Mark Andrews is one of the best tight ends in the NFL, but the three-time Pro-Bowler may not have developed the way he has if the Baltimore Ravens had gone in a different direction five years earlier.
The Ravens might have drafted Travis Kelce back in 2013, but he went to the Kansas City Chiefs in the third round. Kelce has since become the dominant tight end of his era and a two-time Super Bowl champion, but things might have been different had it not been for an awkward pre-draft meeting with the Ravens and then-general Ozzie Newsome.
Kelce recounted the details of the visit when speaking on an edition of the New Heights podcast with his brother, Philadelphia Eagles’ five-time All-Pro center Jason Kelce. The younger Kelce remembered his nerves about meeting Newsome, a Hall of Fame tight end for the Cleveland Browns who knew the family through Kelce’s uncle Donald.
Although Kelce “just always looked up to” Newsome, the latter offered a blunt assessment of Kelce’s litany of personal foul penalties during his collegiate days at Cincinnati: “Son, are you an a**hole?”
Ultimately, Kelce was long gone before the Ravens picked 94th overall in the third round. Instead, Newsome would have to wait until 2018 to find the Ravens a playmaker at tight end.
Not seeing a path to smoothing out Kelce’s rough edges counts as a rare miss for one of the best talent-spotters in league history.
Ravens Missed Out on Hall-of-Fame Talent Amid Mixed Draft Haul
Newsome usually served the Ravens well on draft day. He was responsible for taking two future Hall of Famers, left tackle Jonathan Ogden and middle linebacker Ray Lewis, with the franchise’s first ever draft picks in 1996.
Yet, Newsome could have added a third Canton-worthy inductee in 2013. Instead, he drafted inside linebacker Arthur Brown 56th overall, seven picks before Kelce came off the board, per Pro Football Reference.
Brown struggled to replace Lewis, playing just four seasons with three different teams, including the New York Jets. Newsome’s top pick that year fared no better trying to replace a franchise legend. Matt Elam was no substitute for Ed Reed, experiencing issues “wrapping up ball carriers and getting beat deep on pass plays,” according to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley.
The top end of this draft class proved below par, but Newsome scored hits with nose tackle Brandon Williams in Round 3, along with getting eventual starting center Ryan Jensen in the sixth. In between, the Ravens selected Kyle Juszczyk, who became a perennial Pro-Bowl fullback, beginning in 2016.
Unfortunately for the Ravens, no member of this trio still plies their trade at M&T Bank Stadium. It means Newsome missed out on getting a one-team star in Kelce, who has recorded seven-straight 1,000-yard seasons.
He’s also enjoyed a 4-1 record against the Ravens, making 33 catches for 435 yards and two touchdowns in the process, according to StatMuse. Kelce’s last outing vs. the Ravens yielded a 109-yard effort in 2021 that included a touchdown after dragging several defenders with him, per CBS Sports:
Missing out on hidden gems in each draft is the lot of every general manager, but Newsome made amends for the Kelce oversight by taking Andrews, fittingly in Round 3, in 2018.
Andrews has become a prolific pass-catcher, but he faces competition to be the best tight end on the Ravens’ roster. It comes from the player Newsome’s successor Eric DeCosta unearthed in the middle rounds last year.
Ravens Have the Next Potentially Dominant NFL Tight End
Isaiah Likely didn’t exactly wow audiences as a rookie, but the 2022 fourth-round pick still made 36 catches for 373 yards and three scores. His first pro touchdown came against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 8:
Likely’s best game occurred against the Cincinnati Bengals in the regular-season finale, when he snagged eight receptions for 103 yards. The strong finish to his debut campaign offers exciting proof Likely can be even more effective in 2023.
At 6’4″, 235 pounds and possessing wide receiver-like move skills, Likely’s a mismatch from a variety of alignments. New offensive coordinator Todd Monken will surely find more elaborate ways to get No. 80 heavily involved in the gameplans.
If that happens, the Ravens will unleash a tight end capable of joining the ranks of Andrews, Kelce and the game’s elite at the position.