to those teams and ask what their opinions were on certain players because they didn't have a chance to pick them. You get a chance to get a candid observation that has no biases to it. But, I can't make a decision based on what other teams think. Our scouts do a very good job. Our coaches are involved in this process. Ultimately, we base it on what we think and not what other teams think.

Why Lewis at 5 and Taylor at 10? You could have done Taylor at five. Did you think that Lewis would go?

Ozzie: We came into the draft knowing that we had Qadry Ismail, a young Patrick Johnson, and Brandon Stokely who we think will be able to help us out this year. We needed additional help at the running back position first so we wanted to address that. Once we addressed that then we would take a look at who would be available. Also, our board was stacked more towards good receivers to pick at that spot as opposed to running back.

Are you looking to go for a tight end to back up Shannon Sharpe?

There is a comfort level and I will let Brian expound on this a little bit. With Greg (DeLong) being a guy that can line up in the backfield and also lineup on the line of scrimmage, he gives a lot of versatility to Shannon and his athletic ability.

Brian: The tight end position is a position that is very hard to come by. When you look on the board on any given year you will find that the depth and quality at that position is less than most. So, it is harder to address and it is mostly done in the later rounds. If the right guy were in there then that would be a nice addition for us. Ryan Collins showed some real potential for us last year before he got hurt. We know that Greg DeLong is a solid commodity for us, so were okay at the tight end position. But if you do take one, it would happen in the later rounds.

What about the signability of these two picks? How do you expect the negotiations to go?

Mitch Frankel has Chuck Evans along with Jamal so the relationship is there. He also has Priest Holmes. Steve Weinberg has several players on our team. We have just done a deal with Keith Washington who is one of his guys. We have been in "bed" with those guys before so we have a good understanding of them and they have a good understanding of us.

What dynamic do these guys bring to the table for you?

I said earlier that the think about Jamal is that he combines the rare combination of true explosiveness with sheer power. I perceive Jamal to be someone who will crank off several 30, 40, or 50 yard touchdowns and also be that guy that you can pound down in there from the 20 down in. That is a rare combination. Travis gives you some great run after the catch. His upside is huge. A high ankle sprain never fully heals during a season. I have been down this road with many players, particularly with receivers. You can come back and play, but the effects of a high ankle sprain are felt the entire season. So the fact that he did what he did with that tells me you will see a high upside on Travis.

On getting Taylor:

Ozzie: We were in some of the other draft rooms and we knew we would be able to get Travis Taylor at 10. It was a culmination of a lot of work that has been done since before the draft last year. It was a great feeling to come up with these types of players.

On being a playoff contender after this draft:

Ozzie: Our primary goal was to upgrade the football team. Tennessee has gotten better; Jacksonville has gotten better on defense, so we will be competitive. I am going to turn this over to the owner so he can put the pressure on the head coach as to what he expects.

Art: I expect to be a playoff team. Anything short of that would be a disappointment. I am not going beyond being a playoff team, because then it is a crapshoot. I want to be a playoff team hopefully with home-field advantage. I think this is the year.

Brian: I've said it at the end of the season. If you can't talk about it then you can't do it. My expectation was that we would be a playoff team at the end of last year. It was really was. Anything less than that would be a disappointment. Our goal was to maintain the defensive profile and we have. We had to augment the offense and we did that. What we were hoping for in the draft we have gotten. Fate has gotten us where we needed to be.

Ozzie: You have to be able to score points. Being in the top ten on offense and ranked number two on offense should put you in the playoffs. We held New England to 131 yards and lost and it was the same with Jacksonville. We got to be in a position where we have people afraid of our offense. I think we've addressed that.

What would it have taken to get you out of that 5th pick? How far were you willing to go down?

Our board kind of slacked off after fifteen picks so weren't going to go beyond fifteen. We felt we needed to be inside fifteen in order to come away with players who could come in and contribute to our football team this year. With that in mind, we had our chart, and we stayed with our chart. A call came that offered us a chance to stay in the top fifteen, but it wasn't worth the value. So we decided that we would stay and pick.

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