Inside the Draft: Ozzie Newsome

Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore Ravens have had tremendous success in the NFL Draft.

The Draft Daze interview tour continued with the “Wizard of Oz” Ozzie Newsome, a Hall of Fame player and standout general manager for the Baltimore Ravens. Newsome has been running the draft since the Ravens arrived in Baltimore and has long been celebrated for overseeing drafts that have produced a Super Bowl champion and a number of future Hall of Famers. Here’s a snippet of the interview. Everything else will be covered in the book.

Are there any drafts that stick out in your mind?

That very first one (with the Ravens). I live through the creed of ‘take the best player on the board.’ We took Jonathan Ogden and we haven’t looked back. I’ve had a lot of great picks, but none probably none better than those two (Ogden and Ray Lewis, both first-rounders in 1996).

How does your draft preparation affect the draft?

We try to do as much work and preparation for the draft as we can, so that when we get in the draft or on the clock, 80-90 percent of the work is already done. (The other 10-20 percent?) Some of that is based on who we’ve taken in the picks before or whether you have a trade offer or not. If you get a trade offer, you have to evaluate the trade versus taking a player.

Many thanks to Ozzie for the interview. Check out his Ravens bio here. 

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Draft Spotlight: Brandon Brooks

Brooks is an interesting player to watch in the upcoming draft. The smaller-school guard just might make it big.

For every Andrew Luck and RG3, for every player at a high-profile position who dominates the headlines and seems destined for the top of the draft, there are many others like Brandon Brooks, talented players shining at lesser-known positions. Brooks performed well at his recent pro day and was just named a draft “riser” by ESPN guru Mel Kiper, but he still isn’t quite sure where and when he’ll be drafted.

Round Two? Round Three? Even later? It’s anyone’s guess.

Such is the reality of being an offensive guard at a Mid-American Conference school (Miami of Ohio), away from the hype and hysteria of bigger schools and brand names. Still, Brooks has remained upbeat, focusing on what he can control and seeming to ignore everything else. It’s that same mindset coupled with some great measurables (6-5, 353, sub 5-second 40-yard dash) and impressive versatility (he’s played every position on the offensive line) that could make him a solid pick for some team in April. In whichever round that may be.

Here are a few thoughts from Brooks as the draft approaches. Everything else will appear in the book.

What’s this whole draft process like?

It’s a crazy experience and a crazy time in my life. I’m just trying to understand that – one, I’m blessed and a lot of people don’t have the same opportunities. And two, that I just need to have good people around me. I feel that if you have a solid group around you, they will always keep you on the straight and narrow.

Did your pro day go about as well as you could hope for?

Yeah it really did. At this point, I had a little chip on my shoulder after not getting invited to the combine. I felt like not getting invited to combine made me want to prove them wrong and make them see I was supposed to be there.

Have you thought about what it will be like on draft day when you hear your name called and your lifelong dream comes true?

I haven’t. I’m sure I won’t be able to be put in words how joyful (I’ll feel) and it’s hard to put in words right now. I’ll just be overjoyed, it’s a lifelong dream come true. How many times does someone who wants something so bad…How many times does it happen the way you want it to?

Many thanks to Brandon for the interview minutes amid his hectic schedule of draft workouts and preparation. Listen for his name on draft day. 

Draft Forecast: Gil Brandt

Gil Brandt was a key player in many of the Dallas Cowboys' greatest drafts.

The interview circuit for Draft Daze continued with one of the draft’s most experienced evaluators, Gil Brandt. Brandt has been involved with the NFL Draft for more than 50 years now, starting his career with Tex Schramm and the L.A. Rams and continuing it through the Dallas Cowboys’ glory years, serving as vice president of player personnel for Dallas from 1960 – 1989. Brandt now works as a writer for NFL.com and also appears on Sirius NFL Radio.

Here are a few thoughts from Brandt on the upcoming draft. Everything else will appear in the book.

1. Brandt is high on Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Ryan Tannehill, the quarterback who converted from wide receiver before excelling as a signal caller at Texas A & M. Tannehill provides an interesting challenge for draft evaluators because he has a lot of ability, but not a lot of experience.

2. Matt Kalil and Riley Reiff, two highly-touted linemen, have impressed Brandt as well. But Brandt is also a fan of a two wide receiver prospects who are potential sleepers. He likes Chris Givens of Wake Forest and Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech to be potential playmakers in the NFL.

