The Ravens kicked off their 2012 draft by trading out of the 29th overall pick and the first round altogether. Their first selection came with the 3rd pick of the 2nd round, and they selected Courtney Upshaw, a guy that some analysts had going in the top 10 earlier in the postseason, but Upshaw slid down the board in recent weeks.
Eric DeCosta, the Ravens’ director of player personnel, tends to make baseball analogies to explain how the Ravens’ draft went. After this year’s draft, he pulled out one of baseball’s greatest cliches.
“I think we probably had to manufacture some runs this year. We had some players that we liked and they got picked, and we had to get creative quickly on the fly.”
Whenever a team trades out of the first round altogether, you already know that their draft day strategy didn’t work as that team may have envisioned it. Sometimes “plan A” doesn’t pan out, and you have to adapt to the changing dynamic of the draft, and that’s exactly what DeCosta and Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome did.
It was rumored that Patriots LB Dont’a Hightower was in the Ravens crosshairs, but the Patriots pulled the trigger before he could fall to the Ravens’ original first round pick at 29th overall. Kevin Zeitler, a guard from Wisconsin, was taken at 27th overall, just in front of the Ravens’ pick. With their targets disappearing, it made perfect sense for the Ravens to trade down and find another targeted player they felt good about.
Courtney Upshaw will fit in well with the Ravens’ defense, and he’ll compete for a starting job right off the bat. Even if Upshaw isn’t able to show he’s good enough to start on one of the league’s best defenses, he’ll add valuable depth to one of the most important positions in a 3-4 defense, and he’s even more valuable on a Ravens defense that likes to continuously shift.
It’s clear that the Ravens didn’t have everything work out exactly as they had hoped. The Ravens have a great personnel department, and they were able to shift their draft strategy as the situation changed with each pick. Being able to walk away from the draft having filled most of their team needs is a great accomplishment, and draft day performances like that are what keep the best teams in the league on top.