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Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti: Draft whiffs have been factor in struggles

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti: Draft whiffs have been factor in struggles

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledged that high-round draft misses in the past few years have played a "significant" role in the Ravens lack of success lately, but he expressed confidence in general manager Ozzie Newsome, pointing to his track record of draft success and notable success later in the draft.

The Ravens have gone 31-33 in the regular season in the four years since winning the Super Bowl, and they have gotten little from some key high-round draft picks in that span.

The 2013 draft class stands out for its early-round misses. Safety Matt Elam has done little since the team made him their first-round pick, at No. 32 overall, and second-round pick Arthur Brown -- whom the Ravens traded up to draft -- did even less before being cut last fall.

The 2014 draft produced immediate impact players in the first two rounds in C.J. Mosley and Timmy Jernigan, but the Ravens early picks in the 2015 draft -- first-rounder Breshad Perriman, second-rounder Maxx Williams and third-rounder Carl Davis -- have not measured up to expectation.

"That happens. You ‘miss’ players," Bisciotti said at the "State of the Ravens" address on Tuesday. "I look around the league and see plenty of ‘missed’ players. It’s not just us."

Bisciotti pointed out that the experts at the time raved about Elam and Brown.

"There wasn’t a one that questioned (Elam) being great," Bisciotti said. "When we traded up for Arthur Brown, they said we had two of the best players in the draft – fast, hard-hitting, fly-to-the-football kind of guys."

Bisciotti noted that the Ravens hit on later picks in that 2013 draft, with nose tackle Brandon Williams in the third round, fullback Kyle Juszczyk in the fourth and tackle Rick Wagner in the fifth.

"If you’ve got one of the best nose tackles in football and one of the fullback/H-backs in football and one of the better right tackles in football in a draft, you’d say, ‘OK, they were good.’" Bisciotti said. "If you had flipped them over to say one, two, three, four and five, nobody would have complained about Elam and Arthur Brown. He’s being exposed, because there were higher-profile guys, but in these drafts, we are finding really good players in the later rounds."

This past year, the Ravens drafted plug-and-play left tackle Ronnie Stanley at No. 6 overall – their highest first-round pick since 2000. Although it's early, the Ravens also appear to have made a nice mid-round haul with their five fourth-round picks this past spring. That group includes cornerback Tavon Young, offensive lineman Alex Lewis and running back Kenneth Dixon – all of whom saw significant time as rookies – along with receiver Chris Moore and defensive tackle Willie Henry.

"In these drafts, we are finding really good players in the later rounds," Bisciotti said. Misses such as Elam and Arthur Brown "shined a negative light on Ozzie, but if you think it shook my confidence in Ozzie and Eric (DeCosta), it didn’t. Those things happen, and they happen all across the league.”

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Mark Andrews both excited, and sad, about Hayden Hurst’s trade to Atlanta

Mark Andrews both excited, and sad, about Hayden Hurst’s trade to Atlanta

Mark Andrews is in a unique situation with his friend Hayden Hurst. 

He’s happy that Hurst will finally get his chance to be a No. 1 tight end in Atlanta and earn the targets he wasn’t able to receive in Baltimore.

There also won’t be the same relationship between Andrews and Hurst, and fellow tight end Nick Boyle, anymore. 

The three-headed monster was inseparable in the locker room, incredibly productive on the field and one of the brightest spots for the NFL’s best regular season team in 2019. Now, one-third of the group is gone. 

“I think, first of all, it was kind of a shock for me,” Andrews said Tuesday during a conference call. “And selfishly, Hayden being one of my best friends and being someone that I talk to every day and I'm super close with, I'm sad. I'm sad that I won't be able to have him next year, I won't be able to talk to him next year as much, but I'm also excited for him. I'm excited for him to get more of an opportunity with Atlanta.”

Hurst was shipped to Atlanta in mid-March to give the Ravens some much-needed draft capital. It also gave Hurst, a first-round pick in 2018, a chance to be a true No. 1 tight end threat.

The trade gave the Ravens the 55th overall pick in the NFL Draft later this month, as well as a fifth-round pick in exchange for Hurst and a fourth-round pick.

Last season, Hurst posted 349 yards receiving on 30 receptions with two touchdowns. Those numbers ranked fifth on the team in receptions and third in yards.

With Hurst out of the fold, Andrews, Marquise Brown and perhaps a few new offensive additions in the draft will have to pick up the load Hurst left behind.

“He's a great player,” Andrews said. “I love him to death, but it's exciting for him as well. But, firstly, I'm sad. I know Nick is sad. The three-headed monster kind of got broken up a little bit, but again, we're going to be just fine. Nick and I, we'll do our jobs, and then, obviously, we're going to find someone else to help us out.” 

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The last team to make the Super Bowl without having a bye? The 2012 Ravens

The last team to make the Super Bowl without having a bye? The 2012 Ravens

The NFL announced on Tuesday that the league will have a new playoff format beginning in 2020, one where seven teams from each conference would make the league's postseason.

While the new format helps those teams that finish with eight, nine or 10 wins and had previously been on the outside looking it, the new system also has its drawbacks. Each conference will now only have one team that earns a bye week, as the conference's No. 2 seed will now play on Wild Card weekend hosting the No. 7 seed.

Over the past seven seasons, all 14 Super Bowl participants were either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in their respective conference, meaning they had bye weeks. For the teams that made a deep run in the postseason, the extra week of rest proved to be beneficial.

So, it was worth wondering: Who was the last team was to play in a Super Bowl without having a bye week?

That would be the 2012 Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens finished the regular season 10-6 and as AFC North division champs. But Baltimore had the worst record of any division winner, giving them the No. 4 seed in the playoffs.

After Baltimore dominated then-rookie Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round, the Ravens traveled to the Mile High City for a date with the Denver Broncos. The Ravens upset Denver in double overtime after quarterback Joe Flacco found Jacoby Jones on a 70-yard touchdown to tie the game with less than a minute remaining in regulation.

In the conference championship, Baltimore traveled to Gillette Stadium and cruised by the Patriots, winning 28-13 and clinching their first Super Bowl berth since 2000. In Super Bowl XLVII, Baltimore held off an epic San Francisco comeback and defeated the 49ers in a thriller, 34-31.

The Ravens proved that a team can win a Super Bowl without having a bye, but it hasn't happened in a long time. With the new playoff format, that will likely change.

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