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Rookie GM DeCosta takes reins from Newsome in Ravens draft

FILE - In this Feb. 27, 2019, file photo, Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis. For the first time since the Ravens came to Baltimore, someone other than Ozzie Newsome will have the final say during the NFL draft. DeCosta moved up the corporate ladder after joining the Ravens at an entry level position in 1996, their first year after moving from Cleveland. Now that he’s in charge, there’s no telling what might happen when it comes time for Baltimore to make its first-round selection. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — For the first time since the Ravens came to Baltimore, someone other than Ozzie Newsome will have the final say during the NFL draft.

Rookie general manager Eric DeCosta will be hard-pressed to duplicate the initial draft of his predecessor, who selected Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis with the first two picks in franchise history.

Ogden and Lewis ended up joining Newsome — an outstanding tight end with the Cleveland Browns — in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Newsome proved to be equally adept in evaluating college talent, building two Super Bowl champions after becoming the first African-American general manager in NFL history.

Newsome will serve as an adviser in the draft room late this month.

“Ozzie is watching tape. We still talk about players,” coach John Harbaugh said. “In the end, though, it will be Eric’s call, and that’s good. I think Eric has had a huge impact on the draft up until now. He’s been a big part of it.”

DeCosta moved up the corporate ladder after joining the Ravens at an entry level position in 1996, their first year after moving from Cleveland. Now that he’s in charge, there’s no telling what might happen when it comes time for Baltimore to make its first-round selection.

“If there’s a great player there at 22, we’ll make the pick, and we’ll be very, very excited,” DeCosta said. “But one thing we’ve shown over the past years is we know how to manufacture picks. So, if the opportunity is there, we’ll have a chance to trade back and accumulate picks.”

The Ravens dealt their second-round choice to Philadelphia during the 2018 draft to get quarterback Lamar Jackson at No. 32 overall. So, as it stands now, Baltimore’s second pick is 85th overall.

Some things to know about the Ravens’ expectations for the 2019 NFL draft:

GOOD HANDS NEEDED

The elusive Jackson operates a ball-control offense that likes to stay on the ground. But he’s got to pass to keep the opposition honest, and the Ravens are looking for a physical receiver or two to fill the holes left by the departures of Michael Crabtree and John Brown.

Newsome, unfortunately, had several misfires in selecting wide receivers. He took Travis Taylor with the 10th overall pick in 2000, Mark Clayton at No. 22 in 2005, and Breshad Perriman in the first round in 2015.

D.K. Metcalf of Mississippi, whom DeCosta compared with Terrell Owens, has the potential to be a star if he’s available when the Ravens are on the clock.

“He’s big and fast. He’s caught a lot of touchdowns, a lot of big plays,” DeCosta said. “He’s a guy that we’re looking at.”

GET THE QB

Losing Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith to free agency leaves the Ravens desperate to find someone capable of ringing up sacks. DeCosta believes the talent runs deep for players fitting that description.

“Pass rusher is a very strong position, whether that’s defensive end or outside linebacker,” he said.

Brian Burns of Florida State and Jaylon Ferguson of Louisiana Tech are strong pass rushers worth adding to the NFL’s top-ranked defense in 2018.

NO TIME TO WAIT

Baltimore’s top four picks last year — tight end Hayden Hurst, Jackson, tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and tight end Mark Andrews — all played key roles on a team that won the AFC North. So did sixth-round pick Bradley Bozeman, a utility player on the offensive line.

DeCosta is looking for that kind of production from his first draft.

“Last year was a great example of bringing guys in who could play right away and help us become the best team we can be,” he said. “We have to do that again.”

STRIKING GOLD

The Ravens could be very busy during the final two days of the draft. They currently own two selections in the third round, two in the fourth, one in the fifth and two in the sixth.

Newsome snagged seven-time Pro Bowl guard Marshall Yanda in the third round (2007), standout tight end Dennis Pitta in the fourth round (2010), and quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the sixth round (2011).

“We have a great opportunity this year to draft players, and those third-round picks and those fourth-round picks, those are gold for us this year,” DeCosta said. “Having four picks in those two rounds, that’s an ideal situation to be in.”

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