If Ozzie Newsome didn’t already have a bust in Canton as a player, he’d be in the discussion as a contributor candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a general manager.
Newsome was a great player for the Cleveland Browns. But he may have even been a better general manager for the Baltimore Ravens.
The NFL draft is the lifeblood of any organization, and few could identify and draft talent like Newsome. But at 62, he conducted his final draft for the Ravens last weekend. The 190th and final pick of his drafting career was Ferris State defensive end Zach Sieler in the seventh round.
Newsome’s drafts built two Super Bowl champions for the Ravens. His players allowed Baltimore to win those two Lombardi Trophies with two different head coaches and two different quarterbacks. His players also gave the Ravens a defense for the ages in 2000 when Baltimore allowed just 165 points, a record low for the NFL’s 16-game era.
How many general managers begin their careers by drafting Hall of Famers with their first two picks? Ozzie Newsome did, claiming offensive tackle Jonathan Odgen with the fourth overall choice of the 1996 draft and middle linebacker Ray Lewis with the 26th pick. Both were first-ballot selections, by the way.
It would amaze me every year that no matter where Baltimore was drafting, a good player always seemed to slide to them. But they weren’t necessarily sliding to the Ravens. It was Newsome seeing something in those players that other teams were missing.
Safety Ed Reed is eligible for the Hall of Fame Class of 2019 and is another likely first-ballot selection. Newsome drafted him with the 24th overall pick in 2002. Ben Grubbs became a Pro Bowl guard for the Ravens. Newsome found whim with the 29th overall selection in 2007. Todd Heap became a Pro Bowl tight end for the Ravens. Newsome found him with the 31st overall choice in 2001.
In 16 of Newsome’s first 19 drafts, he found at least one Pro Bowl player. He found three apiece in both the 1996 and 2007 drafts. He drafted 23 Pro Bowlers in all at a variety of positions – every position on offense, in fact, except wide receiver and center, and every position on defense except end.
Newsome drafted two Super Bowl MVPs, Lewis and quarterback Joe Flacco. He drafted a 2,000-yard rusher (Jamal Lewis) and a Top 20 all-time pass rusher (Terrell Suggs with 125 ½ career sacks). Newsome drafted 11 Pro Bowlers in the first round and 12 more in the other rounds. He found five Pro Bowlers in the sixth round alone.
As player, Newsome is one of only eight tight ends enshrined in Canton. He caught 662 passes in his 13-year career for 7,980 yards and 47 touchdowns on his way to NFL all-decade acclaim for the 1980s.
Like many of the great players he drafted, Newsome arrived in the NFL as a late first-round pick (23rd overall in the 1978 draft) out of Alabama. He won the Ed Block Award in 1986 for his courage in playing through injuries and the NFL Man of Year Award in 1990 for his community service.
But Newsome never won a Super Bowl ring as a player with the Browns. He won two as the guy who found the players for the Ravens.
And Newsome never forgot his Alabama roots, drafting 11 players from the Crimson Tide over the years. Two were first rounders, cornerback Marlon Humphrey in 2017 and linebacker C.J. Mosley in 2014. Newsome’s final draft class included two Alabama players, cornerback Anthony Averett in the fourth round and center Bradley Bozeman in the sixth. Newsome knew his alma mater like no other – and the fact that what wins on Saturday can also win on Sunday.
Newsome will remain as general manager of the Ravens through the 2018 season, then stay on as a consultant. But know this – one of the NFL’s great drafters has left the building.