NFL front offices and their lead scouts spend up to 9 months creating their draft boards. Yet despite the massive amounts of hours preparing, sometimes the best-laid plans never unfold.
As Ravens Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said prior to this year’s draft, “We try to make the draft a science but maybe it’s more of an art.”
The Ravens have been among the NFL’s most accomplished artists when it comes to the NFL Draft. But even the best artists are guilty of clunkers.
Just ask Paul McCartney.
Sometimes teams get lucky on draft day. A desired player slips because other teams don’t value him as highly or said teams opt for need over the best player available.
Back during the 2004 NFL Draft, arguably the Ravens worst ever, their first selection was the 51st overall, having traded away their first round pick the year before to choose Kyle Boller with 2003’s 19th overall pick.
As the Ravens waited to make their first pick (Dwan Edwards), a name on the board that fell towards them piqued the collective attention of the Ravens war room. That name – Bob Sanders, safety from Iowa.
Sanders tumbled further than the Ravens expected. They looked at the teams before them and tried to anticipate who might take the Hawkeye. Hopes swelled. The consensus was that the teams just before the Ravens had needs other than safety.
However those hopes were shattered when 7 picks before them the Indianapolis Colts turned in the card for Sanders.
“Sometimes in drafts you have a guy that you really want”, explained DeCosta last night during a Q&A hosted by PressBox at Mother’s Grille in Federal Hill.
“And he starts falling down the board to you and you get close and then you don’t get him for whatever the reason. That stinks, that’s the worst part.”
This year with the 17th overall pick the Ravens drafted higher than they have since 2006 when they chose Haloti Ngata with the 12th overall pick. As the 2014 draft unfolded the Ravens had their eye on a coveted player who started to drop.
Unfortunately déjà vu would soon kick in.
“I think that this year maybe the one guy that I was excited about getting that we didn’t get was Eric Ebron from North Carolina the tight end. I thought he was a premier talent.
“I really thought if he had gotten out of the top ten he would have fallen to us. Looking at the other teams and this time there was a really good chance we were going to get him, and didn’t really think Detroit would take him.”
Detroit had just re-signed Brandon Pettigrew and their big, promising undrafted free agent tight end from UCLA, Joseph Fauria. The Lions’ and head coach Jim Caldwell’s call for Ebron was an upset.
“I thought we had a chance to really get him that was kind of frustrating for us. I thought he was an elite player. I think he has a chance to be a difference maker, Pro Bowl type guy.”
One of the positions the Ravens targeted in the draft was free safety. The Ravens had a target in Round 2 with the 48th pick but the plan was undercut by Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers.
“I really liked safety Jimmy Ward probably a little undersized but reminded me somewhat of Ed Reed in terms of style. He’s a great player and one that I thought would be there in the second round.”
Woulda, shoulda, coulda…
Those unexpected twists and turns of fate during an NFL Draft that can change lives, careers and even a city’s football heritage.
Just ask the sports fans in Boston.