Ravens treat every pick like it's their only selection
As the Ravens huddled in their war room during the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft, the two players atop of the board as they prepared to pick at No. 24 were cornerback Lito Sheppard and a safety.
The safety was rated slightly higher by general manager Ozzie Newsome and his staff.
Wait a minute, minority owner Steve Bisciotti basically said. If both of these guys have roughly the same grade, don't we want the cornerback? Isn't that the more important position?
Newsome told Bisciotti he was going to stay true to his board. Instead of taking Sheppard -- Bisciotti's choice -- Newsome selected the safety -- Ed Reed.
Sheppard -- taken two picks later by the Eagles -- had a solid 10-year career. Reed, though, developed into perhaps the greatest safety of all time.
"I kind of learned from that point on that I better not engage too much and try and alter their decision-making,” Bisciotti said earlier this year.
In the days and weeks leading up to the annual NFL Draft -- which this year begins on Thursday with the first round -- Bisciotti, now the team's majority owner, will have his input. He will review film of prospects. He will meet prospects. He will ask questions of Newsome, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta and the personnel staff.
"I love being closer to the decision than all the fans and all the reporters, because I get to hear these guys out and see what they like," Bisciotti said at the team's season-ending news conference. Bisciotti added with a laugh that leading up to the draft, "Eric and I are on the phone all the time, because (Newsome) stops taking my calls."
Bisciotti also gets a front-row seat in the war room -- after all, ownership has its privileges. But when the Ravens are on the clock, it's clear that Bisciotti abides by the mantra of so many Ravens fans: In Ozzie we trust.
DeCosta said that Bisciotti, who amassed his fortune by starting and growing a personnel and staffing firm, has "great instincts in reading people. He's helped us tremendously in terms of interviewing players, which is what he does -- questions to ask, how to ask the questions, what qualities he thinks are important in people in general.
"He loves the draft," DeCosta added. "I think he's fascinated by the process. Personally, he's given me so much great feedback on different things. Some of the things we do now are because of an idea that maybe Steve planted. So he's been a big help. He's competitive, he reads everything, and he has a passion for it which makes it fun for us."