3. Brandt believes all the extra effort invested into the combine, the player workouts, and everything else have made a difference in terms of the draft. He believes the prolonged tryout and workout period allow the blue-chip players to rise to the top, while the rest fade into the later rounds. It’s a lot different than some of the early days he remembers, when teams might use a single phone call to determine a draft pick. Clearly, times have changed.

Many thanks to Brandt for the interview time as he prepared for a busy week filled with the myriad activties at the NFL Combine. Follow his work on NFL.com and listen for him on Sirius NFL Radio. 

Draft Forecast: Mel Kiper

The Draft Daze interview tour continued with a conversation with Mel Kiper. His experiences after more than 30 years in the draft business made for some interesting stories.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper, the draft guru who has helped transform the event into the television phenomenon that it is today,  gave me a few minutes of his time and I got a lot of great stories and analysis in return. Kiper took me back in time to his first draft in 1984 and also previewed this year’s draft in April. Here are a few of his thoughts on this year’s draft class. Everything else will be covered in the book.

1. Andrew Luck is Kiper’s highest-graded player since John Elway in 1983. In fact, Kiper said he believes Luck would have went No. 1 overall last year before Cam Newton, who set some records on his way to becoming the NFL’s Rookie of the Year. Luck’s talent level makes the Colts’ selection – and their corresponding dilemma with Peyton Manning – all that more interesting.

2. Kiper thinks 17 – 18 underclassmen could be selected in the first round. He also predicts a defense-heavy early round, with as many as six defensive tackles being selected on the draft’s first night, April 26th.

3. Trent Richardson might be the only running back taken in Round One according to Kiper. After T-Rich, Kiper believes Lamar Miller, David Wilson, and Doug Martin could all slide into Round Two or beyond.

4. The draft is deepest on the offensive and defensive lines. Although Kiper thinks four wide receivers could go in the first round, he sees the skilled players taking a back seat to the lesser-known guys in the trenches. There might not be the flurry of quarterbacks that dominated last year’s draft, but there are a lot of good interior players who can really impact some teams.

All in all, Kiper didn’t disappoint. He was the fast-talking, entertaining, and opinionated guy that has made for such good television over the years.  Follow his upcoming work on ESPN’s NFL Draft page, his updates on Twitter (@MelKiperESPN), and his appearances with Todd McShay on the captivating podcast, First Draft.

Draft Forecast: Todd McShay

Todd McShay's opinions and analysis have become must-see TV for fans of the NFL Draft.

In the first interview for Draft DazeESPN’s Todd McShay had a lot of interesting stories to tell and some intriguing predictions for the 2012 draft. Here are a few highlights from the interview (the rest will appear in the book).

1. Even though a lot of mock drafts are sending USC tackle Matt Kalil to St. Louis at No. 2, McShay said he would be shocked if Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III wasn’t selected there. With St. Louis fairly settled at quarterback with Sam Bradford, McShay thinks the Rams will trade back with a team desperate for a franchise quarterback – and there could be a number of them.

2. In addition to the trade he anticipates at No. 2, McShay thinks this year’s draft could be something like a swap meet, with teams trading back and forth frequently. He thinks the rookie salary cap and the collective bargaining agreement that was ratified last summer will make teams more likely to move their picks. The lower salaries for rookies and better understanding of the game’s future should alleviate the worries that may have held some teams back last year.

3. McShay thinks one of the draft’s biggest mysteries rests with the No. 3 quarterback. Right now, no one knows who it is. Andrew Luck and RG3 seem to be the obvious 1-2 tandem. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill is talented, but a bit unpolished after transitioning from wide receiver a few years ago. Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden had a productive college career, but is also 28 years old . Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler is a behemoth at almost 6-8, but that incredible size might actually be somewhat of a limitation. And Arizona’s Nick Foles has great measurables, but he was also rather unsuccessful as a starter, underwhelming this past season. McShay will spend the next several weeks trying to solve the mystery of the No. 3 quarterback, and he said that will be a fun mini-project during his draft preparation.

Many thanks to McShay for the interview minutes in a busy season that is full of film study and short on free time. Follow him on Twitter (@McShay13) and check out his work with ESPN, including the entertaining podcast, First Draft