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Minus Savage, Ravens Try to Keep Adding

By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 23, 2005; Page D03

OWINGS MILLS, Md., April 22 -- The first day of the NFL draft often has been productive for the Baltimore Ravens. Few teams can match their first-round success; nine of the 11 players they've picked in the first round are with the team, and of those nine starters, eight have made at least one Pro Bowl.

The Ravens, who hold the 22nd pick, will try to continue that success on Saturday. But things will be a little different in the draft room this year; for the first time in franchise history, Phil Savage won't be around. Savage, who had been the Ravens' director of player personnel, left during the offseason to become the general manager of the Cleveland Browns.

_____Ravens' NFL Draft Picks_____

First round No. 22

Second round No. 21 (53 overall)

Third round No. 20 (84)

Fourth round No. 23 (124)

Fifth round No. 22 (158)

Sixth round Nos. 21 (195), 39 (213)

Seventh round No. 20 (234)

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General Manager Ozzie Newsome still sets the tone for the Ravens' draft process and has the final say. But Savage was known for his keen eye for talent, his thoroughness, and his ability to build a consensus among the factions in the room.

"It will be different," Newsome said. "I remember the great high-five me and Phil had after we picked Todd Heap, when he fell to us [at 31 in 2001]. It will just be Eric [DeCosta, the director of college scouting] and I high-fiving this year."

The Ravens hold eight picks, including three on the first day (22nd, 53rd and 84th). They have said they would be willing to package some of their picks to move up to the middle of the first round should one of their top-rated players start to drop, and they also would consider moving down to acquire additional second- or third-round picks.

Baltimore has made the most of its late first-round picks. The Ravens took linebacker Ray Lewis, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, with the 26th pick in 1996; six years later, they selected safety Ed Reed, the league's defensive player of the year, with the 24th pick. They didn't have a first round pick in 2004, having traded it away a year earlier in order to grab quarterback Kyle Boller.

"It was tough to see a lot of good players come off the board" last year, Newsome said. "Now, we know we'll be able to at least get one of the top 22 players in the draft. It's a much better feeling than being in that position."

Baltimore filled the four holes in its starting lineup by signing wide receiver Derrick Mason, cornerback Samari Rolle, right guard Keydrick Vincent and linebacker Tommy Polley during a productive offseason. That gives the Ravens some flexibility with their first pick and allows them to follow the pattern that has served them well: taking the best available player.

"The encouraging thing is that we're not sitting here thinking, 'Oh God, this guy's got to get to 22. This position has to,' " Coach Brian Billick said. "We've been able to put ourselves in a situation that we feel good about where we're at right now, and that the draft can add another layer of players that can fill in nicely and give us a nice, solid foundation behind the mid-veterans that we have."

Still, the Ravens could use some help at wide receiver and along the line. Wide receivers Mark Clayton (Oklahoma) and Roddy White (Alabama-Birmingham) could be available. Tackle Jammal Brown (Oklahoma), defensive end Dan Cody (Oklahoma) and defensive end David Pollack (Georgia) were among the players who visited the Ravens over the past few weeks. DeCosta called Pollack, Cody and Iowa defensive end Matt Roth as "Ravens-type players, the type of guy where they never have a bad game; they play hard every play."

DeCosta, 34, will have a larger role this year, one Newsome says he is ready to handle.

"It's like being the backup quarterback waiting for the other guy to retire or move on," Newsome said. "You're ready to step in and do your thing."

DeCosta has been with the Ravens since their inception, working his way up from player personnel assistant to scout to director of college scouting. He said he learned a great deal from Savage, his best friend in the business, and that this is what he's wanted to do ever since he was 7 years old.

"Ozzie always talks about the process," DeCosta said. "The process doesn't change; we do the exact same things we did nine years ago. It's worked in the first round, it's worked in the sixth and seventh round."

And he added with a laugh, "I hope and pray it works again this year."

Ravens Note: The team will hold its eighth annual Spring Football Festival on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Twenty players, including Reed, are expected to attend the event, which costs $12 ($7 for children).

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