Ravens almost missed out on Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden in team's first draft

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Ryan Wormeli
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Ravens almost missed out on Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden in 1996 draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

April 20, 1996 was as monumental a day as any NFL franchise has ever had.

In the Ravens' first-ever draft as an organization, they came away with not one, but two Hall of Famers in their very first round of drafting. It is the only time in league history a team has picked future Hall of Famers with their very first two picks and it helped form the identity of the purple and black moving forward in Baltimore.

Hulking left tackle Jonathan Ogden (No. 4 overall pick) and speedy, hard-hitting linebacker Ray Lewis (No. 26 overall pick) forever changed the face of football in Baltimore as the foundational picks of the Ravens. But if you ask those who were in the war room that fateful night, things almost looked a whole lot different.

Despite Jonathan Ogden being the top overall player on their draft board, former owner Art Modell wanted rookie GM Ozzie Newsome to select Lawrence Phillips, a running back. According to ESPN, Newsome didn't expect to have to fight for Ogden because he assumed the left tackle would be off the board by the time the Ravens were on the clock.

After Ogden miraculously fell, Newsome stood his ground and convinced ownership to make Ogden the first draft choice in team history.

Several picks later, the Ravens lucked out again.

"Drew Rosenhaus, my first agent, said, 'Listen, I got inside information that the Dolphins are going to take you at 20,'" Ray Lewis told ESPN in 2018. "Then the 20th pick came and I sat there, and I’m waiting for the phone to ring. And the phone doesn’t ring."

Then, the Green Bay Packers told Lewis he was their choice at 27th overall. That is until the Ravens scooped him one one slot earlier. It was so surprising to Lewis, who didn't receive the call from Baltimore until he was already selected, that he didn't quite realize who he was speaking with.

"He did go, 'Who?' 'It’s Ozzie Newsome from Baltimore.' He was like, 'Really?'" Newsome told ESPN ahead of the 25-year anniversary of the 1996 draft. "I go, 'Yeah, we just selected you.' He goes, 'Who?' There was a little give-and-take there."

By Pro Football Reference Approximate Value, Lewis (1st) and Ogden (4th) are two of the four best players in Ravens history. They combined for 403 starts in Baltimore and were both easy, first-ballot Hall of Famers. Each has an argument among the best players in NFL history at his position.

Every year, the NFL Draft is a bit of a crapshoot. For as much time and resources that go into every selection, most teams will admit to a lot of luck determining who ends up with which team.

And in 1996, the Ravens lucked out better than almost any other team in any other round in NFL history. And their franchise is what it is because of that one day 25 years ago.