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Character made choosing Ronnie Stanley over Laremy Tunsil an easy call for Ravens

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The best move in Baltimore Ravens' draft history happened in 1996, when the team selected Hall of Fame offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden over troubled running back Lawrence Phillips.

Twenty years later, the Ravens once again made a decision that steered them away from a player who was heavily linked to them but ultimately came with too many red flags.

Baltimore went with the safer pick at offensive tackle, selecting Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley over Ole Miss' Laremy Tunsil at the No. 6 overall pick. Whether Stanley is the most gifted tackle in this draft is debatable. There's just no argument when it comes to character, especially after Tunsil's gas mask tweet.

One by one, Ravens officials praised Stanley for his maturity, dedication to the game and intelligence.

The Ravens don't believe this was even a close call. According to a team source, Baltimore had Stanley ranked among its top five players, and Tunsil was among the top 15 on its board.

There is a sign in the Ravens' draft room that alludes to past actions predicting future actions. After selecting Stanley, general manager Ozzie Newsome did acknowledge that the video showing Tunsil smoking a substance through a plastic tube played a factor in the Ravens' decision.

"That's always a part anytime you get information," Newsome said. "Our scouts get a lot of information. When things happen, a lot of times we're not surprised. We took the best player, the player who rated the highest on the board at that point."

It's difficult to blame the Ravens for taking Stanley over Tunsil. Investing a top-10 pick in someone with baggage is risky, especially for a team that rarely is in such a position.

Stanley decided to go back to Notre Dame for his senior season to improve as a player. He performed well on the psychological testing. His biggest infraction was parking tickets, which stopped him from being a team captain.

Tunsil is being sued by his stepfather, Lindsey Miller, who is accusing Tunsil of attacking him and defaming his character in an incident last summer. He had to sit out the first seven games of the 2015 season after the NCAA ruled that he received improper benefits, including the use of three loaner cars. That draft-day video, which was posted on social media 13 minutes before the start of the draft, just hammered home the differences between the two best offensive tackle prospects.

A team source said Tunsil was never removed from the Baltimore's draft board, but team officials made it clear that Stanley was their top choice.

In talking about Stanley's character, Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta referred to an old saying by former baseball manager Tony La Russa.

"When your best players are also your best guys, you really have something," DeCosta said. "In my time with Ronnie, he's very smart. He's a great kid. He's an excellent athlete. And he's going to be a great player for us."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh recalled speaking to Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand for a long time one night about Stanley.

"He couldn't speak highly enough to his character, to his intelligence, to his toughness, to how much he loves football," Harbaugh said. "When you have people you trust in the profession, that goes a long way. This is a really, really fine young man."

Baltimore's director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said the Ravens' scouts had watched Stanley since he was a freshman.

"I think from an intelligence and maturity [standpoint], he gives you confidence going forward," Hortiz said.

Harbaugh said Stanley will obviously figure into the starting lineup based on his draft position. There's a "good chance" Stanley could start at left guard, just like Ogden did as a rookie, Harbaugh said. That would allow Eugene Monroe to remain the starting left tackle in 2016.

How the Ravens use both Stanley and Monroe will be a major storyline this year. But, in the big picture, the careers of Stanley and Tunsil will be linked and compared. For now, the Ravens will rest on their track record.

"We know left tackles," DeCosta said of Stanley. "We've been around some Hall of Fame left tackles. He'll make us a better offense and a better team."