The Baltimore Ravens have won two Super Bowl titles, and competed for more championships over the past decade because the formula has never changed. Led by general manager Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens have prioritized building primarily through the draft, while using free agency and trades to acquire veterans at low prices.
The Ravens model of selecting the best player available, as oppose to need, is a tactic that separates the premier organizations from the rest of the league. That was clear last month, when Baltimore selected inside linebacker CJ Mosley with its first round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.
This decision was made despite glaring needs at offensive tackle and at free safety. However, Mosley was highly coveted by the Ravens, who had him on their top five draft prospect list. For now, he will compete for the starting job alongside veteran Daryl Smith. The worst case scenario is he will split time with Arthur Brown, a second round pick in 2013 who was viewed as a popular commodity by NFL teams. It appears that the end goal would be to have Mosley and Brown eventually become the primary starters and anchor a defense that is the pride of the organization.
Newsome's approach, like any successful NFL executive, is to build over the long haul through the draft. Some rookies might immediately play to their capabilities in the league, while many prospects turn out to become late bloomers.
Over the last few years, the Ravens played the draft board in every way possible. They have never shied away from trading down in the draft, especially in the first round. This chart is a pure representation of that, which shows the Ravens have more second round (7) and third round (7) picks on the roster than first rounders (6).
From the fourth round on, the Ravens currently have 18 players on the roster, which does not include the 28 undrafted free agents on the roster. While day one of the draft provides the fans and media with the most excitement due to notable names and polarizing figures, the championship contenders separate themselves by the work during the rest of the draft.
Every NFL season proves to be unpredictable, especially when it comes to NFL rookies. First round pick Matt Elam had a rough rookie campaign due to in large part to playing out of position as a free safety. Arthur Brown was hampered by injuries and when he was healthy, he was ineffective while on the field.
And then you have undrafted free agent Marlon Brown, who became Flacco's most reliable receiver last season by recording seven receiving touchdowns.
The offseason game plan for the Ravens is successful because the entire organization, from owner Steve Biscotti down to head coach John Harbaugh, buy into the system. Many players that began their careers with the Ravens ultimately flourish and use this opportunity as a launching pad to make the majority of their career earnings elsewhere.
In the meantime, Newsome sets up his daily meetings with Eric DeCosta, the Ravens assistant general manager who has been the leading architect for their draft success.
The ability to be aggressive, yet know when to show patience is an art that the organization has mastered over the years. It's why the Ravens can make a case for being the most consistent NFL franchise when it comes to reloading through the draft.